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2003 Season Preview:
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Playoffs / Awards

2004 Season Preview:
AFC East / AFC North / AFC South / AFC West
NFC East / NFC North / NFC South / NFC West
Playoffs / Awards / Simulation

2005 Season Preview:
AFC East / AFC North / AFC South / AFC West
NFC East / NFC North / NFC South / NFC West
Playoffs / Awards / Simulation

2006 Season Preview:
AFC East / AFC North / AFC South / AFC West
NFC East / NFC North / NFC South / NFC West
Playoffs / Awards / Simulation

Introduction
This will be my fifth year predicting on this website. While my two Super Bowl teams lost in the first round of the playoffs last year, I did manage to select 8 out of 12 playoff teams. I hope for more success this year. I have created a new format for seasonal predictions, which I think is easier to read.

AFC East
New England Patriots (Last Year: 9-7).
8/26 Update:
The Patriots have added DT Ted Washington via a trade with the Bears, and the Jets have lost Chad Pennington, so the division could easily be New England's.

Major Additions:
QB Kliff Kingsbury, FB Fred McCrary, WR Dedric Ward, DE Tully Banta-Cain, NT Ty Warren, NT Dan Klekcko, LB Roosevelt Colvin, LB Don Davis, CB Eugene Wilson, CB Tyrone Pool, S Rodney Harrison.
Major Subtractions:
WR Donald Hayes, TE Cam Cleeland, OT Greg Robinson-Randall, CB Terrell Buckley, S Tebucky Jones.

Offense This Year: New England's offense got off to a blazing start in 2002, but died down once teams figured out that they couldn't run the ball. In 2001, Antowain Smith ran for 1,150 yards and 12 TDs. He was much less productive in 2002 (980 yards and 6 TDs). I thought the Patriots should have went after a running back either through the draft or free agency, but even though they didn't acquire one, they must still run the ball more with Smith, so they can open up the pass with QB Tom Brady throwing to numerous talented receivers. The offensive line remains a concern as well. The Patriots traded OT Greg Robinson-Randall, so former fourth round pick Kenyatta Jones steps into the starting role. If Tom Brady is to throw a lot, he'll need protection. This unit was ranked 21st last year. If they can run the ball a little bit better, they should be ranked between 10th and 15th by season's end.
Defense This Year: The Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2001 with their defense. They were ranked 23rd in 2002, could not stop the run, and thus did not make the playoffs. They will not be ranked 23rd this year. Bill Belichick drafted NT Ty Warren, which allows Richard Seymour to move to DE. Along with Anthony Pleasent, this will be the best three-man defensive line in the league. NT Dan Klecko and DE Willie McGinest provide good depth. Normally, the Patriots do not go after big time free agents, but they did this year, signing top free agent LB Roosevelt Colvin. This signing turned an average linebacking group into a pretty good one. The Patriots' secondary has always been outstanding, and it even got better with the additions of S Rodney Harrison, and CBs Tyrone Poole and Eugene Wilson. All of these additions make the Patriots a top ten defense once again.
Schedule and Intangibles: Despite being one of the most northern teams in the league, the Patriots do not have a dominating home record. They are only 49-39 since 1992. Their northern climate comes into play with their monthly records. In the last decade, they are below .500 in September and October, but are 25-21 in November and 27-19 in December. The Patriots have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. They have to play Buffalo twice, Miami twice, New York Jets twice, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Denver and New York Giants. They must remain focused the whole season, and not lose to teams like the Houston Texans, who come directly before Indianapolis and Miami.

Analysis: Their defense is set, but they must figure out how to run the ball. If they can run the ball efficiently, they will definitely make the playoffs; otherwise, it'll be tough.

Projection: 12-4 (1st in the AFC East).


Buffalo Bills (Last Year: 8-8).
8/26 Update:
The Jets lost Chad Pennington for 12 weeks, so that helps the Bills a lot, who were dominated by the Jets last year. However, the Bills have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. It'll be tough for them to get 10 wins.

