Tuesday, August 8, 2017

NFL Preview 2017, part 1: AFC East

Over the rest of the month, we're going to be taking a look at all 8 divisions in the NFL as we prepare for the start of the regular season on September 7 (New England hosting Kansas City). Today, we'll start with the easiest division.

AFC East:

Defending Super Bowl champion New England just found the going a little bit easier in the division with key injuries to the Jets & Miami in recent days. However, for reasons only he can comprehend, coach Bill Belichick decided to part company with bruising running back LeGarrette Blount, who signed with Philadelphia in the off-season. Never mind that Albany native Dion Lewis is recovering from an injury, the Pats went and signed Rex Burkhead (Cincinnati) to replace Blount. The former Nebraska star should finally get some primo attention, but then, with ball-hogging QB Tom Brady padding his stats and minimalizing the running game for that reason....! And you wonder why I don't consider Brady to be the greatest QB of all time. There's little balance in the offense.

However, the division is New England's to lose again. Miami owner Stephen Ross convinced Jay Cutler to put off his broadcasting career for another year (he was due to be the #2 analyst on Fox) and replace an injured Ryan Tannehill at QB. Cutler's run in Chicago ended the same way it did for Rex Grossman, with dimiinishing skills and returns. No one's giving the Jets a chance at all, assuming Josh McCown can beat out 2nd year QB Christian Hackenburg for the starting job. Receiver Quincy Enunwa was lost for the season Monday with a neck injury, further depleting a receiving corps that already lost Brandon Marshall (Giants) and Eric Decker (Tennessee). That means more pressure on RB Matt Forte to lead the offense. 

In Buffalo, the Rex Ryan era ended a bit abruptly, but that wasn't all. Defensive back Stephen Gilmore is gone (New England), the latest skill position player that has left the Bills high & dry for the big bucks. It may not be worth the time to binge-watch preseason games on NFL Network on the weekends involving this division.

Projected order of finish:

1. New England
2. Buffalo
2. (tie) Miami
4. Jets

Next week, we'll be looking at the AFC North.

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