2010 NFL Preview: AFC East Predictions

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady calls a play against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter of their NFL pre-season football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts August 12, 2010.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

2010 NFL Division Previews & Predictions: AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West | 2010 Question Marks Series

The AFC East is arguably the most difficult division to predict because the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins all have enough talent to claim the top spot but all three also have huge question marks that could hold them back.

The Bills, on the other hand…not so hard to predict. (Sorry Buffalo fans.)

Here’s how I see things shaking out in the AFC East this season. Be sure to check out the link entitled “2010 Question Mark” under each team’s preview, which is a breakdown of one or two potential weaknesses that could derail that squad’s hopes in 2010.

1. Patriots

What to Like: Wes Welker is apparently healthy, which is a great sign for Tom Brady and the rest of the Pats’ offense. Although they failed to recapture the magic they had in 2007, the offense ranked third in the NFL in yards per game, sixth in total points and eighth in third down percentage. Along with Welker and Randy Moss, Brady will also have talented rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez to throw to in the passing game and Julian Edelman proved when filling in for Welker last season that he can be productive as well.
What Not to Like: It appears that the pass rush, or lack thereof, will be a massive concern all season. It was a concern heading into the offseason, it’s been a concern thus far in preseason and it’s going to remain a concern unless guys step up. Granted, Tully Banta-Cain is coming off a career year and rookie Jermaine Cunningham has potential, but Derrick Burgess needs to stay motivated and be productive. If he doesn’t and Banta-Cain can’t put up the numbers he did last year then Bill Belichick’s defense could suffer at every level. There’s also the very real concern that starting left guard Logan Mankins will skip the entire season because of a contract despite, meaning promising but inexperienced tackle Sebastian Vollmer will be inserted into the starting lineup.
Keep an Eye On: Darius Butler
In five starts last season, Butler had three inceptions and although he was inconsistent in coverage and needs to cut down on penalties, he could blossom into a star this season. He has already become a leader in the locker room.
The Final Word: Even though the offense stalled in the second half of some games last season, it will still be tough to stop this team a weekly basis. Plus, after struggling to a 2-6 record on the road last season, the Pats will face only two 2009 playoff teams away from Foxboro this year. In fact, six of the 2009 playoff teams they face this year will have to come to New England, which is obviously a major advantage. I think given the problems that the rest of the teams have in the division, the Pats will once again come out on top, although this is far from a Super Bowl team in my eyes.

New England Patriots 2010 Question Mark: Pass Rush

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Projected carries in KC, Houston, Indy, Buffalo and Oakland

DENVER - JANUARY 03: Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs rushes against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on January 3, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Chris Wesseling of Rotoworld has released updated carry projections for the entire AFC, but let’s focus on five teams: the Chiefs, Texans, Colts, Bills and Raiders.

We’ll go one by one:

Jamaal Charles: 220
Thomas Jones: 140
Kestahn Moore: 30

Charles emerged as the Chiefs’ MVP last year, averaging 20 carries and 121 rushing yards once hit he the starting lineup at mid-season. The projection above accounts for Jones in slightly more than a Willis McGahee-type short-yardage/inside role, giving Charles just under 14 carries per contest. Throw in three receptions per week and it’s enough to leave Charles as a borderline RB1.

Obviously, these numbers disregard the fact that TJ is still atop the depth chart and the head coach is telling the press that Charles’s role is ‘undefined.’ While it would seem incomprehensible to fantasy owners that Haley would limit Charles’s touches given how well he played last season, the news out of KC should not be ignored. TJ has been overlooked everywhere he’s went and while I’m hoping for a 60/40 split like we see here, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more 50/50.

Arian Foster: 215
Steve Slaton: 125
Jeremiah Johnson: 20
Chris Henry: 10

The line for now trendy Foster love starts behind Rotoworld. We were hyping the former Tennessee star as a Dynasty deep sleeper once the Texans snatched him up after last year’s draft while promoting him as the potential answer in Houston by mid-November. Although Ben Tate’s season-ending broken fibula has killed Foster’s sleeper potential for this year, it certainly offers more clarity in this backfield: Foster is Batman; Slaton is Robin. Draft accordingly.

