September 7, 2011

AFC season preview and picks

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

We’re a mere few days away from the NFL and, in case you haven’t noticed, every single entity that covers sports in the world is getting fired up about it.
Well, we’re no exception. I’ve had a ton of NFL fantasy previews run in the Sun so far and a my first week tips column went out on Tuesday. You could even see some of my wonderful predictions – along with other Sun columnists’ – in today’s paper.
But here, I’ll break down every team in every division and give you a quick snapshot at how I think they’ll fare.
Today, I’ll delve into the AFC and tomorrow I’ll hit up the NFC and even give you my masterful pick (my picks were near 60% accurate in 2010) for Thursday night’s opener.
Also, it should be mentioned that I took the entire schedule, picked every game and came to the team win totals like that. I used a spreadsheet and everything!
So, without further ado, we’re off to the races.

AFC East
New England Patriots 12-4
Actually a step down from their 14-2 season last year. Good record means nothing without playoff wins though. Off-season additions add some stability to both sides of the line while Brady will continue to dominate on offence.
New York Jets 11-5 (Wild card)
Passing game may dip while the Sanchize gets used to his new (old) receivers. But this is still a powerful running team and the defence is still among the elite.
Miami Dolphins 6-10
It’s easy to write them off because of their dreadful QB situation, but their defence should be good, especially against the pass. Duo of Vonte Davis and Shaun Smith are an underrated lock down duo.
Buffalo Bills 6-10
Believe me, I figured they’d be worse too. Their run defence should improve with Dareus and they’ll be passing more with Fitzpatrick playing an entire season. Could even get to see a little excitement with Spiller.

AFC North
Ravens  13-3
Joe Flacco is ready to take the next step. He should be an MVP candidate while Ray Rice could lead the league in rushing. The defence will be a bit over-rated, but still really good. Can they top the Steelers in the playoffs is the real question.
Steelers 12-4 (Wild card)
Coaching and roster consistency will definitely help them dominate early in the season thanks to the lockout. Their running game could take a hit if Rashard Mendenhall succumbs to the curse of 370, though. Defence will win games by itself.
Browns 6-10
McCoy is starting to look like he can handle the reins of an NFL offence, pushing past the notion that he’s too short for the role. Receiving core still needs a lot of work and the defence will be around the middle of the pack.
Bengals 5-11
Can coach Lewis survive another rebuild? With a rookie QB and a new No. 1 target at receiver, this entire season should be a learning process. But at least Cedric Benson is already out of jail.

AFC South
Colts 9-7
Peyton Manning’s neck is giving every Colts fan in the world their own pains in the neck. Whether or not he plays is the difference between the Colts making the playoffs or losing double digit games. And if he plays, will he even be the same Manning we know and love?
Texans 8-8
What do you do when you have the worst pass defence in the league? Hire a guy who coached the seventh worst pass defence for half the season. Arian Foster’s hamstring leaves a big question mark over their normally strong offence too.
Titans 7-9
With Chris Johnson signed and fresh having sat out the pre-season and camp, the Titans could be a feisty underdog. Matt Hasselbeck is a serviceable quarterback and the defence – especially the line – is a bit underrated.
Jaguars 4-12
Releasing your starting quarterback with less than a week to go before the season starts is seldom a good sign for your season. They’re basically a team of nobodies and Maurice Jones-Drew, so at least some they’ll have one in ten fantasy owners following them.

AFC West
San Diego Chargers 12-4
Had the No. 1 offence and No. 1 defence last year and might’ve improved both in the off-season. If their special teams hadn’t been piss poor, would have easily taken the division. Don’t expect them to be sitting at home in January again, unless Rivers goes down.
Kansas City Chiefs 8-8
A good candidate for regression thanks to a tougher schedule this year. Charles will get more touches and will show that he can be an elite back. Won’t be able to capitalize on Chargers’ failures this time around.
Denver Broncos 6-10
The Tim Tebow drama creates an unnecessary headache if Orton has even a single bad game. The defence should be greatly improved over last year thanks to rookie Miller coming in and Dumervil’s return from injury. That’s a great 1-2 pass rush punch.
Oakland Raiders 5-11
Can you really expect a team that lost its best player to do better than last year? Also lost key players in TE Miller and G Gallery. There’s no way they repeat 6-0 division record. Looks like another season of turmoil in the Black Hole.

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