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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Preseason Polaroid – AFC

Today is day two of The Daily Hat Trick’s Preseason Polaroid. Today we take a look at the AFC. Preseason is often telling and there are a number of AFC teams with a thick stack of preseason notes. Without further adieu, here is the AFC Polaroid, by division in order of expected finish.


Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning’s neck has been all the talk of the preseason. Manning has begun throwing in practice. I still like the Colts’ chances if Manning just plays 12 games. I also think backup QB Kerry Collins was $4 million well spent by the Colts.

Houston Texans – This is the trendy pick in the AFC, much like the Detroit Lions are in the NFC. The Texans were trendy last year and the offense held up its end of the bargain. The defense couldn’t hold much, except the illegal holding of opposing receivers. With the addition of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator and the free agency signings of cornerback Jonathan Joseph and free safety Danieal Manning, the Texans’ defense looks more aggressive, harder hitting, and simply better than last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars – The drafting of rookie Blaine Gabbert signals the beginning of the end of David Garrard’s tenure as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback. I do not expect any switch at the QB position in 2011 as long as Garrard is efficient and the Jaguars are competitive in the AFC playoff race. I expect the first. The latter?

Tennessee Titans – New coach, two new quarterbacks, new challenges brought on by rebuilding…. Expect the same old Titans from a win-loss standpoint.

This is what Colts fans have seen all preseason. Hopefully, this scene will not continue. 1

Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger, barring injury, will play a full season this year. The Steelers are the defending AFC Champs. Who can knock out the champs?

Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens will get at least two chances, possibly three, to knock out the champs. It will be brutal and it will be fun to watch. If running back Ricky Williams can offer the type of relief for Ray Rice that he provided for Ronnie Brown in Miami, the Ravens are going to be very difficult to beat.

Cleveland Browns – I think the Browns will be much improved, especially if quarterback Colt McCoy’s preseason progress carries over to the regular season. The problems are that they are in the same division as the Steelers and Ravens and there are only 6 playoff spots in the AFC. This team merits monitoring, though.

Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are quickly becoming the AFC’s version of the Washington Redskins. I wonder if absent and “retired” Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is going to sit in his easy chair and chuckle or shake his head in sympathy for rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.

This is funny on so many levels. 2


New England Patriots – This team doesn’t rebuild, it reloads! The additions of wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, defensive end Shaun Ellis, and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth are going to make this team just as difficult to beat, in the regular season, as last year. Last Saturday’s preseason game, in the “dress rehearsal” week of preseason, against the Detroit Lions did raise an eyebrow.

The Patriots looked bad and Tom Brady looked intimidated, two sights one doesn’t expect to see. Still, I think that the beat-down that the Pats suffered at the hands of the Lions had more to do with Detroit’s improvement than any Patriots’ decline.

New York Jets – There is no reason to think this team will not be in the AFC Championship Game for the third straight year. Mark Sanchez has another year of experience under his belt. The Jets also acquired a 6’5” target with a chip on his shoulder in Plaxico Burress.

The question is not “if” the Jets can reach the AFC title game. The question is “Can they host the game?” The preseason still has not sold me, 100%, on Sanchez as a championship quarterback. I am waiting for this fellow to break out. When he does, watch out!

Buffalo Bills – They won’t be an easy, automatic win on their opponents’ schedules, but I do not expect this team to win more games than it loses, not yet. Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to impress and exceed, admittedly, low expectations.

Miami Dolphins – I wonder how long it will take for Reggie Bush to ask for a trade back to New Orleans. If the Bengals are the AFC’s version of the Redskins, the Dolphins are Bengals Light. With quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb, Vince Young, (allegedly) Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, and Kerry Collins available in the offseason, HOW in the world did this team end up being stuck with Chad Henne at QB, AGAIN?

The Dolphins are a team with an owner who doesn’t really want the coach, Tony Sporano, and a coach who doesn’t really want the QB. If this were an NBA team, I would say that I see ping pong balls in my crystal ball in the Dolphins’ future.

Call me crazy, but I think Brady has seen all of the Motor City he cares to see for a L..O..N..G time! 3


San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers will have the advantage of having a franchise wide receiver in Vincent Jackson for the entire year. He’ll also have the advantage of competing in a division that includes the Raiders and Broncos.

Kansas City Chiefs – A lot of analysts have said that they are not buying the Kansas City Chiefs, in spite of their division title winning season last year. I am in agreement. I don’t expect the Chiefs to be pushovers and I don’t expect quarterback Matt Cassell to regress. I do expect the Chargers to return to form, especially with the return of Vincent Jackson for a full season.

Oakland Raiders – The Nnamdi Asomugha defection, while perhaps fiscally unavoidable, will be a costly one on the field. When the Raiders went through their worst seasons in the last five years, their defense was usually very good.

While the Silver and Black have a host of threatening running backs, their offense has a lower ceiling than most teams. On the other hand, this could be quarterback Jason Campbell’s best, and last, chance to prove that he is one of the better starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

Denver Broncos – Tim Tebow: picked in the first round, sent to the third string. I see no reason to expect any noteworthy achievements from the Broncos this year.

There is an entire blog devoted to Philip Rivers' face. 4

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