Is this the year the AFC East is remotely competitive? Can one of these teams encroach on the New England Patriots, who are dealing with injuries and roster turnover? Is anyone NOT interested in seeing the Jets rip apart at the seams? Let’s jump into some more 2013 predictions!
New England Patriots
I still hate Bill Belichick. That being said, he can still coach a team like nearly no one else. There’s been some changeover in Foxboro this offseason, but can it really derail the Patriots from wrecking this division? Tom Brady is still one of the best QB’s in the game, no matter who is at receiver. The Patriot offensive line doesn’t get enough props for their fantastic pass protection and aggressive run-blocking. I mean, I know Brady is the best man on the planet (I’ve accepted it), but the line should get a little credit for blocking the unstoppable Brady QB Sneaks.
Now, I’m not saying the Patriots will drop off from a top three team to the middle-of-the-road, but right now they’re running a two-tight end offense WITHOUT ANY TIGHT ENDS. (Don’t talk to me about Zach Sudfeld yet. I don’t know/care who that is.) With Gronk on the sidelines for a few weeks, Brady will be forced to spread teams out with multiple wide-receiver sets, using his new arsenal of pass-catchers. Danny Amendola is about as close to Wes Welker as you can get, but his durability will constantly be in question. You can’t catch 100 passes if you’re not on the field for 16 games. Julian Edelman has been plopped into a starting role (along with every other role), and is backed up with rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. New England could play same-old Pats ball and spread defenses out, but Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are being loaded into the chamber for some ground and pound action. As good as the Pats could be through the air, they could be better on the ground.
The Patriots re-signed a few of their own guys as opposed to bringing in foreign free agents. Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington were free agents, but decided to come back to Boston and steady the secondary. Talib is especially valuable to Belichick’s defense, as we all saw during the postseason what happens when he’s not on the field. They signed Tommy Kelly (formerly of the Raiders) to sit next to Vince Wilfork on what could now be more of a 4-3 defensive line. That’s a lot of man on the interior. Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, and Brandon Spikes are a very respectable group of linebackers that helped the Patriots hold teams to just over 101 yards a game in 2012. But opponents were passing all over the New England defense last year, so if there’s going to be improvement, it must be in that category.
2012 Record: 12-4
2013 Prediction: 11-5
All the injuries/roster weakness have to have an effect, don’t they?
Ryan Tannehill was overlooked in last year’s rookie crop, which included the likes of Luck, Griffin, and Wilson. Tannehill wasn’t the 8-year pro that those QB’s seemed to be, but his 2012 performance should give Fins (‘Phins?) fans something to be encouraged about.
The Dolphins spent like, $325,000,000 spacebucks during the offseason, signing every free agent with a hype train. Receiver Mike Wallace was at the top of that list, finally free of the Steelers… where he was forced to play with that… Super Bowl winning quarterback… yeah. Anyways, Wallace gives Tannehill an instant downfield threat on every play. Brian Hartline was brought in to be their possession receiver, sort of like a poor man’s Danny Amendola. And yes, they signed Brandon Gibson from the Rams. I’m just not sure I give a crap. Unfortunately, not all of their high-profile acquisitions are going to have an impact. They’ve already lost tight end Dustin Keller for the year after a low-hit during the preseason. That left Miami dangerously inexperienced at the position. And here’s a question: who the hell are the Dolphin running backs? Lamar Miller? Daniel Thomas still? Eesh.
Miami’s defense gave up less that 20 points a game in 2012, thanks in large part to pass rusher Cameron Wake, who totaled 15 sacks on the year. Wake gets help on the left side of that four-man front from the big boy Paul Soliai. Signing corner Brent Grimes was a good, low-risk move for a player that’s coming off a major injury. Grimes can be a number one corner when healthy, so the Dolphin secondary can’t help but be upgraded. Dannell Ellerbe cashed in on his Super Bowl win with the Ravens, becoming the Dolphins’ overpaid middle linebacker. Ellerbee was supposed to replace Ray Lewis. Let’s see how he handles it in Miami, where the defense must keep the team in every game.
