Sunday, August 17, 2008

NFL Preview Part III: AFC Fallers

While the NFC has had teams bounce around like me at a mosh pit, the AFC playoff picture has really been a picture of stability. Honestly in drawing up a list of those AFC teams that made the playoff last year who might not make it this year do I even bother making comments on Indy and New England? For them its all about the health of Brady and Manning. Both are coming off injuries really for the first time in their careers. However none of the injuries appear lingering, debilitating or ultimately team destructive. How do I know this? I don't have the first clue. But until there's evidence it affects their regular season play I'm not even bothering listing them falling. So out of the remaining 4.....

1) Tennessee - Lets be honest the Titans only made the playoffs last year because the Colts rested their entire team and then didn't even try in the final week. That's it. They haven't drafted well as they now have 7 running backs (including Vince Young). If anyone screams natgonnahappen its the Titans.

2) Jacksonville - This is less a direct commentary on Jacksonville then it is on their division. I'm willing to argue the AFC South is the most competitive division in the AFC (maybe the NFL) and any slip up could spell the Jaguars missing the playoffs. 2nd year quarterbacks sometimes take steps back as teams get better at game planning. The idea of that Fred Taylor will be healthy for two straight years might be a stretch. Oh and that once vaunted DL is way down (they still can't bring in their top draft pick).

3) Pittsburgh - Personally I think Jacksonville is a better team. Pittsburgh has THE toughest. Their offensive line last year was near atrocious and thats before they lost Alan Faneca (not to say Faneca is his old self but is the replacement better). And now they're star NT that really anchored the D was out with being a big fatty. So with all these negatives whats the positive. Its the AFC North. Baltimore won't compete given that they don't actually field a QB. Cinci could surprise some teams if they can avoid arrests and find a healthy RB. The big question is the Browns. Can they finally beat the hated Yinzers? That'll determine who will take the AFC North

4) San Diego- Similar to Pittsburgh if not San Diego who else can the West? Denver is relying on Jay Cutler to manage the offense and his diabetes. The chargers seem to have less margin this year as Michael Turner is gone, Antonio Gates is still hurt and I think River had his leg replaced with some sort of cybernetic implant. I'm betting the Chargers will continue to rule the West but it seems much less secure on paper....

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