07 July 2006

Let the previews begin!: AFC East

I'm planning on doing brief previews and gambling tips for all thirty-two NFL teams over the next few weeks, division-by-division. Odds are from Sportsbook, your humble commentator's bookie of choice. For the record, I was pretty good at calling games my first couple of seasons, but last year I took a bath, so I'm not responsible for anybody dumb enough to take my advice. First up: the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills

Going nowhere fast. Their QB situation is so bad that Kelly Holcomb is considered a viable option. McGahee is one of the league's best backs wasting the prime of his career behind a questionable line. Milloy and Adams are gone, but the defense is still pretty old; the LBs, the defense's strongest unit, are all around 30, and this'll be Troy Vincent's 15th season.

On top of all that, they hired Dick Jauron as their coach. Are they serious? How do you sell this to your fan base? Wouldn't it be better to hire a young, inexperienced guy than someone who's already proven himself thoroughly unqualified for the job of NFL head coach?

On the plus side, Peerless is back! And they have Shaud Williams as a backup RB. When he was at Alabama, Sacha Baron "Ali G" Cohen (in his "Bruno" guise) asked Williams whether he was allowed to date other members of the team; worth watching.

Total wins: 61/2
McGahee alone is worth like, two or three wins by himself; Jauron is worth about minus-9. Let's say they win one division game (split with NYJ), take two from the NFCN (@Det, GB), one from the AFCS (either @Hou or TN, but not both; the TN game is late December in Buffalo, which is a leg up right there; plus late enough in the season that Vince Young will probably be starting by then, and possibly seeing snow for the first time in his life; hell, maybe they take both of these) and one of the other two (SD, @Bal). That makes five or six. Under it is.

Division title: 10-1
Probably not. A division with only one good team can reasonably be called "up for grabs"; no way NE and Mia both blow it.

Super Bowl champ: 100-1
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say no way in hell.

Miami Dolphins

Everybody's trendy pick for a break-out season, and why not? Culpepper-to-Chambers sounds good to me, and any defense with Thomas and Taylor is good for a few wins regardless of the offense.

The Phins are well-known for opening hot then blowing it in December, but last year they won their last six games, which bodes well for the Saban era. Whether or not this is a long-term trend will be tested week 15 @Buf; I say they win that one handily.

Total wins: 9
I'm gonna say four division (sweep Buf, split NE and NYJ), three NFCN (lose to either GB or @Chi), two or three AFCS (they play @Ind the last week of the season, when the Colts may be resting starters) and maybe one more, but it'll be tough (KC or @Pit). That puts them right around ten, but this one might be too close to call.

Division title: 5-2
Very, very possible. All they have to do is edge out NE, who are in sort of a rebuilding-while-staying-competitive type year. It'll be close, but they've got a pretty realistic chance, and you're looking at better than tripling your money here. I like those odds; take it.

Super Bowl champ: 22-1
But let's not go overboard.

New England Patriots

Tough to call all around. On one hand, they're clearly undergoing... let's call it a remodeling. They lost (Vinatieri, McGinest, Fauria) more than they gained in the off-season. Dillon should be slowing down soon. Seymour's the only young star on the defense; Harrison and Bruschi have over ten seasons apiece.

On the other hand, the OL should be a lot healthier, and Brady and Belichick alone give them a chance to win every game.

Total wins: 101/2
They shouldn't have much trouble winning five division games, but after that it gets murky. If they split everything else (NFCN, AFCS, Den, @Cin; those last two are back-to-back, by the way, which could be pretty rough; but overall they don't have any really bad stretches) that brings them to ten. They should do better than that, particularly against the NFCN, but something about this team makes me think they're going to wind up on the wrong end of a couple of "shocking" upsets this year, at least one of which will involve a missed last-second FG, mark my words. I wouldn't bet this.

Division title: 1-3
I'd rate their chances about equal with Mia, but those odds suck. Not worth it.

Super Bowl champ: 8-1
Again, you never rule out Brady and Belichick, but somehow I don't think this is their year.

New York Jets

Being a fan, I'm always biased, which is why I almost never bet on the Jets, for or against (I once took a prop bet on Williams when they were playing Mia). But this year I have no illusions; the Jets stink. They've got to rebuild almost every unit on this team, and while they're off to a fine start with the OL in the last draft, that won't mean much this year. They've got a rookie head coach installing a new defensive scheme (3-4) for which their personnel is woefully ill-suited, a clear recipe for disaster.

Still, I'm optimistic about Chad; most people are simply writing him off, but I see him as a genuine question mark. Either way, the QB position can't possibly experience a meltdown as total as last season's, which included (a) losing the top two QBs in the space of like, three plays; (b) bringing a guy out of retirement; and (c) two guys who have no business starting in the NFL (that's right, even krazy Kliff Kingsbury got in a few snaps!); for a grand total of five QBs. If Chad gets it together for even ten starts, who knows, they could steal third place from the Bills. So, you know, that's something.

Total wins: 61/2
For some reason they always play Mia well, so I'm giving them a split there; one more from Buf gives them two in the division; I'll say two in the NFCN (Det, then Chi or @GB), one in the AFCS (Hou or @TN), and one more (@Cle or Oak). That makes six. I'd like to think they could pull off one more, putting them over; they could take both of those last two. But is that just the optimistic fan in me talking? Either way, I'm not betting this for the reason stated above. You do whatever you want.

Division title: 10-1
Not this year. Or next, probably. Are they taking action on that yet?

Super Bowl champ: 90-1
As a fan, it's nice to know that Vegas thinks just a little bit more here of the Jets than they do of Buf, whom you'll notice have the same numbers as the Jets in the first two categories. No reason to get excited, though; neither team is making the playoffs, let alone winning it all.


I think Mia edges NE for the division title; NE will probably take a wild card slot, but I don't think it's either team's year for the big one.

The bets: Buf < 61/2, Mia 5-2 AFCE.

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