AFC Divisional Breakdown – By Nick Signorelli
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Well, it’s that time of year again. Draft is over, OTA’s (Organized Team Activity) are just starting, and training camps are 2 months away. This is when all of us writers take a look at what the teams have done to try to reach that ever elusive Lombardi Trophy. Every year I look at each division, and where I think everyone will end up, come week 17.
I like to start with our division anyway, but since we are the DEFENDING SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS, gives me more reason.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Defending Super Bowl Champs. Won three road games, against the top three seeds in the AFC, and the top seed in the NFC. The only big loss we had to free agency was FS Chris Hope, but if anyone thinks the money that the Titans paid for him is justified, I think you need to submit yourself to the Betty Ford Clinic. Antwaan Randle-El was a good WR, but lets be honest, he took advantage of the opportunity that he was given. Would anyone consider him a No. 2? First round pick Santonio Holmes will more than make up for him, and DE Brett Keisel is going to replace Kimo Von Oelhoffen with youth and fire. I look for us to win the division, and go for back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
Cincinnati Bengals – I am being generous to the Bengals because I truly feel that if Carson Palmer tries to play before week 4, he will not make it to the end of the season injury-free. Because coach Marvin Lewis has copied the floor plan of the Ravens by signing as many convicts as he possibly can, there is dissention in the ranks. WR Chad Johnson, who was said to have gotten into a fight with Lewis at the half time of the playoff loss to Pittsburgh, will blow his top if the Bengals are losing, and he isn’t getting the ball thrown his way enough. The Bengals led the league in turnovers last season, but the D still ranked near the bottom of the league. I think they need help on defense before they dethrone us. And for all you Bungles fans, the division crown is nice, but when we won the Lombardi, we took it back!
Baltimore Ravens – Everyone knows it is just a matter of time before Steve McNair is going to be under center, but if he lasts half the season, I will be shocked. Kyle Boller is next year’s Joey Harrington. He will find a new home somewhere, maybe Cleveland (HA!HA!). There is going to be some problems on the defensive side because Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are ready to battle. Ray can not accept the fact the D is now Ed’s. He better watch his back, though, Ray-Ray is pretty dangerous off the field. But, since Ed went to the U, he should be used to it.
Cleveland Browns – They signed DT Ted “Mount” Washington, but he is getting old. I remember a game against Buffalo when Randle-El knocked Teddy on his rear. If Braylon Edwards was healthy, and I was convinced that TE Kellen Winslow wasn’t going to do something else dumb before next season, I might have them higher than the Ravens. If they had a QB, not Charlie Frye, I would give them a better chance. I really think that this team is on the rise, and, may challenge the Ravens for No. 3 in the division.
Overall, I see the AFC North as the best division in the NFL right now. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati could be playing in the AFC Championship game, and the Ravens and Browns could play respectable this year.
Indianapolis Colts – I don’t care what anyone says, after losing Edge, I have no idea how Vegas can have them favored to win the Super Bowl. Yes, they will win their division (by default), but when it all comes down to it, Manning and Tony Dungy have yet to win a Lombardi. I am still saying that they can’t do it. They were pretty smart signing Vinatieri, but it takes more than a kicker to get a team over the hump.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Also the beneficiary of a very weak division. Tennessee and Houston will probably both be picking in the top 5 of the draft next year, and Jacksonville gets four easy wins. Matt Jones needs to step up and be a true No. 1 WR to take the place of retired Jimmy Smith. I think Smith should have told the team his intentions to hang them up before the draft. That way, they could have taken a WR in the first round. Byron Leftwich is one more injury away from losing the team to David Gerrard, who has done well in Leftwich’s absences. Plus, he is mobile.
Houston Texans – Passing on RB Reggie Bush with the first overall pick in this year’s draft was the correct thing to do. The only problem is that David Carr is going to have to spend another year picking himself up off the ground. If they were going to pass on Bush, then they should have done what I said about the Jets. Texans GM Charlie Casserly is gone, and it sounds like he didn’t walk, he was pushed. The Texans have some weapons on the offensive side of the ball, just still need more help all over the line.
