Today: Jun 17, 2024

Preview of upcoming football season (AFC)

Bobby MartinezSports Writer

NEW HAVEN–     As leaves are slowly falling from trees, summer nights are becoming colder as the days pass. This mean just one thing for sports fans, football season is underway and every team begins their quest for a Super Bowl win.

This offseason has highlighted many ups and downs for many teams in the AFC conference From Aaron Hernandez trial, legendary Ray Lewis retiring, Jets quarterback battle and Super Bowl champion Ravens new look team. This year will be one of the most exciting seasons in past years because many teams are at the point of competing toe to toe with the top dogs of the league.

For the past decade, the New England Patriots, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers have been the top three teams holding up that Lombardi trophy. We never can count the Patriots out as long as Belichick and Brady are together.

As we take a look at the AFC conference, the Baltimore Ravens have a totally new look team. Joe Flacco signed his major contract signing a crazy 120 million dollar contract. Ray Lewis retired, Ed Reed took his talents to Houston and Anquan Boldin went to San Francisco. Defensively, Terrell Suggs needs to stay healthy and use what he learned from Lewis and lead the defense. Elvis Dumervil was a perfect addition for the Ravens that will help Suggs as well.

Wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith are two key players that could determine Flacco’s success this year. Losing tight end Dennis Pitta was a blow. But Dallas Clark is a good fit for the Ravens for the meantime. Also, we can’t forget Ray Rice who has had four straight 1000 yards rushing seasons. It will be key for all these players to stay healthy if they plan on winning another title.

Teams such as the Buffalo Bills are a team that will be exciting to watch on offense. Running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver Stevie Johnson both reached 1,000 plus yard in their respective position. Defensive end Mario Williams needs to be healthy this season if the Bills expect there rookie coach Doug Marrone to receive a warm welcome from cold Buffalo Bill fans.

Cincinnati Bengals and the Indianapolis Colts are two teams who in my eyes can be a sleeper team competing for a Super Bowl ticket. The Bengals have a stud in Andrew Dalton at quarterback and also A.J Green at wide receiver. The Bengals were sixth last season in points allowed but ranked 22nd in scoring per game. If the Bengals can be more efficient on the offensive side of the ball, this team can become dangerous come playoff time.

As for the Colts, Andrew Luck didn’t disappoint last year and either did the Colts as a team. The Colts went 11-5 clinching a wild card playoff spot to only lose to the Super Bowl champion Ravens. From a team who before last season only won two games, has made it known they have the players and coaching to compete against any team. Luck and wide receiver Reggie Wayne’s chemistry last season was reminiscent to Wayne and Payton Manning.

During the offseason, a key acquisition was at the running back position. Ahmad Bradshaw signed with the Colts instead of the New York Giants. A team in which last year helped that offense on the offense side rushing for 1015 yards and scoring six touchdowns. In the six years at running back for the Giants, Bradshaw rushed for over four thousands yards and scored 32 touchdowns.

The only concern with the Colts is the youth on the defensive side. Losing Dwight Freeney to the San Diego Chargers is a big deal because his presence on the line shook quarterbacks every snap. I expect the Colts to make the playoffs this year with a 12-4 record and winning their division over Houston that I expect to choke at the end of the season AGAIN!

The Denver Broncos in my eyes are the team to beat. During the offseason, the Broncos receiving core got even better than last year. They have a deep threat in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker who tears down defenses with his aggressiveness and footwork. But with the addition of arguably the best route running receiver in the league, Wes Welker gives Manning a receiver that can turn a three yard slant pass into a huge gain in yards or a touchdown.

What will hurt the Broncos is the loss of their star Linebacker Von Miller. Miller will serve suspension time for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Miller is looking to serve a four to six game suspension which will leave a whole in the defense. Miller last season recorded 18.5 sacks in his second year in the league.

As for the other three teams in the AFC west division, Kansas City Chiefs will be a team to look out for in this division. I don’t expect them to compete toe to toe with the Broncos for the division title. I do expect them to have much better season then a terrible 2-14 record they had last year.

Andy Reid has always been criticized in Philadelphia for not winning a Super Bowl. He always had the talent on his teams to win a Super Bowl. Reid was the Eagles coach for 14 seasons and finished with a record of 130-93, seven divisional championships, one conference championship and one Super Bowl appearance.

Reid can use this fresh start in a new environment with a Chiefs team that does have talent to build off of. The Chiefs do have an elite quarterback in Alex Smith. At running back they have Jamaal Charles who rushed for 1509 yards last season with five touchdowns in all 16 games. There receiving core is pretty decent but is highlighted by a top receiver in the league by the name of Dwayne Bowe.

As for the defense, they have two hard hitting, ball hawking players in Eric Berry and Brandon Flowers. Despite their record, Chiefs defense ranked 20th in league and 24th in offense. They have the talent and it’s up to Reid to make the talent work together.

A major story that has been talked about over the past year was Manti Te’o and his secret lover that never existed. Teams passed up on Te’o not only because of this issue of the fake girlfriend, it was his play against Alabama in the championship game missing numerous easy tackles. At middle linebacker this season, Te’o will be a part of defense that ranked ninth last season.

The Chargers have a new head coach in Mike McCoy who will try and help improve a team that once was an elite team year in and year out. Rivers will have a new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals football team that lost in the Super Bowl during the final minutes against the Steelers in 2011.

The New England Patriots despite the loss of Aaron Hernandez and an injured Rob Gronkowski, you can never count them out of a Super Bowl chase. Danny Amendola if healthy could be a major help to Brady until Gronkowski returns. Also, New England never really had a running game throughout the years until this season.

LeGarrette Blount is a big running back that has tore defenses down single handily during his time in Tampa Bay. Blount did struggle last season only rushing for 151 yards in 13 games. Hopefully the Patriots get the same Blount that rushed for 1007 yards in 2012.

As for The New York Jets, they lost Darrelle Revis in the offseason who had knee surgery that forced him to miss the whole 2012 season.  Jets can only hope that Antonio Cromartie can fill that void for years to come alongside rookie Dee Milliner. Jets did release Bart Scott who only recorded two and a half sacks last season but is recovering from off season toe surgery.

Jets ranked eighth last season in defense and 30th in offense. Clearly the issue is on the offense side of the ball. Jets struggled in the red zone last season ranking 25th in red zone scoring with a percentage of 48.9 percent. In 2011, the Jets ranked second in red zone scoring with a 65.3 percentage.

Santonio Holmes told the Jets he might not play until week four; Braylon Edwards was resigned this summer in hopes to fill the void in the meantime. Dustin Keller who was Sanchez main target, signed a one year contract with Miami. But this is not the problem for the Jets. There problem is who is the proper quarterback for the Jets now.

Mark Sanchez ranked 31st overall in quarterback passer ratings with a 66.9 percent ratings. Sanchez threw 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions with an offense that did deal with a lot of unfortunate injuries. They did draft Geno Smith from West Virginia University who will compete for that starting position.

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