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- AFC East Preview

Kevin Figgers August 14, 2006
Kevin Figgers
NFL Columnist

Tell Kevin your opinion.

Here we go, my preview of the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

Key Additions: S Matt Bowen (Redskins)
WR Peerless Price (Falcons/Cowboys)
DT Larry Tripplett (Colts)
LB Kiwaukee Thomas (Dolphins)
WR Andre’ Davis (Patriots)

Key Losses: DT Sam Adams (Bengals)
SS Lawyer Milloy
OT Mike Williams (Jaguars)
TE Mark Campbell (Saints)

The 2006 season figures to be a transition year for the Buffalo Bills. Particularly on the offensive side of the ball. They brought in veteran back-up Kelly Holcomb to be their starter while they continue to bring J.P. Losman in slowly (however many feel that Losman will never be an effective NFL quarterback). The Bills do have one of the better backs in the NFL in Willis McGahee, however one of the biggest problems the Bills have had over the years is consistency from the offensive line. With the exception of releasing first round bust, Mike Williams, the Bills made almost no changes to the offensive front 5. The defense should be solid with the addition of Tripplett and the return of franchise CB Nate Clements and OLB Takeo Spikes.

I don’t expect the Bills to be very competitive this season, and under the leadership of Dick Jauron they can only hope for a Bengals-like turn around within the next few years.

Projected Record: 3-13

New York Jets

Key Additions: CB Andre Dyson (Seahawks)
WR Tim Dwight (Patriots)
DT Kimo Von Oelhoffen (Steelers)
LB Brad Kassel (Titans)
CB Ray Mickens (Browns)

Key Losses: DE John Abraham (Falcons)
C Kevin Mawae (Titans)
FB Jerald Sowell (Buccaneers)
CB Ty Law (Chiefs)
OT Jason Fabini (Cowboys)
LB Barry Gardner (Patriots)

The New York Jets are a very talented team that very well could sneak under the radar and be contenders. They have a young, talented defense led by Jonathan Vilma and run stuffer Dewayne Robertson. Most of the questions that have to be answered are on offense, particularly at the quarterback position. Chad Pennington is far and away the best QB in camp and will likely be the opening day starter. The health (as well as the career) of Curtis Martin is in question. If Martin is unable to go or decides to hang ‘em up, the Jets will go with running back by committee with veteran Derrick Blaylock and Cedric Houston. It will be a big task for young head coach Eric Mangini and offensive line coach Doug Marrone to get continuity and consistency from a young offensive line after losing the staple of their front five over the years, Kevin Mawae.

The Jets have the opportunity to be very competitive. However, with a young and inexperienced offensive line they just don’t have the guns to hang with the Dolphins and the Patriots. They’ll hang tough and have some competitive games, but overall will not compete for a playoff spot.

Projected Record: 5-11

Miami Dolphins

Key Additions: CB Will Allen (Giants)
FB Fred Beasley (49ers)
QB Daunte Culpepper (Vikings)
OT L.J. Shelton (Browns)
DB Renaldo Hill (Raiders)

Key Losses: WR David Boston (Buccaneers)
QB Gus Frerotte (Rams)
CB Sam Madison (Giants)

The Miami Dolphins are the “sexy pick” to go to Superbowl 41. They have the talent, its just a question of whether they can put it all together. With Sticky, I mean Ricky, Williams out of the picture, Ronnie Brown will be the every down back for Nick Saban’s offense. Like the Baltimore Ravens, the Dolphins have some question marks on offense. Can Daunte Culpepper return to his MVP-like form of a couple of years ago? Or will he be what he was the first half of 2005? Which wasn’t that good. Can Ronnie Brown be an every down running back in the NFL? It is more than likely that Culpepper won’t be as good as he once was, but he also won’t be as bad as he was at the start of 2005.

EVERYONE just loves the Dolphins, and I am always cautious about teams that fans and the media fall in love with, because for whatever reason, those teams always seem to tank. Some people may have also forgotten that the Patriots do reside in this division, and that even with 1/3 of their roster missing a lot of the season, were a couple of plays away from going to the AFC Championship game. The Dolphins will make the race interesting, but in this humble reporters opinion, 2006 will not be their year.

Projected Record: 8-8

New England Patriots

Key Additions: WR Reche Caldwell (Chargers)
CB Eric Warfield (Chiefs)
LB Barry Gardener (Jets)

Key Losses: WR Tim Dwight (Jets)
TE Christian Fauria (Redskins)
WR David Givens (Titans)
LB Willie McGinest (Browns)
K Adam Vinatieri (Colts)
CB Tyronne Poole (Raiders)
CB Duane Starks (Raiders)

Many believe that with the loss of all of the veterans, that the Patriots are on the downswing. Don’t buy in to it my friends. They still have the best quarterback in the NFL (Tom Brady) and one of the best football minds in the game (Bill Belichick). The defense may not be as dominant as it has been, but it will definitely be good enough to keep the Pats in Superbowl contention. With the two-headed monster of the veteran Corey Dillon and rookie running back Lawrence Maroney, to go along with veterans like Kevin Faulk, the Pats will have a very potent running attack and Reche Caldwell is a valuable addition to an underrated passing attack.

Its interesting how easily we forget that the Patriots won 11 games last year and were probably a couple of close calls away from returning to the AFC Championship game. Until it is taken from them, the AFC East still belongs to the Patriots. And even with the loss of a couple of veterans, the Patriots will find a way to continue playing into January.

Projected Record: 12-4 (First Round bye)

Late this week we will preview the AFC's Western and Southern divisions.

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