Saturday, September 02, 2006

Predictions Ahoy! Part 2 - AFC Explanations

Now that I've posted my predictions(scroll down if you haven't read them yet), I will give my reasoning for them, and assorted other comments. Here we go! (Quick note: My AFC East and North posts here were created before the Dolphins/Steelers game, though neither would change after watching that game).


AFC East
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Nothing spectacular here, the Patriots will win the division because they're easily the best team in the division. The Jets will be awful, thats pretty clear too. The other two teams are the question marks, and I like the Bills as a sleeper team. Their defense is pretty good, especially if Takeo Spikes can stay healthy. According to Pro Football Prospectus 2006 their schedule is 22nd toughest in the NFL, which should help them. I think their QB situation will turn out better than most people think. They have solid players everywhere else on offense.

The Dolphins are a popular pick to win the division and make the playoffs. I just don't see them making any steps forward from last year. I like Saban as a coach, but I just think their defense won't be as good with the added effect of a year of aging. Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas will still be good, but not AS good as they have been in the past. In fact, their whole defensive line is getting up there in age. I really like the Culpepper-to-Chambers connection, which should put up a lot of points and keep them in games, but I don't see it being enough to make the playofs.

AFC North
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Carson Palmer seems healed from his injury, so that offense looks about as good as you can get. According to the Football Outsiders stats, their offensive line is one of the best in the game. Their 3.7% adjusted sack rates them 2nd in the league, while they were top 10 in every rushing offensive line stat as well. Palmer was one of the top QBs, Rudi Johnson one of the top RBs, and Chad Johnson one of the top WRs. T.J. Houshmandzadeh turned into a very good #2, and their WR depth is good, especially if Chris Henry can stay out of jail long enough to play. The defense is solid but not spectacular. As long as Odell Thurman can come back from his 4 game suspension playing like he did last year, the Bengals are the team to beat in the AFC. The rest of the division will be pretty predictable. Cleveland will be improved but not good enough. Baltimore will be helped a lot by McNair, but their running game will hold them back. The defending champions will make the playoffs again, but thats about all I can say about them.


AFC South
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First off, the Titans and Texans will be bad. I happen to think the Texans will be a bit better, but it could easily go either way. Now, onto the Colts. First off I don't think their rush defense will hold up all year. Their defensive line is the best in the league against the pass, but only Corey Simon is skilled in stopping the run, and reports are he's dropped some weight. Even with Simon playing well last year, the Colts were only 17th in the league against the run(going by DVOA, explained here). Their best LB against the run last year was David Thornton(81% Run Stop rate, easily best on the team), but he's gone now. I see this being a huge problem for the team. Jacksonville has a strong running game, and Gary Kubiak is bringing the Denver rushing offense to Houston. The top contenders in the AFC all have great rushing attacks too(San Diego and LT, Cincinnati and Rudi, Denver and their patented rushing attack, New England and Dillon/Maroney, KC and LJ). The Colts will need to get out to a big lead early against those teams to have a great chance. They can't let those teams get their running game going or they're going to be hurting. The Colts ability to run on offense will be the key to their offense. I don't care HOW good Peyton is, if they can't run, they aren't going to score much. Another overlooked part of their offense will be how well the new RB cover the blitz. Edge was magnificient at picking up the blitz and saving Peyton's ass. If Addai or Rhodes can't do that, it'll hurt the Colts even more.

The winner of the division will be the Jaguars. They may be the least flashiest team in the NFL, but they just get the job done. The main thing I like about them is they have a plan and go with it. Their idea is to be a very big and tough team. Their Oline is big. Their WRs are huge. The TE they drafted, Marcedes Lewis, is a huge guy too. They aren't devoid of speed, both Matt Jones and Maurice Drew are damn fast. Leftwich is in the big, tough mold and is a QB I really like. He can make all the throws and manages the game well. The Greg Jones injury will hurt them some, as will the early season knee injury to Mike Peterson. They'll pull through on the back of two of the best DTs in the league(Marcus Stroud and John Henderson) and a very tough offense.


AFC West
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There isn't a lot to say about the West. The Chargers and Chiefs were two of the best teams in the league last year, but neither made the playoffs. The Chargers, who finished 6th in total DVOA, were kept out of the playoffs mainly because of an absolutely brutal schedule. The Chiefs just got unlucky last year(4th in total DVOA) but are a pretty old team. Losing Willy Roaf to retirement could be devastating, but he might still come back. Even without Roaf, I think the team is good enough to go 10-6 and make the playoffs. However, with the old age, they could easily fall off a cliff and finish 3-13 or something. I think their defense, with a huge boost in Ty Law, will pick up the drop off in offense. The Broncos I think are very close to San Diego and Kansas City in talent... but they have the hardest projected schedule according to Football Outsiders, so I'm picking them at 8-8. I can't see all 3 teams finishing 10-6, so I figure one has to falter, and I'm saying its the Broncos. Oh, and the Raiders will suck. Their offense is bad and so is the defense. Andrew Walter will be one to watch if he gets into the game.

7 Comments:

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Hey UZ, excellent thoughts on your predictions for the league. Keep on updating your blog, it's a great read!

 
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