I didn’t jump on the Foster bandwagon until earlier this summer, but with Tate’s injury, he looks like he should vastly outplay his current draft position (9.02 over the last week). Look for his ADP to continue to rise. I’d start thinking about picking him in the 7th or the 8th. He played very well at the end of last season, has drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff this summer, and it’s clear that the team doesn’t view Slaton as a feature back any longer.

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2010 NFL Question Marks: Buffalo Bills

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 18: Trent Edwards #5 of the Buffalo Bills calls out orders against the New York Jets during the game on October 18, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Bills defeated the Jets 16-13 in overtime. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the Bills, who, as you may imagine, have a couple of issues on their plate.

Ugh. I think I had the Bills in mind when I first thought about doing this series, as there’s no limit to the number of issues going on right now in Buffalo.

Actually, that’s not fair because the Bills are moving in the right direction and the hiring of GM Buddy Nix is proof of that. Nix has 14 years of NFL experience and previously spent 26 years coaching in the college ranks. The guy knows how to scout and for a team that desperately needs to re-stock their roster with talent, that’s huge.

Whether or not Chan Gailey was the best choice for head coach is debatable, but at least a) he has experience and b) isn’t Dick Jauron. For the time being, let’s give Gailey a chance and take solace in the fact that the Bills actually have people in their front office who don’t base their decisions on simulations in “Madden.” (“Madden says that the Cowboys would be willing to take Marshawn Lynch, a fourth, and a seventh for Tony Romo, so get Jerry Jones on the phone and let’s see if we can wrap something up by lunchtime.”)

That said, things still look bleak for this team, especially compared to the rest of the AFC East. Defensively, the secondary is deep and the team devoted a lot of time this offseason re-tooling the line for new coordinator George Edwards, who will implement the 3-4. It’s going to take time for the new scheme to take shape, which is why I’ll leave the defense alone for now.

The offense, however, is another story.

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Marshawn Lynch is killing his trade value

According to the NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora, the Seahawks are “quite interested” in Bills’ running back Marshawn Lynch, but unless he starts using his head he may never get out of Buffalo.

Thanks for Fred Jackson and first round pick C.J. Spiller, the Bills don’t need Lynch, who continues to be a pain in the team’s ass. He refuses to practice during team-organized activities, presumably because he’s upset with Buffalo’s decision to draft Spiller, and he likely wants to be traded. (I use the words “presumably” and “likely” because nobody actually knows what Lynch wants.)

But even for teams like the Seahawks who might be interested in him, what team would pull the trigger on a trade knowing that he refuses to workout for the Bills? He has been a malcontent since Buffalo drafted him and he’s destroying his trade value by refusing to practice. He could do himself a favor by working out, playing the role of good solider and staying out of trouble. But as of now, he thinks he’s smarter than everyone by refusing to participate until he gets what he wants (whatever that is).

The Bills aren’t going to get great compensation for Lynch, even if they do wind up finding a trade partner. The time to trade him was during the draft, but they missed their chance and now they’ll be lucky to get a mid-round draft pick in return for his services.

But at this point, if a team like the Seahawks are interested, then the Bills might as well take whatever they can get for him. He’s obviously not intelligent enough to realize that he’s only hurting himself, so if Seattle offers a fifth rounder, Buffalo might as well jump on it.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Have the Bills set themselves up for disaster yet again?

When the Bills went on the clock with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, many pundits figured that they would take an offensive tackle or a quarterback. But new GM Buddy Nix threw everyone the finger when he selected Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, which was a surprise move to say the least.

When it came time for the Bills to select in the second round, Nix once again surprised the masses by taking Central Florida DT Torrell Troup, instead of nabbing Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen. Then came DE Alex Carrington in the third and receiver Marcus Easley in the fourth before Nix finally took an OT in Ed Wang in the fifth. It also took Nix until the seventh round before finally taking a quarterback (Levi Brown).

In a recent interview with the Bills’ official website, Nix may have provided some insight as to why he didn’t take a quarterback in the draft.

“The offensive coordinator getting fired two weeks before the season starts, your left tackle is cut with a week to go before the first game,” said Nix.

“It was formula for disaster and a lot of it (the quarterback) couldn’t control, but it all happened. Everybody wants to put it on the quarterback and try to make a change.”

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