2008 AFC Conference Handicapping August 21st, 2008
By: Vernon Croy
NFL Handicapping Staff At CappersPicks.com
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Previewing the NFL’s AFC Conference – Predictions by Vernon Croy
Previewing the NFL’s AFC Conference While you may be sitting there thinking the AFC has all but wrapped at least five of it’s six playoff teams, you’ll want to think again. Major moves have been made in the off-season that would lead you to believe almost every team in the AFC has a chance to make the playoffs in 2008. Do they? Nope. In fact, out of the sixteen teams in the American Conference I can honestly say there are only about 8 of them vying for 6 positions. The best part of the AFC this season is the interesting additions and alleviations many of the teams have made. We’ve already heard guarantees, seen suspensions, trades, releases, injuries, muggings, issues with drugs, car accidents and more. Hopefully, when September 4th comes and the season is upon us, everyone will be situated.
AFC EAST (Buffalo, Miami, New England, N.Y. Jets)
Obviously, the big news surrounding the Eastern Division was the addition of Brett Favre to the Jets, the release of Chad Pennington, and the capabilities of Big Tuna to swoop in and give C.P. a new home in Miami, plus a two-year starting job worth $11.5 million. Unfortunately, both teams along with Buffalo (QB Trent Edwards is not the answer) will be shooting for second place in the division even with the Jets having one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. The Patriots are too strong and even if they falter I expect them to at least finish 12-4 at the absolute worst.
My Predictions New England 12-4 N.Y. Jets 10-6 Buffalo 6-10 Miami 6-10
AFC NORTH (Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh)
If you’re a fan of the Cleveland Browns, then your team has a true chance of winning the division. Why? The Steelers must take on the #1 toughest schedule in the league, which could open up the playoff doors for the Browns. Baltimore is left with Kyle Boller at the helm once again with rookie QB Joe Flacco waiting in the wings and a schedule that has maybe one guaranteed win on the list. Then of course, the age issue at CB and FS with Samari Rolle and Ed Reed with accumulative injuries, the 2008 season looks dim for the Ravens. Taking Baltimore out of the mix, Cincinnati will once again have to hope their defense can hold opponents to around 20 points per contest in order to keep games close. ILB rookie Keith Rivers may have been a great pickup for them in the draft, but he still won’t be able to help their 26th ranked pass defense of a year ago. Add in the constant distractions by wideout Chad Johnson, 9 games against 2007 playoff teams, not to mention 2 against Cleveland, traveling to Houston, as well as playing Philly at home and they most likely won’t be there at the end. This of course brings us back to Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The Steelers start the season with three road games out of there first five, at Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Jacksonville. While a 5-0 start could happen, it’s not likely. Starting out 3-2 here would be a blessing, because their next five isn’t any easier. Besides the schedule being tough, the presence of RB Willie Parker and the running game losing OG Alan Faneca to the Jets is still in question. Good luck guys, if you pull it off this year, you should win the Super Bowl. Which leaves us with the Cleveland Browns and their high octane offense set for the 2008 season. QB Derek Anderson, RB Jamal Lewis, WR Braylon Edwards, and TE Kellen Winslow Jr. welcomed a new addition from the Patriots to their team with WR Donte Stallworth. Even though Anderson is prone to throwing balls erratically, his core of players make him look good.
Add in another year for the defense to gel under Cronnell and they may have a great shot at winning the division if not more. Their downside? They could start off the first half of the season 2-6 with games against Dallas, Pittsburgh, the N.Y.Giants, Washington and at Jacksonville. My Predictions Pittsburgh 9-7 Cleveland 8-8 Cincinnati 7-9 Baltimore 4-12
AFC SOUTH (Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee)
The most exciting division in the AFC in 2007, the South brought 3 teams to the playoffs, but no team finished worse then 8-8 (Houston). Barring a slew of injuries in 2008 for the Texans, you could just as easily see them winning the division as well as finishing last. When both QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson started last year the team was 3-0, and with Johnson leading in receiving yards the team was 6-2. Don’t be surprised if they make the playoffs this year. Indianapolis has one of the most potent offenses to parade on the field year after year. Now that baby brother Eli has notched his first Super Bowl as well, Peyton should be more focused for the 2008 season. A surprise loss to the Chargers and Billy Volek in the playoffs a year ago definitely left a sour taste in their mouth. Expect them to be in the thick of things once again for their inaugural year for the new stadium. Jacksonville played valiantly last year against the Pats in the post season. Their biggest issues are whether or not the defense can stay healthy and consistent. Building on a strong performance from last year, the Jags are geared to run over the entire league one game at a time according to what I saw in their schedule. Will they unseat Indy? Possibly, but the they will have to their first six games to prove they can. Tennessee is probably the oddest team of this bunch. Their defense is stout, but the offense is so inconsistent you never know who’s going to show up. They got lucky last year with help from Cleveland in the final weeks to make the playoffs, but it won’t happen this year. 6 divisional games alone will eat up the Titans and spit em’ out. Expect them to be looking forward to the free agency list and draft towards season’s end.
My Predictions Indianapolis 10-6 Houston 9-7 Jacksonville 9-7 Tennessee 7-9
AFC WEST (Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego)
Even though Denver coach Mike Shanahan guaranteed that the Broncos will be headed to the playoffs, they have a tough road ahead of them. With an early suspension to star wideout Brandon Marshall and a tough opening schedule for the first seven games, they could open the season winless if they can’t come out of Oakland with a win to start the season. San Diego, New Orleans, at Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, and at New England are their next six so it doesn’t look pretty. Kansas City and Oakland both are still trying to rebuild their teams, and even though the Chiefs got what they wanted in the draft, DE Jared Allen is went to Minnesota and they still want to rely on Brodie Croyle as their man behind center. Oakland has a second year player in JeMarcus Russell running the show for the Raiders, and even though the additions of Darren McFadden (Arkansas) and Javon Walker (Denver), their schedule promotes a six win season at best. San Diego is the cream of the crop in the AFC West and with CB Antonio Cromartie getting a full year to play defense, he’ll only build on his 10 interceptions from a year ago. In fact, the team overall could possibly have the best record in the league and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Only time will tell, but Qualcomm will be rockin’ and so will the 2008 season for the AFC.
My Predictions San Diego 13-3 Denver 9-7 Kansas City 6-10 Oakland 5-11.
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