[editor's note, by River City Rage] Hello all, here is Ditka Fan’s understanding of the AFC East. Both he and I recognize the insensitivity of poking fun at the Patriots right now and give our condolences to the friends and family of Marquise Hill. Please visit Pats Pulpit for the latest information. I’ll be back in full form tomorrow with Jaguars news, and the next chapter of Wide Receiver madness!
We take a break from the NFC so that we can cover some real football teams. Or at least teams that make headlines for things other than dog-fighting. I am going to start us off on the AFC East, a division that has been desperate for a change. Now, it looks like this is going to be the Patriots division more than ever before. Be prepared for a Belichick gushfest and Tom Brady to fill entire commercial breaks. Now, let's take a look at the teams.
New England Patriots (12-4) - The perennial division champs have made themselves even tougher this year. It could be argued that the Patriots were having the best offseason in the league even before they acquired Jamba Juice Store Manager Randy Moss. With Moss, this team is just frightening. WR Donte Stallworth provides QB Tom Brady with a big play receiver that he has been desperately missing. Stallworth will also stretch the defense for newcomer WR Wes Welker to make the short catches that will also open up the big plays for Stallworth. It's a vicious cycle, however only vicious for opponents. RB Corey Dillon may be gone but, in his rookie year, Laurence Maroney proved that he has the skills to start. While practically splitting carries last year, posted impressive numbers and averaged 4.3 yards (.2 yards more than Dillon). With Tom Brady still at the helm, this offense is going to keep defensive coordinators up all night. We can't forget defense and it's clear that the Patriots didn't either. They acquired the prize of defensive free agents, LB Adailus Thomas. With the Ravens, Thomas was making plays everywhere and scored more fantasy points than Shaun Alexander. His size and speed provides the kind of versatility that Belichick craves when devising his schemes. LB Junior Seau Sr. is returning to add experience (lots of experience) and depth to the critical position. They also retained the services of CB Asante Samuel, who really established himself as an elite cornerback in this league. They also signed CR Randall Gay and drafted S Brandon Meriweather to provide added depth in the secondary. With all of these additions, this team is ready to compete for a championship. Add Randy Moss to this and it doesn't even seem fair for any other team. Anything Moss adds will be a plus but if he goes crazy and tries to throw tantrums I don't think even he has enough power to derail this team. They are built to win and built to withstand. If everything goes as planned for this team, the '76 Dolphins might not want to even waste their time buying champagne this year.
Favorite Offseason Story - Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge noted the success of the Patriots and attempted to emulate the style of Head Coach Bill Belichick in order to help his franchise. The results have been sub-par however, as Ainge seems to have focused on the wrong areas of Belichick's past and has only succeeded in stealing Doc River's wife.
New York Jets (10-6) - This team surprised many by going 10-6 and making the playoffs as a wild card team under first year Head Coach Eric Mangini. Making this even more surprising is the fact that they accomplished this feat without a clear starter at running back and an unspectacular year from QB Chad Pennington (3352 yds with 17 TD/16 INT). An unimpressive defense showed a "bend, don't break" philosophy, ranking 25th in team defense but 6th place in points allowed. They made a great improvement by trading for RB Thomas Jones from the Bears at the cost of swapping second round draft picks. Not too shabby. Combining Jones with a rapidly improving offensive line should provide Pennington with more time and freedom to complete passes and increase his fantasy value, I mean, increase his contribution to his team's effort to win (that's better...). The draft brought in CB Darrelle Revis and LB David Harris to help improve a defense that needs some reliability. The question for this team is whether or not Thomas Jones will have enough of an impact to provide a greater cushion for the defense because it is when the pressure is on that a "bend, don't break" defense will break. As this team continues to build chemistry, they will make a push for a wild card spot but I wouldn't expect to compete with the Patriots or the rest of the AFC's elite teams.
Favorite Offseason Story - Former Jets RB Curtis Martin is making claims against his insurance companies in an attempt to gain disability money, about $5 million dollars worth. The claims require the damage to be a result of an accident and in both cases the accident must be an unexpected event. An unexpected event? What the hell? Since when is a running back getting their knees bashed in unexpected? Isn't this why Tiki Barber retired? So that he can actually get from point A to B without the aid of a Rascal Scooter? This guy was a professional athlete for years. I'm sure he already has plenty of money so I don't really understand this. Unless he spent all his money on premiums for stupid insurance policies like these... then he might actually be broke.
Buffalo Bills (7-9) - While preparing to write about this team, I was shocked to find out this team went 7-9 last year. I thought I remember this team being bad last season, like Raider bad. A defense that has been slipping for the last couple years and an uninspiring offense just doesn't put enough points on the board (aside from the surprisingly productive WR Lee Evans). Unfortunately, this offseason has been all about loses. RB Willis McGahee was the only brightspot on the offense and now he can be found in Baltimore. Rookie Marshawn Lynch was drafted to replace McGahee and will most likely walk right into the starting spot. If that wasn't bad enough for Bills fans, their serviceable defense has been absolutely demolished. LB's Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher and CB Nate Clements all have new homes in the league. LB Paul Posluszny will have to play huge for people to forget about the players the Bills have lost and he will have a chance to do so since he should be starting right away. The draft also brought in QB Trent Edwards. Hopefully this signals the end of J.P. Losman in Buffalo because I don't think they ever should have trusted him as a starter. Maybe, with some time to watch and learn (from opposing QB's, not Losman), Edwards may develop into a quality quarterback. I doubt he'd be much worse than Losman. I only see this team winning 4 or 5 games next season and they should be at the bottom of this division. They will be Raider bad.
Favorite Offseason Story - The Sabres put together a great season, compiling a 53-22-7 record and winning the President's Trophy. They made a good run in the playoffs but met their match in the Ottawa Senators. Next year, they retain their core and are poised to make another great run at Lord Stanley's Cup. Oh, what am I doing? I'm just trying to give the Buffalo natives what they are actually interested in.
Miami Dolphins (6-10) - Many people thought that 2006 was going to be Miami's year. They brought in QB Daunte Culpepper, WR Chris Chambers and TE Randy McMichael were still productive, and RB Ronnie Brown had been very impressive. And Coach Nick Saban had a year to learn from. On top of that, they had one of the more intimidating defenses in the entire league. Hopes were high and there was good reason. Well, it didn't work out last year and they don't seem to be in a better position. The offense simply has a problem putting points on the board. This stems from poor QB play and an inability of the running backs to find the end zone (Brown and Morris combined for 6 TDs on the ground). So Nick Saban ran back to college football and Cam Cameron was brought to replace him. The problem the Dolphins are currently facing is at the quarterback position and addressing this issue is just what they need to become playoff contenders. So in the draft they... draft WR Ted Ginn and QB John Beck? Well, surely they are about to sign QB Trent Green from the Chiefs, right? Well, it sounds like it might happen but there is still no official word on it and, in this NFL, anything could happen. If they get Green, this team could compete. Of course, if Green shows up Culpepper still thinks he can beat him out for the job. Don't laugh, its not supposed to be a joke. I'm not sure that this team can earn a playoff spot, but they shouldn't be as big a disappointment as last year.
Favorite Offseason Story - People have already begun to speculate that if Cam Cameron cannot get his team to live up to expectations he may already be done in Miami. The Dolphins front office has speculated that they may have to look outside of the NFL to find their next coach. Word has it they are currently keeping an eye on the coach of Alabama since he has had the type of success that translates well to the NFL style of play.