Okay, I know what you’re thinking. I saved the easiest for last. That’s true; I admit it; but that’s because it’s the most boring. Predicting the AFC East is a no brainer for 2014.
In 4th place were the Buffalo Bills. Even at home they were only 4-4. They scored 339 points while their opponents put 388 on the scoreboard. Doug Marrone was hired in January 2013. He is another experiment with a college coach coming into the NFL. He was the coach at Purdue in the 2012-2013 season. He spent eight years in the NFL previously; never as a head coach.
Looking at their 2014 NFL Draft, they plan to stick with EJ Manuel as their starting QB. The Bills traded up to acquire Sammy Watkins, the 6’1” 211 pound WR out of Florida. But, can they get him the ball? He has outstanding speed, finishing first in the 200 meter race in the state championships, and second in the 100. The second round pick was Otcyrus Kouandjio, a 6 feet 7 inch, 322 pound OT from Alabama. Most experts believe he is overrated and has ‘slow’ feet.
Now for the New York Jets. Sorry fans from the “Big Apple.” I don’t believe things are going to improve much for your city. I don’t see a ‘franchise’ QB on the team.
I question their 2014 Draft as much as I did the year they selected Mark Sanchez from USC. He was going into his junior year, did not have enough experience, and had accomplished little. This year they had 12 picks, including three in the 4th round, and four in the 6th round. Their first choice was Calvin Pryor, a safety from Louisville. At 6 feet 2 inches tall and 208 pounds, he is athletic and physical. But he is also undisciplined. In 2013 he had three interceptions and 54 tackles.
Their second pick came from Texas Tech. Jace Amaro is a TE who is 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 260 pounds. He is athletic enough that Texas Tech used him frequently at the WR position. Amaro is rated their best choice.
In other choices the Jets selected two cornerbacks, three wide receivers, three linebackers, one offensive lineman, one defensive end, and another quarterback. Tajh Boyd was added to Geno Smith and Michael Vick. Two of the newly drafted wide receivers, Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans may prove valuable to the Jets’ feeble offense. Scouts gave them both good marks.
The Miami Dolphins are the AFC’s Detroit Lions. It appears that they lack discipline and unity. Joe Philbin remains the Head Coach, along with Kevin Coyle as Defensive Coordinator, and added Bill Lazor as Offensive Coordinator. Lazor joined the NFL coaching ranks in 2001.
In the 2014 Draft they chose all but one on the offensive side of the ball. It is very likely that Ja’Wuan James, OL from Tennessee, and Billy Turner, OG from North Dakota State will be immediate starters. Their offensive line is in need of revamping.
Ryan Tannehill threw for almost 4,000 yards in 2013. He completed 24 passes for a touchdown, and 17 were intercepted. He has yet to prove himself their QB of the future. Brian Hartline caught 76 passes for 1016 yards. Mike Wallace snagged 73 for 930 yards, but his production was inferior to his time with Pittsburgh.
The defense was good, but couldn’t help them be more than an 8-8 team in 2013.
As long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are part of the New England Patriots, they will win the AFC East. The off-season found the team bolstering its defense. They added Darrelle Revis, and retained Vince Wilfork. In the 2014 draft they chose Dominique Easley, DL, from Florida as their first choice. He has had both ACL’s repaired, that makes him somewhat of a risk. They also added Zach Moore, DE, Concordia-St. Paul, and Jemea Thomas, S, from Georgia Tech.
Offensively, they chose Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, from Eastern Illinois in the second round. They already have Ryan Mallett waiting in the wings for Brady to retire, but they believe Garoppolo may be worth developing. Another significant offensive addition was Bryan Stork, C, from Florida State. At 6 feet 4 inches tall and 315 pounds he brings needed bulk to the offensive line, and will likely start sometime in 2014.
Any guess as to the team I believe will win the division?
Unless Tom Brady suffers a season ending injury, the Pats will coast into the number one spot. They posted a 12-4 record in 2013, and no other team in the division was better than 8-8. They do have what is considered the 8th most difficult schedule in 2014. That’s a challenge Belichick likes. They did not lose a game at home last year and split on the road.
All three remaining teams will battle for the number two spot. Last year New York took the honor, although they had the same 8-8 record as Miami.
This year Miami should improve on last season’s record, posting a 10 win season, and rise to the number two spot.
Buffalo will remain in the cellar, and the Jets in third with a 9-7 season. The Bills may need to rebuild for a couple of more seasons.
Well, that’s it, all eight divisions. I already have Super Bowl favorites, but it’s way too early. The physicality of the NFL can change rankings and standings weekly. And the referees will most likely help some teams and harm others as they did in 2013. Dictator Goodell remains a force for management and greed.
Like me or hate me, I have enjoyed researching and writing these predictions. I’m eager for September, but, aren’t we all?