With the 2011 NFL season’s official kickoff being less than a week out, I thought it might be fun to play Nostradamus. I’ll be starting with the East divisions, and I’ll be following that up with predictions for each division every day this week, to culminate with the AFC & NFC West. My first order of business will be the seeming two-horse race that is the AFC East.
Prediction: 3-13; 4th in AFC East
One thing that Buffalo GM Buddy Nix has irrefutably done right over the past year has been the fortification of his team’s defense. He looks to have done an admirable job on that side of the football, but the fact remains that Buffalo’s offense hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, with Nix trading away arguably his best offensive player in wide receiver Lee Evans, it’s tough to say that offense hasn’t gotten even worse, and a team that can’t score a lot of points just won’t do very well when they play in the same division as Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez.
Prediction: 5-11; 3rd in AFC East
Miami made its most visible splash this offseason with its acquisition of star running back Reggie Bush from the nearby New Orleans Saints, but Fins fans should be just as happy about the more recent signing of former Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Marc Columbo. The addition of Columbo on the right side of the line has seen former starting right tackle Vernon Carey slide inside to the guard spot. In short, Miami now boasts an entire line of straight-up mashers. Reggie Bush should have more holes than what he usually saw in New Orleans, where their linemen tend to be made up more of talented pass blockers than run blockers. Even so, in their division they’re still only better than Buffalo.
Prediction: 12-4; 2nd in AFC East
The Jets have a talented team. Everybody who halfway follows the NFL knows that. I think they’re better than every other team in their division. Every team, that is, except for the New England Patriots. I the teams are very evenly matched in a lot of areas. The Jets, however, have what I think is one glaring weakness, and that’s the fact that they don’t have any safeties. They don’t have any safeties, and New England has Tom Brady and Chad Johnson.
Prediction: 13-3; 1st in AFC East
The rich just keep getting richer, don’t they? This year’s New England Patriot squad has so much talent along the defensive line that former San Francisco 49er and Washington Redskin Andre Carter is the third left defensive end on the depth chart. On the other side of the coin, many wondered precisely how New England intended to fill the large void left by the retirement of longtime guard Stephen Neal. The Patriots answered by signing perennial All-Pro Brian Waters, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs. If this team has one single question mark, it would be new starting strong safety Sergio Brown, who New England initially signed as an undrafted free agent. Even so, the organization felt good enough about him to cut ties with former starter Brandon Merriweather, who has since found a new job with the Chicago Bears.
Prediction: 6-10; 4th in NFC East
To no one’s great surprise, I have the ‘Skins once again bringing up the rear of the NFC East. The team has actually gotten better in a lot of areas. The problem is that none of those areas include the quarterback position. They look to have improved their running attack by leaps and bounds, and they also look to have gotten better defensively. They’re gong to need all the defense they can get with all of the interceptions Rex Grossman will be throwing.
Prediction: 9-7; 3rd in NFC East
This years Dallas Cowboys team looks good from almost every direction. If you look in the direction of the offensive line, though, you’ll see a few large, gaping holes where Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo and Andre Gurode used to be. Evidently, Dallas was hurting in the payroll department, and it looks like Felix Jones and Tony Romo might end up being the ones who truly pay for it. I think that the reduced amount of not only talent, but just raw mass along the offensive line will end up costing the ‘Boys a couple of those close games down the stretch when they can no longer lean so heavily on their running game to run out the clock.
Prediction: 10-6; 2nd in NFC East
I have New York slightly outperforming Dallas because I think Dallas will split their meetings with Washington and I think New York wins both times. That’s the major difference in terms of divisional play, anyway. Beyond that, I think the Giants have a much deeper defense than the Cowboys, both in the secondary and in the front seven. As has become the norm for them, New York seems to have an endless supply of effective pass rushers, while Dallas really only has a couple in DeMarcus Ware. I also think the Giants’ receiving corps is vastly underrated. Some question the effectiveness of play the Giants will get at the tight end position, but that’s what they said when Jeremy Shockey left town a few years ago, and the Giants weathered that storm just fine.
Prediction: 13-3; 1st in NFC East
After the offseason they had in Philly, who else could possibly be the favorite going into week one? This is a team which boasts three bona-fide shutdown corners, the old Michael Vick, and the younger, bigger, and stronger version in Vince Young (just in case the prototype gets banged up). We all thought Andy Reid was crazy last spring when he traded Donovan McNabb to Washington. I think this is the year that Mr. Reid’s madness pays off.