Tennessee Titans – With all the nonsense that is going on with QB Steve McNair, the Titans took Vince Young, the first QB taken, and the QB that has the most work to do. I saw video on ESPN of his mechanics, and he is really a year or two before he is going to be leading this team to victory. RB LenDale White in round 2 makes a lot of sense when you have Chris Brown and Travis Henry already on the roster. Jeff Fisher is a lame duck coach and will be coaching for another team next year.
Miami Dolphins – Yep, I said it. It is the time for the Mighty New England Patriots to lose their grip on the East crown. Between Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington, they upgraded the QB position. RB Ricky Williams is suspended again, but that will give Ronnie Brown more carries, and if he can stay healthy, could be a top 10 back in the league. The secondary is improved by the addition of Will Allen. If Nick Saban can keep the momentum of their late season run, Miami will win the division easily.
New England Patriots – I was talking to a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago. He told me he is thinking about not getting the Sunday Ticket this year because he is just going to be too busy to watch all of the games. So they understand their dire situation. Patriot fans, yes, you still have a great QB, but if you don’t give him a real weapon, and let your best offensive lineman leave without replacing him, you are in trouble. I think the biggest loss in free agency is Adam Vinatieri. All three Super Bowls were won by his foot, and they let him go to the Colts, of all places. That, my friends, is the straw that broke the Patriots back.
New York Jets – The Jets are moving in the right direction. If you saw my mock draft, I said the Texans should have traded the No. 1 pick to the Jets for No. 4 and No. 29, then take two offensive linemen, because they need to be able to protect the QB if they ever want to win. The Jets must have heard me by taking OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson at No. 4 and C Nick Mangold at No. 29. They are going to be the cornerstone to a very good line, just not this year. As for a quarterback well, Chad Pennington, Patrick Ramsey, me who knows? Anyone can be a QB here. I saw an ad in the New York Times last Sunday looking for slightly used signal-callers. I think Vinny Testeverde may even attempt a comeback.
Buffalo Bills – Owner Ralph Wilson must have lost his mind to bring in Marv Levy to run the show. The guy has been out of the NFL forever, and even when he was there, he couldn’t win the big one. Did great at getting there, just couldn’t get over the hump. Kinda like Peyton Manning. They picked Donte Whitner with the 8th pick, when most thought he would go mid to late first at best. Then they traded back into the first round to get John McCargo, when they could have had him in the second. After an overhaul with the coaching staff and no upgrade at QB (J.P. Losman an Kelly Holcombe), this team is on a downward spiral.
Denver Broncos – Even though I think this is the best team in the West, I am really confused by their draft insanity. QB Jay Cutler may be good someday, but they had the opportunity to improve either of their lines, and instead went with a QB project (Cutler). WR Javon Walker is coming off an ACL injury and they gave him like $40 million. Coach Gary Kubiac leaving for Houston is going to be the biggest off-season loss for the Broncos because he is the one that made the Denver running game so successful.
Kansas City Chiefs – I am going to say that RB Larry Johnson is a mad man, but to think that he can continue like he did last year is insane. QB Trent Green and the offensive line are all old, and the window of opportunity is just about closed. Even though they may sign CB Ty Law, they need more improvement to that D. Herm Edwards showed in New York that he isn’t the genius that people originally thought, and after this year, this team is going to take a nose dive.
San Diego Chargers – Let the Phillip Rivers Experiment begin. Marty Shottenheimer is probably gone at the end of this year because this team needs something on the other side of the ball other than Shawne Merriman. Teams are going to put nine in the box to stop LT, and Rivers is going to have to beat them with his arm. Is he going to be able to do that? I am just so glad the Rivers-for-Eli Manning trade worked out the way it did, or Rivers would have fallen to us, and we wouldn’t have One For The Thumb right now.
Oakland Raiders – Aaron Brooks sucked in New Orleans, and he is going to do no better in Oakland. Though the Raiders’ talented receivers (especially that guy named Moss) should help Brooks improve his stats, he still makes stupid decisions. In addition, the only reason Art Shell was named head coach was because no one else wanted to job.
(Editor’s note: Steelers offensive coordinator Keith Whisenhunt was offered the head coaching job in Oakland, and he declined. Can’t blame him. We would rather coach Ben Roethlisberger than Aaron Brooks, too.)
If the Raiders don’t step up real soon, Al Davis is going to have some explaining to do to the Black Hole.