Welcome one and all to another edition of Tha Weatha Report. Last time we took a look at the NFC East, and in today's edition we will tackle a division that has, arguably, the NFL's biggest rivalry. Of course I'm talking about the AFC East. We'll take a look at each team, I'll put on my Ms. Cleo hat and try to predict the records and the winner of the divison. So without further ado, let's dive right in shall we?
1. Arian Foster took to Twitter to say that people asking about his health for Fantasy Football reasons are sick. So, we are supposed to care for any other reason? Sorry that average people don't take the time to be concerned about the health of millionaires for other reasons besides our FF teams. Get over yourself Mr. Foster.
2. Put me down as someone who thinks that Peyton Manning will be ready for the start of the NFL regular season. He seems to care more about the consecutive start streak than any other record.
3. Usain Bolt false started and was DQ'd from the event in South Korea. Some people are calling for the rule to be changed. The rules are the rules, stop trying to change it because someone with some clout violated it.
4. Cannot wait for college football to start this week. Might just have to put together a little column about what I expect this season.
5. I don't see Chris Johnson being signed in time for the first game. Tennessee needs to pay the man! They originally told him they would pay, now it's time to practice what they preached.
AFC East: Who Takes It?
Ever since the New York Jets hired Rex Ryan as head coach, the AFC East has gotten an infusion of new energy. Ryan has managed to make his press conferences must see tv, as well as made it known that he is gunning to wrestle the division's stranglehold from Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. So, will the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS do just that?
Each team in the division has their own set of story lines that they are dealing with. Buffalo has a young defense that is on the rise and are still trying to figure out if Ryan Fitzpatrick is indeed the answer at QB. The regime down in Miami knows that it is now or never for them. Chad Henne and Tony Sparano are on their last legs. If they don't string together plenty of wins, then they both might be looking for new jobs in 2012. For New England everything is measured in Vince Lombardi trophies, and there has been a considerable drought in that category. Since their last Super Bowl victory, the Patriots are a pedestrian 5-5 in the playoffs with the latest flame-out coming last season with a 28-21 loss to their divisional rival Jets. Albert Haynesworth and Chad OchoCinco are just two players brought in to change this. The Jets are incorporating Plaxico Burress as well as trying to back up the talk of their brash head coach. Plenty of stories to go around.
Buffalo: I am high on the young defense that the Bills have started to build up. Led by their first round pick Marcell Dareus, the young Defensive Tackle stud out of Alabama, Buffalo believes that it is heading in the right direction. I agree. I look for Dareus to build off of his impressive preseason showing and have a good rookie season. A good season for him will equal a good bounce-back season for Shawne Merriman who is looking to regain the form that made him an All-Pro and produced the nickname "Lights Out". A good season for him will then equal a good season for the secondary as well. See how it all connects? I also expect a big season from Nick Barnett. The former Packer will make his presence known all season.
The offense is going to be good as well. In my opinion, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the answer for the Bills at QB. The seventh year pro out of Harvard threw for 3,000 yards last season with 23 touchdown throws. Add in a young and very talented receiving corps led by Mr. "Why So Serious?" Stevie Johnson who produced 82 receptions for 1,073 yards last season, and you have the recipe for an offense that is going to put some pressure on opposing defenses. The key to the offense is if the Bills can get a steady running game. Which, I think they will be able to do. The Bills drafted C.J. Spiller in 2010 and he never got his feet under him. I believe that Spiller is more effective in space. However, the Bills running game is very effective when Fred Jackson is trusted with the ball. Last season he produced 927 yards with a 4.2 yards per carry average. Lately there has been rumblings that Jackson feels slightly disrespected by not being treated like a number one back. It's clear that he is and should be that back for Buffalo. An improved season is in store for Buffalo.
Miami: The Dolphins began training camp with the cloud of Kyle Orton looming over camp. Orton was supposed to be brought in and he was going to lead Miami back to the playoffs. There was only one problem. The Dolphins could not complete the trade for Orton and now they have to make Chad Henne feel as if he is the unquestioned starter. Even with Matt Moore waiting in the wings to take over if/when Henne falls flat on his face. A rocky start could be a foreshadowing of things to come for Miami. While the team does have talent at some of the skill positions (Brandon Marshall, Reggie Bush, Cameron Wake, Jake Long), it all comes down to the play at the QB position. Inconsistent play by Henne or Moore (if he replaces Henne) will doom the Dolphins and Sparano. The offense has some weapons. Henne has Brandon Marshall and Devone Best as viable wide receivers. The Dolphins have to find a way to best use Reggie Bush's talents to their advantage. Find a way to get him out in space and let him do his thing. The signing of Larry Johnson could either be a shrewd move or a worthless signing. Be on the lookout for Daniel Thomas. The rookie running back out of Kansas State could turn out to be the between the tackles runner that the Dolphins need.
