Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Apples & Moustaches' NFL Preview: The AFC

Includes: AFC Breakdown and 10 random thoughts

AFC East
1. Patriots: 13-3
2. Jets: 8-8
3. Bills: 7-9
4. Dolphins: 5-11

AFC North
1. Ravens: 12-4
2. Steelers: 10-6
3. Bengals: 8-8
4. Browns: 4-12

AFC South
1. Colts: 12-4
2. Jags: 7-9
3. Texans: 6-10
4. Titans: 5-11

AFC West
1. Broncos: 13-3
2. Chargers: 10-6
3. Raiders: 5-11
4. Chiefs: 4-12

Playoff Seeds
1. Patriots
2. Broncos
3. Colts
4. Ravens
5. Chargers
6. Steelers

Wild Card
Ravens over Steelers
Colts over Chargers

Ravens over Broncos
Patriots over Colts

AFC Championship
Ravens over Patriots

10 random AFC thoughts

I see the Chargers taking a major step back this year and not because of the “lack of continuity on the coaching staff” that is one of the NFL’s biggest harbingers of doom. Let’s be honest, to win in the NFL you need a multitude of factors to go your way, you need good players and good coaches, but more importantly you need to be in the right place at the right time. You need to draft and sign the right players for your team, play the teams that match up well with your style, in other words you need a lot of luck. And as a head coach, when has Norv Turner ever been in the right place at the right time? Yes we all know Marty’s balls shrivel up to raisins in the playoffs, but he always got the most out of his roster in the regular season. Norv? No. Add in a crazy hard schedule, and I see 4 wins less this year, 10-6 and a wild card.

Three things that I look forward to every NFL off season: 1) Mel Kiper and Mel Kiper’s head, 2) Fantasy football drafts, and 3) An insane interview with Ray Lewis that totally makes me overvalue the Ravens. This year Ray Ray has totally changed his workout regimen and has been eating better and sleeping more. After reading about how the amount of sleep is directly related to muscle recovery time, Ray was sleeping between 12-14 hours this off season and working out at night. Are you kidding me? How tough is Ray Lewis’ sleep?

Something about the Pats feels a little wrong this season. I don’t know why, but all of the money they spent and talent they acquired just feels a little too much like the Yankees this decade. Remember how those great Yankee teams always had a few unsung heroes and once they really opened up the checkbook things started to fall apart? Something about this Pats team is reminiscent of that. Plus, and I know this sounds crazy, but I feel like Belichick is getting bored. I still think they’re one of the top 3 teams in the league, but I don’t think they make the Super Bowl.

What the fuck are the Titans doing? You come on strong at the end of the year, slug your way to an 8-8 finish, finally have you franchise QB and you let your top rusher and top two receivers leave in the off season? Huh? Having Vince Young at the helm and only signing Eric Moulds to your offense is akin to marrying a trophy wife and mandating that she wear sweats at all times. Get Vince some fake tits!

Two teams I love this year: Denver and Pittsburgh.

Denver: their offense will be good, every knows that, but watch out for their D, Jim Bates is the perfect coordinator for that personnel group, I bet both sides of the ball rank in the top 8.

Steelers: Big Ben is back and healthy, the D will rebound, and also, that team really needed new blood. Everything culminated when Cowher won his Super Bowl, that team was dying for a new coach and will play their minds out for Tomlin.

Two teams I hate this year: Jacksonville and Kansas City.

Jags: Jack Del Rio, now this is a guy who should’ve been fired years ago. I know, I know, I like Jack too, but you can’t argue with the fact that his teams underachieve every single year. Yes Leftwich is bad, Garrard is a glorified arena league player and the WRs are a fucking joke, but the offensive and defensive lines are so good that this team should win 10 games every year, no question. I bet Jack gets fired after this year and then the Jags rebound next year and win 12 games (much like the Saints last year who underachieved for years under Jim Haslett.)

Kansas City: Yes, I’ve been watching Hard Knocks. Yes I love Herm Edwards too. The guy is everything about the NFL that I love, but have you seen the talent on this team? Yikes. The O-line, always the strength with this team is horrible, the QB situation is a joke (picking between Huard and Croyle is like deciding whether to shoot yourself in the leg (Huard) and hope you can still walk or in the head (Croyle) and hope you live through it), the D is a year older and slower. Watch, the Chiefs will be even worse than the Raiders, you heard it here first.

The Colts? I have no idea either. The offense will be just as good, maybe better than last year, the defense lost some key guys but their spots are being filled by draft picks that the Colts have been grooming for years. Could they be 14-2? Yes. Could they be 9-7? Yes. Could they win the Super Bowl again? Yes. Could they lose in the first round? Yes. Let’s call them 12-4 to be safe.

Is there a more frustrating team in the NFL than the Bengals? With so many cool players, it’d be kind of awesome to be a Bengals fan, right? But with so many 8-8s, and all the frustrations that come with playing in a loaded division, it would kind of suck to be a Bengals fan, right? The 2001 Ravens D and Marvin Lewis as the genius architect seem like a long time ago, huh? The Bengals are just in the wrong division, they can’t keep up with the Ravens and Steelers physically, can you imagine if they were in the AFC North or West? They’d be 12-4 every year.

5 players to watch:
1) Travis Henry, Denver: the perfect back for Shanahan’s “one cut” system and by far the best back they’ve had since Terrell Davis. Look for 1400 and 13 type numbers, but don’t be surprised by a 1650 and 15 type season.

2) Dante Culpepper, Oakland: Hey, remember this guy? Forget the Miami version, when an egomaniac head coach (Saban) rushed him back before he was ready. Culpepper can still play and even if he never approaches his 2004 numbers again, this guy can still be a top 10 QB. Watch for him to have a 2500 and 18-type year and sign a nice deal to start somewhere in the off season (Jacksonville, Baltimore, Atlanta, Minnesota, Chicago, Kansas City, all possible landing spots and all teams that will be kicking themselves in week 10 b/c they could’ve had this guy for dirt cheap).

3) Chris Henry, Cincinnati and Pacman, Tennessee: the league’s signature dumbasses return in week 9 of the regular season. Can they contribute right away? What week does Henry get picked up in fantasy? Which teammate will Pacman punch first? All interesting questions.

4) Matt Schaub, Houston: can you imagine if he has a great year and leads the Texans to respectability (let’s be respectable first and then worry about the playoffs)? It’ll both revive one team and kill another simultaneously. That’s kind of cool, right?

5) Lane Kiffin, Oakland: Everyone is talking about what an idiot he was for taking this job, especially with USC about to make another run at a national championship. The job has everything you don’t want: marginal talent, bad vibe, crazy owner who might be dead, tough division. But you know what? That sounds like a no lose situation to me. The Raiders have a feisty defense, decent running backs and a pissed off Dante Culpepper, with a few tweaks and a few bounces their way they could be 5-11 or 6-10, which would be monumental after the “I just shit my pants” job Art Shell did last year.

Award predictions (league wide, not just AFC):
Coach of the Year: Mike Holmgren, Seahawks
MVP: Drew Brees
Offensive Player of the Year: Tomlinson
Defensive Player of the Year: Demarcus Ware
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Adrian Peterson
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Patrick Willis
Best Off Season Move: Ravens trading for McGahee
Worst Off Season Move: The Vikings not getting a QB to compete with Tarvaris Jackson
First Coach to get Fired: Tom Coughlin

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