Major Additions:
RB Olandis Gary, RB Willis McGahee, FB Sam Gash, WR Bobby Shaw, WR Sam Aiken, DE Chris Kelsay, DT Sam Adams, LB James Posey, LB Takeo Spikes, LB Angelo Crowell, CB Dainon Sidney, S Izell Reese, K Rian Lindell
Major Subtractions:
RB Shawn Bryson, FB Larry Centers, WR Peerless Price, TE Jay Riemersma, DE Kendrick Office, LB Eddie Robinson, LB Greg Favors, K Mike Hollis, KR Charlie Rogers.

Offense This Year: Drew Bledsoe was traded for a year ago, and transformed a dreadful offense into the 11th best. Maintaining this rank (or improving it) depends on one person - WR Josh Reed. Pro Bowler WR Peerless Price was traded to the Falcons due to salary cap reasons, so second year pro Josh Reed will have to step up. With #1 WR Eric Moulds attracting tons of double-teams, and teams attempting to shut down 1,400 yard rusher Travis Henry, Josh Reed should see lots of one on one coverage. He is talented to get at least 1,000 yards this year. WRs Bobby Shaw and Sam Aiken were brought in to compete for the third spot. RB Olandis Gary was signed to give some relief to Travis Henry. But like I said earlier, this offense depends on Josh Reed to step up. If he does, they can be ranked in the top ten.
Defense This Year: This defense was ranked 15th, which is bizzare because they were known as one of the NFL's worst defenses. Lots of players have been brought in to improve this unit. Second rounder DE Chris Kelsay will give the Bills more of a pass rush, while DT Sam Adams will clog up the middle. Buffalo's linebackers are all great players. London Fletcher played well last season, and they signed Pro Bowler Takeo Spikes, as well as very underrated James Posey. Their secondary is still a question mark, although they have two outstanding corners (Nate Clements and Antoine Winfield). Even though they signed S Izell Reese, both safety positions are the weak links on this defense. Pass rush still remains a concern as well. Both of these weaknesses will form a weak pass defense, but at least they will be stopping the run this year.
Schedule and Intangibles: The Bills are only above average at home (56-32 at home since 1992). Since they play in a cold enviornment, one would think that they play their best in December. However, this is not the case. In fact, their worst month is December (22-25 since 1992). Historically, the Bills play the best in September and October (22-16 and 26-18, respectively). Buffalo has one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Not only do they play everyone in their own division twice, they have to play teams like Philadelphia, New York Giants, Tennessee, Indianapolis and Kansas City. They have a few "simple" games against Cincinnati, Houston, Jacksonville and Dallas. They must win all four to be competitve.

Analysis: Buffalo's offense depends on the play of Josh Reed. Their defense depends on getting to the quarterback frequently. If both of these things happen, Buffalo might still have trouble making the playoffs because of the division they play in.

Projection: 9-7 (2nd in the AFC East).


Miami Dolphins (Last Year: 9-7).
8/26 Update:
Like every other team in the AFC East other than the Jets, the Dolphins benefit from Chad Pennington's injury. However, that won't prevent their December slide.

Major Additions:
QB Brian Griese, WR Derrius Thompson, OT Wade Smith, DT Jeff Zgonina, OLB Junior Seau, CB Terrell Buckley, S Sammy Knight, KR Charlie Rogers.
Major Subtractions:
QB Ray Lucas, TE Desmond Clark, TE Jed Weaver, OLB Derrick Rodgers.

Offense This Year: Ricky Williams led the league with 1,850 yards last year and this offense was ranked 15th and did not make the playoffs. So, what happened? Blame could be placed everywhere. QB Jay Fiedler is an efficent quarterback, but thats all he is. He'll never win games; only attempt to prevent his team from losing. In fact, you can't really say that. He has 50 TDs and 45 INTs for his career. Clearly, he has problems taking care of the ball. In the most important game of the season last year, he was only 11 of 25, throwing for 110 yards. The Dolphins have released QB Ray Lucas and signed inferior QB Brian Griese. While Griese might be more talented than Fiedler, he is a locker room cancer. Despite having stud tight end Randy McMichael, Miami also has trouble at the wide out position. Second year WR Chris Chambers, who was expected to step up, actually took a step backward. They signed WR Derrius Thompson, who had more receiving yards than Chambers, but both of those receivers are just #2s. It doesn't help matters that the Dolphins have one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Not enough was added to improve this offense.
Defense This Year: This defense was ranked 3rd last year, and I won't be surprised if they are first this year. They added some new starters like OLB Junior Seau and S Sammy Knight, and some depth with DT Jeff Zgonina and CB Terrell Buckley. It is clear that Miami is trying to win the Super Bowl like Baltimore and Tampa Bay, but how they do this year is up to the offense and the coach.
Schedule and Intangibles: Dave Wannstedt is one of the worst coaches in the NFL. It was his fault that Miami did not make the playoffs last year. He will be fired if he does not make the playoffs this year. The Dolphins added kick returner Charlie Rogers to give their special teams a boost. Miami is almost unbeatable at home. They were 7-1 last year, and are 62-26 since 1992. Miami is also unbeatable in September. They are an amazing 29-8 since 1992. There is a steady decline in each succeeding month. In December, they are 22-25 in the last 10 years.