Miami's defense is not in bad shape. I like the two young corner backs that Miami has in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. They are young, with both players going into their third year, but both are full of potential. Vontae Davis recently went on record as saying that he and Smith were the best CB tandem in the league, and not the duo of the Jets. Big talk, but I believe that these two could go a long way towards backing it up. I also like their linebacker corps led by Cameron Wake. The same Cameron Wake that recorded 14 sacks last season. The one area on defense that I'm not confident in is the defensive line. That line has to step up and take some pressure off of the secondary and the LBs.
New England: The Patriots really need no introduction. They are the class of the NFL. The team that everyone else measures themselves to. Yes, the Packers are your reigning NFL Super Bowl Champions, but the Patriots are the model franchise in today's NFL. This is the team that essentially rescued Corey Dillon and Randy Moss from the scrap heap and rejuvenated their careers. Now they are hoping to do the same with Albert Haynesworth. We won't recount Mr. Haynesworth's "adventures" in D.C. because I'm sure it is well known. The Patriots also traded for Chad OchoCinco. Ocho (can I call him that?) had a down season last year and is looking to conform to the "Patriots Way" and show the world that not only can he be a productive receiver but that he can be a big part of a winning organization. One thing is for sure, the offense will not be a problem. Tom Brady is healthy, the receiving corps is in good shape (sans Wes Welker's recent neck injury), and Bill Belichick is arguably the best coach in the game. The only concern is the running game. New England has to get consistent production out of that position whether it's from Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, or BenJarvus Green-Ellis. If they can get consistent production, the offense might just be unstoppable.
The defense is another story however. The secondary is not exactly filled with good cover guys. I would call it average. Last year the Patriots gave up almost 210 yards through the air which was 18th in the league. If that's not average, I'm not sure what is. The defensive line is depending on Albert Haynesworth to return to his Tennessee Titans form and to pretend the Washington Redskins years didn't happen. Kind of like how Randy Moss erased those Oakland Raiders years when he got to New England. Or kind of like how Corey Dillon managed to erase those Cincinnati Bengals years. Seeing a trend? Seems that Belichick has the magic touch when it comes to getting the best out of retreads. I'm not going to bet against him on this one either. If the d-line comes through and the secondary is average, then the biggest hole could be the LBs. This crew is devoid of known play makers and will be put to the test each week.
New York Jets: The Jets seem to make plenty of news, and that seems to be the way Rex Ryan wants it. Whether it's Ryan saying that he needs other teams to beat New England or if it's going out and signing Plaxico Burress the Jets seem to always be in the headlines. What makes the Jets so intriguing is that they always seem to back up the talk...to a degree. Ryan hasn't managed to get the team to the Super Bowl but they've been close two years in a row. Mark Sanchez continues to evolve and improve as a young QB and he'll need to take the next step in the maturation process if this team is to win. This could be the year that the Jets win because of Sanchez and not in spite of him. He has plenty of weapons. Burress provides that red zone target that has been missing, Santonio Holmes is an impact receiver, Shonn Greene in the backfield, and they added the veteran Derrick Mason to add even more punch to the receiver corps. Last year the Jets averaged almost 22 points a game. This year, I wouldn't be surprised if that number goes up.
A Rex Ryan defense is going to always show up. They are going to blitz, put tons of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and generally keep their opponents in check. I do not expect anything different this year. I expect the defensive back Kyle Wilson, the second year pro out of Boise State, to step up and showcase good cover corner skills. Keep an eye on the Jets' first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson at the DT position. I think he will have a big impact on a weekly basis. I'm also interested to see if Rex Ryan can turn Aaron Maybin into a good LB. The former Buffalo Bills first round pick has been labeled a bust after he failed to record a single sack in his two seasons in Buffalo. If Ryan can resurrect his career it will be a diamond in the rough type of find. The defense only gave up 13.5 points a game last year. Don't be surprised if the number stays the same, or even goes lower.
So Who Wins?
Looking at the schedules, this is how I have it playing out:
New England: 12-4
New York: 11-5
I have New England winning the division by a mere game over the Jets. I predict that it'll be a tough season in Miami, but in Buffalo there will be tons to build on for the future. I think New England's offense is too strong and they'll get enough out of their defense to take the division. However, I do have them splitting their division games against the Jets with each team winning on their home fields. As always, feel free to express your thoughts and opinions in the comments below, or go to the Facebook page to express your thoughts and opinions.
End of the Storm
Once again thanks for taking the time to read this edition of Tha Weatha Report. Next time we will be looking at the NFC North. The Lions are up and coming but the defending Super Bowl champs aren't quite ready to give up the crown just yet. Until next time, stay blessed, keep living and enjoying life, and keep enjoying sports!