Last week I went out on a limb and told you the teams I think will be the teams to beat in the National Football Conference (NFC). Well folks I will admit it, this week I cheated on my predictions in the American Football Conference (AFC) — not by much, but a little. I will tell you the change I made involved a team with a quarterback whose initials are T and B, but other than that, they’re all the same as they were prior to week one in the NFL.
Let's go to the AFC East first, since the defending AFC champs are in that division. Despite the Patriots losing the best quarterback in football, Tom Brady, the team is still one of the best in the NFL. Great offensive, great receivers, a solid running game and a decent but aging defense all adds up to the Pats taking the east again. Following the Pats will be the New York Jets, with Broadway Brett.
Despite Favre ticking me and every other football fan off for the way he goes back and fourth in retirement, the gray-haired guy can still sling it. And with Favre tossing the pigskin for the Jets, the receivers look a whole lot better than they ever did. This means a good year for New York fans. Rounding out the third and fourth spots in the East are two much-improved teams: the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins.
In the North, we have a division where three of the four teams could take the division if circumstances happen to fall their way. The easy pick at the bottom is the Baltimore Ravens, the anemic fantasy football team of the ages. Finishing in the third spot will be the Cincinnati Bad Boys — oh excuse me, the Bengals.
The team that’s probably one year away from a title is the Cleveland Browns. With a good quarterback in Derick Anderson, solid receivers in Donte' Stallworth, Braylen Edwards and Kellen Winslow, and a decent running game in some old guy from Baltimore, their offense can score. This team's problem is on the other side of the ball, with a porous secondary, and a lousy defensive line, teams are going to score on the Browns. The test of this team will be how they bounce back from a 0-2 start. They have the team to go 9-7 or even 10-6, but when you start out 0-2, those goals are harder to attain.
So, who does that leave on the top? The Pittsburgh Steelers, and even though I hate the black and gold, come playoffs, Big Ben and a former Georgia Bulldog Heinz Ward will be looking at another AFC North crown.
In the West, we will see the Denver Broncos bounce back and take the division. I know what your saying — what about the Chargers? Well, the Bolts have yet to shore up their receiving corps, and when your best receiver is a tight end (I don't care if it is Antonio Gates), you are not where you need to be. And yes, they do have LaDainian Tomlinson and yes, he is the best tail back in the NFL, but he doesn't have Michael Turner coming in to spell him, which will make it hard for LT to hold up for the season. He will miss two to three games this year, and will take a heavy dive in the second half of the season.
As for the Broncos, Jay Cutler is in his third year and if he produces like he should, he could be sunning in Honolulu come January. But the reason the Broncos will take the West title is on the other side of the ball — the defense. With an underrated secondary and a young but sound defensive line, the defense will keep the Steed in most games and end up bringing the West title back to Mile High.
The Oakland Raiders will be much improved, but still two years away from serious contention for the crown. And as for Kansas City, well what can you say about the Chiefs? They couldn't beat Georgia. I'm not talking about the Bulldogs ... I'm talking about the Eagles in Statesboro.
As for theAFC South, let's start at the bottom again. The Houston Texans are clearly in the cellar, but after that it gets a little complicated. Tennessee has a great defense with Albert Hayneswoth and Javon Kerse. Their defense alone will keep them in most games. Unfortunately, their defense won't score many points, and guess what? Neither will their offense. Who are the receivers for the Titans? Who is the tight end? Who is the running back? My point exactly, when the most notable offensive player you have is probably one of the most overrated QBs in the NFL, your offense stinks.
Vince Young is a good athlete. But he makes poor decisions, and gets rattled too easy, the one plus for the offense is the drafting of rookie Chris Johnson. The East Carolina running back brings speed to the team, and you can't teach speed. Unfortunately he is only 200 pounds, and the rigors of a 16 game schedule won't allow him to be an every down back.
The two best teams in the division and the two best in the AFC are the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts. The Jags are solid everywhere; on offense they are deep at running back, solid on the o-line, upgraded at wide receiver, and soooo much better at QB since they dumped 'throw to your feet" Byron Leftewich, and named David Garrand as their skipper on the offense. And with the toughest and best defense in football, they would take any other division in the AFC, hands down (since Tom Brady went down last week; yes there is where I cheated). But unfortunately, they are in the same division, with the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts who have an offense with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addaii, and Peyton Manning on it, and a defense that gave up the fewest points in the NFL in 2007. That same defense has Dwight Feeney, and 10 of the same 11 guys they had playing last year. So the Colts are still the team to beat, despite that they are getting old.
So, what does that tell us? New England. Pittsburgh, Denver and Indianapolis will make it to the playoffs as division winners, and San Diego and Jacksonville will be in as wildcard teams. The two teams playing for a chance to face the Cowboys in the Super Bowl will be the Colts aaaaaaaand the Patriots. Yes, the Bradyless Patriots will still go to the AFC championship game, only to be beat by the Colts. But unfortunately for the Colts, that will be their last win of the year as they then get beat by the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl.
And what happens after that? Well, I start crying and the TV stays on the NFL Network until 2009.