2011 AFC East Division Preview and Predictions ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
By Mike Ivcic
1) New York Jets
Conversely, the offense does have some trouble spots, mainly because of the lack of continuity. I’m still confused why Jets management thought Derrek Mason was an upgrade over Jerricho Cotchery, who had been in the system since day one, but they made the move and will now have to live with the consequences, either good or bad. The Plaxico Burress move was a smart one, as they get a receiver with a tremendous upside and a chip on his shoulder, which should only serve to elevate his performance. Provided the running backs stay healthy, this team will score enough points to give the defense the breathing room it needs to win games and return to the postseason.
The schedule shakes out better for New York than New England as well. The Jets avoid the Steelers and Colts, instead drawing the Ravens and Titans â both cases advantage New York. The key game will come in week 5, as the Jets finish a three-game road portion of their schedule in New England. For the first time in five seasons, the two teams will meet in New England first and play the rematch in New York, so if the Jets can take the early game, it will put even more pressure on the Patriots for the Sunday nighter on November 13. The Jets play only five games against playoff teams from last year, and if Rex Ryan has learned anything from the last two seasons, it’s that winning three road playoff games is really difficult to do, so expect Gang Green to shoot for the division to ensure at least one, if not more, home games in the 2012 playoffs.
2) New England Patriots
Aside from the Steelers and Colts draw as fellow division winners, the Pats join the rest of the AFC East in playing the entire NFC East and AFC West. After opening the season on Monday night in Miami, New England will hit their soft spot early, hosting San Diego (who never plays well in Foxboro) and then visiting Oakland and Buffalo before round one with the Jets. Anything less than perfect to that point for the Pats could spell trouble, especially after their week seven bye. The six-game stretch coming out of the break features six straight double-digit win teams from 2010 â at Pittsburgh, NY Giants, at NY Jets, Kansas City, @ Philadelphia, Indianapolis. Simply brutal. The four game finish (at Washington, at Denver, Miami, Buffalo) is quite nice, however, and should allow the Pats to make up ground, if needed, or at the very least cruise into the postseason without too much stress.
3) Miami Dolphins
The other problem for Miami is the city itself. If you live in or around the city, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but “South Beach” is a terrible sports town, no matter who takes their talents there. The Marlins just drew 347 people to a game in late August â good thing they’re getting a new stadium, they might reach a four-figured attendance number. I’m convinced the Heat hand out those white playoff t-shirts just to prove to the viewing audience that people are in the building, because they’re certainly not making a whole lot of noise. And the Panthers can’t even find someone to throw a rat on the ice anymore, because even the rats don’t show up to watch hockey down there. Dolphins fans are actually probably the best group of fans of the four major sports, but that’s like being the tallest midget â you’re still looking up at the normal-sized people, which is what Miami fans are doing to fans of real NFL teams in real NFL markets.
All of that said, this team does, in fact, have a chance to become like the 2008-09 team, or as we Jets fans like to call it, “The year between Green Bay and Minnesota.” With that team, Chad Pennington played more than 12 games for the third and final time in his career, leading the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and the tiebreaker over New England, giving Miami the title. Both the Jets and Patriots are better this year than they were in ’08, while Miami isn’t as good, but IF the Dolphins can protect Henne, develop a running game, and create enough turnovers to compensate for a defense that will give up points, then the Dolphins could surprise one of the two heavyweights and make a playoff push. It’s far more likely, though, that 6-10 and a top 10 draft pick is in this franchise’s immediate future. And maybe the commissioner will choose to have the draft at Sun Life Stadium â it’ll probably draw more fans than the Marlins.
4) Buffalo Bills
The funny (or sad, depending upon your rooting interest) aspect of this whole thing is that they’ve never been quite bad enough to wind up with the top overall pick. They’re usually top five, but haven’t managed to be worse than 31 other teams yet, and likely won’t pull it off this year either thanks to the idiocy of Bengals owner Mike Brown. But maybe, in a sense, that’s a good thing, because I’d be too afraid of watching the 2012 draft with the Bills holding the number one overall pick and hearing them NOT call Andrew Luck’s name. Instead they just need to lose more games than Seattle, Washington, Minnesota, and San Francisco to ensure that they will get the chance to select Luck somewhere around 3 or 4 (Carolina, Cincinnati, and Jacksonville â other contenders for a top five pick â already have their future QB’s). And maybe they will, just as soon as they stop reading that blueprint backwards.
Monday, September 5: AFC North