Analysis: I think its safe to say that Miami will get off to a hot start (maybe something like 7-4) and then lose their last five games. After all, Dave Wannstedt and Jay Fiedler are the masters of losing in November and December.

Projection: 8-8 (3rd in the AFC East).


New York Jets (Last Year: 9-7).
8/26 Update:
Chad Pennington is out for at least 12 weeks, so the Jets will be lucky if they get him back by their November 23rd meeting with Jacksonville. Vinny Testaverde, who was 1-4 as a starter in 2002, takes his place. I had the Jets going 11-5 with Pennington, but they will struggle without him, especially if Curtis Martin isn't back to his former self.

Major Additions:
FB B.J. Askew, WR Curtis Conway, G Tom Nutten, DT Dewayne Robertson, LB Victor Hobson, CB Tyrone Carter, K Doug Brien, P Dan "Igor" Stryzinski.
Major Subtractions:
FB Richie Anderson, WR Laveraneus Coles, G Randy Thomas, LB James Darling, S Damien Robinson, K John Hall, P Matt Turk, KR Chad Morton.

Offense This Year: Last year, the Jets started out 1-4, being outscored 102-13 in the middle three games. QB Chad Pennington took over the starter for an injured Vinny Testaverde, and led the Jets to an 8-4 record, where they eventually lost to the Raiders in the second round of the playoffs. The Jets finished 22nd in offense, but averaged 25.7 points per game with Pennington as the starter, which would rank them as fifth best if this average was present during the entire season. Young Pennington returns as the starter this year, but loses a few weapons on offense. He loses #1 WR Laveraneus Coles, who really broke out as a stud receiver under Pennington. The Jets signed WR Curtis Conway to counter the loss, and also hope that third year WR Santana Moss steps up. The Jets also lost FB Richie Anderson, who was an effective pass catching fullback. They have Gerald Sowell, who could fill Anderson's shoes. To sum it up, it looks as though Pennington still has the tools he needs to lead the Jets to the playoffs once again.
Defense This Year: New York runs the same "Cover 2" scheme that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers run, but the thing they were missing last year was a dominating defensive tackle like Warren Sapp. That is why they traded up to draft DT Dewayne Robertson, who has drawn comparisons to Sapp. The Jets' defensive line already had strong defensive ends; now they have talented starters and depth everywhere. The Jets' weakness on defense is in the secondary, but with the defensive line reaking havoc on the opposing quarterback, it might not matter that much. This will be one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Schedule and Intangibles: Special teams have taken a major hit, as kick returner Chad Morton and kicker John Hall both left for the Redskins. Punter Matt Turk gets replaced by Igor Stryzinski, who had the lowest punting average in the NFL last year. The Jets are one of the few teams that have a sub .500 record at home since 1992 (41-47), however, they were 5-2 with Pennington as the starter. He can turn this ugly 41-47 record around quickly. Monthly, the Jets' only winning month since 1992 is November (28-16). They are way below .500 in all other months. It seems like the Jets have domination over everyone in their division, especially the Dolphins and Bills. Going 4-2, or even 5-1 in their division will make things easier when they have to play high-powered teams like Oakland, Tennessee and Philadelphia.

Analysis: As long as Chad Pennington stays healthy, the Jets will succeed. He is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL, who is coupled with a great running back (Curtis Martin) and a great defense. This team has the potential to go the distance this year.

Projection: 6-10 (4th in the AFC East).


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