2009 AFC East Predictions
2009 AFC East preview from MadduxSports.com. After studying the NFL teams get signed up for our NFL Football Picks for the top handicappers on the internet.
2009 AFC East Division Preview
By Adam Barone
The Patriots have owned the AFC East for some time now, but in 2008 became just the second team ever to miss the playoffs with 11 wins. They’re the favorite to win the division in the coming season, but all three other teams could challenge them. The Jets are a popular sleeper team, but don’t appear to have the necessary leadership just yet.
New England Patriots (12-4): Quarterback Tom Brady seriously injured his knee in the first quarter of the first game of last season, and missed the rest of the year. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left to coach the Broncos, and Bill Belichick will now call the plays. Receiver Joey Galloway and running back Fred Taylor were signed to add depth to the roster, while Jabar Gaffney was let go. Other than those few details, this is exactly the same offense that set records in 2007. Don’t expect more records, but the Pats are still one of the best teams in the league. The defense ranked 10th overall last season, and will get linebacker Adalius Thomas back after he missed seven starts last season with a forearm injury. Former Raiders’ end Derrick Burgess was acquired via trade, and will add veteran depth up front. Expect young linebacker Jerod Mayo to take a big step forward this season to becoming one of the league’s better defenders.
New York Jets (9-7): The Jets made a coaching change, transitioning from Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan in the offseason, and have some high hopes heading into his first year. Brett Favre is gone, and rookie Mark Sanchez will battle with Kellen Clemens for the starting job. Clemens played in 10 games in 2007 and completed 52 percent of his passes, winding up with a quarterback rating of 60.9. Former no. 1 receiver Laveranues Coles is now gone, and the pass-catching targets are limited to Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith, Chansi Stuckey, David Clowney, and young tight end Dustin Keller. The offense will be predicated on the running game, which now has Leon Washington and Shonn Greene in addition to incumbent starter Thomas Jones. Jones had a career year in 2008, topping 1,300 yards with 13 scores on the ground, but isn’t likely to repeat that feat.
The defense was seventh in the league with 41 sacks last season, and first overall with 37 forced fumbles. Rex Ryan’s aggressive 3-4 scheme and the addition of linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonard, both former Ravens, could make this one of the best defenses in the NFL. That’s not including whatever contribution Ryan is able to get out of Vernon Gholston, who under performed as a rookie.
Miami Dolphins (8-8): The Dolphins offense is probably the least talented of the four in the division, which is why it became necessary that they run the “Wildcat.” Chad Pennington did a fantastic job of managing the offense in 2008, and will be the quarterback again in 2009. Despite Ronnie Brown only contributing 214 carries, and the receiver depth chart including names like Ginn, Camarillo, and Bess, Miami still had the league’s 12th ranked offense and made the playoffs. Former West Virginia quarterback Pat White was drafted to run the “Wildcat,” and should bring an interesting wrinkle to the offense.
The defense improved last season, and added safety Gabril Wilson as a free agent. Miami was 15th in yards against last season, but two games against newly healthy Tom Brady may cause that to drop back down to somewhere in the 20’s. The Dolphins are certainly capable of challenging for another division title, but they’re going up against teams that simply have better players, so this isn’t likely their year.
Buffalo Bills (6-10): The addition of Terrell Owens gives the Bills more dynamic playmakers, but it doesn’t necessarily make them a contender. The Bills’ offensive line allowed 38 sacks last season, 10th most in the league. On top of that, three of the five starting offensive linemen from last season are gone, and running back Marshawn Lynch is suspended for the first three games. Backup Fred Jackson now has a chance to make a name for himself in Lynch’s absence. Also, despite some preseason fan fair and expert predictions of a breakout season, Trent Edwards is only a mediocre quarterback. He threw just 11 touchdown passes last season compared to 10 interceptions, and wasn’t able to reach 2,700 yards passing. He didn’t get much hype coming out of college because he doesn’t have impressive physical skills, and no amount of receiving talent will make him a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
The Bills had the 14th ranked defense in 2008, but had just 24 sacks—28th in the league. They drafted Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin to address that issue, but it’s unlikely that he’ll have the needed effect. Linebacker Paul Posluszny has missed some time with injuries early in his career, but has the skills to be a top-flight linebacker. He could emerge as the team’s best defender this season.