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- Offenses Need Valuable Players - AFC

Chris Pokorny August 2, 2006
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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VIP typically stands for "Very Important Person", and usually defines someone of great importance towards a certain cause. In the National Football League, the phrase "Most Valuable Player" is used instead, involving a very similar, if not identical, concept. I order for an offense to succeed in the NFL, it needs several contributors that bond well together. Amongst all of those contributors is one nucleus - a man who sets the tone of the offense on any given down. It's not necessarily about who puts up the best stats or has all of the plays on Sports Center, it's about the guys who go out there and win you a football game. So, on each team's offense, who is the "VIP" or the "MVP" or the "nucleus" that teams will depend on this season? Well, let's take a look, starting with the AFC.

Baltimore Ravens: Jonathan Ogden
The Ravens offense has not had a solid passing game since entering the league, as quarterbacks Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright struggled during their time with the offense. Jamal Lewis has had too many injuries to be important to the offense, and the addition of Mike Anderson could allow him to surpass Lewis at some point. The Ravens can always depend on Ogden to be a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle, on of the most underrated positions in football. McNair, a scrambler who needs good protection if he takes off, will need to know that his blind side is protected at all times.

Buffalo Bills: Lee Evans
If only Evans had a better quarterback. Although Willis McGahee has showed a lot of potential when the people around him thrive, he showed that he couldn't do everything by himself last year. Evans, on the other hand, made several huge plays that changed the complexion of a football game. He is a threat to burn a cornerback on every play with the speed he has, while the rest of the offense has been rather porous.

Cincinnati Bengals: Carson Palmer
This may sound like an obvious choice, but it really isn't. The Bengals have developed so many playmakers on their team, including Rudi Johnson, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The offensive line has been tremendous, and the backup weapons - Kelley Washington, Chris Henry, and Chris Perry - all produce when they are in the game. However, Palmer allows for everything to come together. We saw Jon Kitna do a manageable job with the Bengals, but it was no where near what Palmer was capable of. If Johnson and Houshmandzadeh went down with injuries, Palmer can get the ball to Henry and Washington just as well. He knows all the capabilities of his players.

Cleveland Browns: Kellen Winslow
It may seem a little hard to believe that Winslow, despite only playing a few downs two years ago, could be the Browns most important offensive player. Since their re-birth into the league, the Browns biggest problem has been the lack of a game changer, or a player that could be depended on down near the red zone. Braylon Edwards showed flashes last year, but Winslow will be the guy who creates mismatches for opposing defenses on a consistent basis. The double teams on Winslow will open things up for the rest of the offense - more holes for Droughns, less coverage on the receivers, and one less guy blitzing Charlie Frye.

Denver Broncos: Rod Smith
The veteran receiver can still beat you up and down the field. Jake Plummer's consistency last year definitely proved to be a big difference for the type of season Denver had, but isn't consistency what you expect from your quarterback? As far as the running game goes, the offensive line always blocks well for any running back, meaning there's nothing "special" you can really deem towards a running back on the roster. Smith's tenure and production to go along with it allows Plummer to know where to go when it counts.

Houston Texans: Eric Moulds
I almost picked Domanick Davis for the honor, because he deserves a lot of credit for producing as well as he does on a rather poor Texans' offensive line. David Carr has never had a big season, but who has he had in the receiving game? Andre Johnson has been there for the most part, but there are plenty of games where he just simply disappears. Moulds can finally escape the situation in Buffalo where he didn't really have the best situation. This could be Carr's best year in terms of throwing the football, simply for the fact that he has a proven veteran target.

Indianapolis Colts: Marvin Harrison
This award goes to Peyton Manning almost as much as it goes to Harrison. Granted, if you put another quarterback into this system, they would be clueless. On the same note, if you put another receiver into the Colts system, they would be even more clueless. Harrison knows Manning so well, that they could nod their heads slightly from across the field, run a play with their eyes closed, and connect on a touchdown. It may not be recognizable on every play, but when those unbelievable plays to Harrison occur, I want to know if you've seen any other better form of communication in this league.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcedes Lewis
In the absence of Jimmy Smith, Byron Leftwich could potentially be lost. The Jaguars are another offense that cannot light it up in the passing game. In the running game, Fred Taylor can never stay healthy enough to contribute, and when he is healthy, it's difficult to reach the end zone. Lewis is a rookie tight end, which would understandably sound confusing as to how he can be the difference maker in the offense. Leftwich has a hard time getting the ball to his receivers in certain situations, but can really thrive with a reliable tight end in short-game passing.