2012 Record: 7-9
2013 Prediction: 8-8
I like what the Dolphins have done during the offseason. They’re just not going to put it all together in 2013.
New York Jets
This team is a undeniable train wreck. I could spend 18,000 words discussing how inept this franchise is. (269 of those words would be “BUTTFUMBLE.”) Can you remember any other team that was this much of a shit-show prior to the regular season? Thanks to a Mark Sanchez injury, Geno Smith will start the Jets’ first game this season. How long he lasts under all that pressure? Who knows. But he’ll have the reins as long as Rex wants him to have them. Or until he tosses four INT’s… in consecutive games.
Hopefully Santonio Holmes is ready for the opener, otherwise Stephen Hill (who needs to develop ASAP) and Jeremy Kerley will be Smith’s top receivers. I’m pretty sure that spells DOOM. Also destruction-signaling? Willie Colon as the starting right guard. And Chris Ivory being your team’s best fantasy option. (Any fantasy football player should have vomited just then.) Why are all these offensive players so goddamn… offensive?
They traded away one of their franchise’s greatest players, and used the resulting first round draft pick (number nine overall) to take corner Dee Milliner, the best corner in the incoming rookie class. Milliner won’t be Revis-lite right away. He still has to learn to defend against the game’s best wide-outs. The rest of the defense would appear stout. Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson could dominate at the 3-4 defensive end spots. Quinton Coples had 5.5 sacks in 2012, a number that should rise in his second year. Antonio Cromartie is still playing at a high level because he needs to keep paying for all of those kids. Antonio Allen and Dawan Landry have a lot to prove as safeties, but the Jet defense has the chance to be respectable.
2012 Record: 6-10
2013 Prediction: 4-12
The defense ain’t that good.
Following Kevin Kolb’s season-ending concussion (yikes), rookie E.J. Manuel figures to be the Bills starter for the entire year, barring unforseen circumstances. Though there was a few days when undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel appeared as if he would start. Manuel, out of Florida State, is raw and needs a lot of work (c’mon accuracy), but has a high ceiling if new coach Doug Marrone can maximize his athleticism and ability.
C.J. Spiller is going to get touches “until he throws up,” according to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. (Who sounds like he needs to be in Last of the Mohicans somewhere). As talented as Spiller is, I have questions as to if he can really carry that kind of load (25-30 carries a game) and stay healthy an entire season. Somehow the Bills still have Fred Jackson on their roster as a back-up. (Hasn’t he been traded for a sixth-round conditional pick by now?) Aside from Spiller, Manuel is going to be a little bereft of receivers. Stevie Johnson is still capable of having a break-out game where you finally think he’s a number one receiver, but he’ll follow that up with a plooper the following week. Drafting Robert Woods in the second round adds depth to this unit, but rookie receivers (especially second round ones, for some reason) aren’t always major contributors.
The Bills were supposedly going to contend after landing defensive end Mario Williams in free agency last offseason. That didn’t quite happen. I do like third year defensive tackle Marcel Dareus, but his presence couldn’t stop the Bills from being the 31st ranked run defense last season. They just can’t shut down a ground game to save their lives. They’ll have trouble with their pass defense as well, with second year corner Stephon Gilmore missing at least the first four games with a broken wrist. Safety Jairus Byrd was a contract hold-out throughout the offseason, refusing to sign his franchise tender. He’s one of the best safeties in football, but I’ll be interested in watching his conditioning early in the season. Regardless, I think this Buffalo defense will have problems stopping any kind of offensive system.
2012 Record: 6-10
2013 Prediction: 5-11
Fans of this team should just stop. Seriously. Just stop.
The AFC East Predictions are complete! The Patriots may slip slightly, but there not in imminent danger. Certainly not from the Sorry-As-Hell Bills or Fuck-All Jets.
Stay tuned for more NFL Predictions, coming later today! Click the “NFL Predictions” tag below for all of the divisional previews!