Kansas City Chiefs: Will Shields
The bread and butter of the Chiefs offense is their offensive line. Shields is just one of the exceptional lineman that holds everything together. Larry Johnson is an unbelievable running back, but Priest Holmes, and even Derrick Blaylock have had similar success when given the chance to start in the system. When the Chiefs are down near the red zone, their offense will almost always run the football because the offensive line, including Shields, will stick with the play until the running back is into the end zone. Just watch a pitch play from the Chiefs once, and you'll see what I mean.

Miami Dolphins: Daunte Culpepper
There's no doubt in my mind that the Dolphins can only win the division if Culpepper does an above average job. Last year, the Dolphins were on fire with almost a "platoon" of quarterbacks that were typically average or below average. They are returning with the same team offensively for the most part, except Culpepper is supposed to take them beyond the level of average. If Culpepper does as bad as he did last year though, Joey Harrington will even be worse that what they saw last year.

New England: Tom Brady
Some people call him the best quarterback in football, and he may very well be (just for the record though, I would still take Peyton Manning). Although Deion Branch has developed into a No. 1 receiver for the Patriots, Brady has shown that he can win a game if the fourth and fifth receivers and second-string running back were in there. The poise that Brady shows is amazing, and a major reason why they've won three Super Bowls the past few years. Brady is able to win with Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, and now Laurence Maroney in the backfield.

New York Jets: D'Brickashaw Ferguson
The quarterback position has been unstable for the Jets the past few years, and so have the receivers. With Curtis Martin going down, the same could be said for the running backs. Ferguson has the chance to stabilize the offensive line and preventing average quarterbacks from being blindsided. If Martin cannot play as much as he used to, the running game will depend on newcomers like Ferguson and Mangold to allow everything to fall into place. If they cannot hold their own, defenses can blitz all day and take apart the Jets lack of weapons.

Oakland Raiders: Aaron Brooks
The Raiders made a very bold move by going with Brooks as their quarterback instead of trading up for Vince Young or taking Matt Leinart. Even with the addition of Randy Moss last year, Moss couldn't put up the numbers he once did with an inconsistent quarterback such as Kerry Collins. Brooks has been one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks the past few years with the Saints. If Brooks plays the same that he did with New Orleans, then the Raiders will find themselves in exactly the same place they did last year.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Hines Ward
Ward is the heart and soul of the offense. Everyone knows that Ward is the guy who no one expected to make it big in the NFL, but he simply goes out there and plays his heart out. Who else can Ben Roethlisberger count on when the game is on the line? Cedrick Wilson? Santonio Holmes? It has been Ward since he arrived in Pittsburgh, and it'll remain that way until the day he retires. Alan Faneca deserves a lot of credit on the offensive line as well, but there's no way you can pass up giving this honor to Ward.

San Diego Chargers: Antonio Gates
A lot of people credited the turnaround of the Chargers to Drew Brees during their playoff run a few years ago. While he deserves credit, Gates is the man who really stepped it up a notch. Gates will be just as important this year, as the "almost-rookie" Phillip Rivers will look for a go-to-guy as a youngster. The Chargers have some decent receivers besides Keenan McCardell, but none of them have proven to be go-to-guys in the clutch. LaDainian Tomlinson can run the ball well for every team, but the Chargers desperately need the passing game to work well this season.

Tennessee Titans: Vince Young
The Titans have made so many moves to improve their team in the offseason, while Young has basically been told that he will not be starting the season as the starting quarterback. Even though Volek will get the start, Young has been impressive in camp. Once he steps on the field, everyone around the nation knows that it'll be a sight to see. The mobility he brings, along with his arm strength, puts him in a completely different league than Michael Vick, and for the future of the Titans organization.

That's it for the AFC report. Check back in to PFCritics for the NFC report, which will be out soon. If you'd like to comment on this article, leave a comment below and you'll be featured in our weekly mailbag session.

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