Failing to add depth to a team comprised of aging veteran leadership, effectively hanging their franchise quarterback out to dry by failing to add protection, and the vast improvement of the AFC ...
In the conference, Tom Brady has returned to the Patriots, while the Colts are healthy and have a new weapon in Donald Brown. The Jets' new defense has turned them into contenders, and the Dolphins are coming off a playoff year.
In the division, the Bengals are no longer a joke, healthy with the best offense and defense they've had in years. The Ravens will continue to compete with Derrick Mason returning and Joe Flacco more experienced. Cleveland under new management has improved on both sides of the ball, and last year the Browns were only beaten by four points in the first meeting between the two.
I can't even bring myself to read the rest of this article. The quoted portion is ridiculous enough.
First, the only area where we're aging and a bit thin is the DL and possibly S. (The OL is bad but young.) FWIW, we did use a first round pick to help the DL, and the S position has backups that are largely untested but young, and may benefit from position-flexible CBs like Roy Lewis and Keenan Lewis. Really, the depth of this team isn't bad at all. Even at OLB, where Bruce Davis is still a disappointment, there are guys like Andre Frazier and Arnold Harrison who are solid role players, and could fill in for a short period. The depth is no worse than it is for the other AFC elites (NE, Indy, SD, Balt).
Brady has returned to the conference. Yes, we know. He walks on water and divides loaves and fishes among the multitude. He's also 32, and coming off major knee surgery. Sure, he says he's ready, and the Cheat traded Matty Cassel away, so no worries, right? With Cassel under center, the sacks allowed went up, but Brady's a faster deciderer. Fine. But the center of the line is not as strong as some think, and every guy on the line save Logan Mankins is over 30.
The real problem, barring a setback for Brady with the knee (best of luck, Tom, go out and break a fucking leg you undouched twat) is the defense. If Baltimore and Pittsburgh have some age spots, Ningland might have to break out walkers. This season, Adalius Thomas will be 32, Richard Seymour 30, Tedy (who the fuck spells their name that way, anyhow?) Bruschi will be 36, and the entire secondary looks severely downgraded from even a few years ago. When you're relying on FA Leigh Bodden and a bunch of newbies to carry the load, can't be good. The DL is still very good (although Ty Warren messed up his knee), and there is some talent at LB (Mayo is a stud), but the mix of vets to youth looks a bit out of balance. Getting Derrick Burgess was an absolute necessity for this team, too. (Banta-Cain and Crable? Uh, no).
In short, the Patriots have waaaaaaay more questions as a team than the Steelers do. Sorry. 2007 is over.
The Colts are healthy. Grand. And they added a new RB. So did we. Mendenhall and Summers, actually. And we're healthy. So there. I've already opined at length that the '08 Colts were vastly overrated, and while the coaching carousel this season may not sink them (Mudd and Moore are back as "consultants"), there's no denying the Colts have long had issues with fielding a dominant defense. The offense should remain potent even as the Harrison era closes, but I still see defense -- sepcifically, stopping the run -- as their Achilles' heel. The Colts may not have the dropoff the Pats do this year, but they're in a division with a nascent Texans team (if they can put it together -- unlike the Bengals, they have the talent to do so), the solid if unexciting Titans, and the up-and-down Jags. I just don't see the upside here that some do. Possibly a playoff team, but it would not surprise me if they just miss this year.
The Jets' new defense consists of Rex Ryan, I'm supposing. (OK, they added Bart Scott and Lito Shepard, both of which are solid additions.) But Mike Nolan ran the Ravens' D pretty well, too, if I recall correctly. Baltimore and NE both have had a long run of great defense that is in no way dependent upon a particular DC (as has been the case in TB, Philly, and Pittsburgh with Kiffin, Johnson, and LeBeau). So I'm not convinced that the Jets are suddenly going to be this great D, even though they're chucking Mangini's ridiculous idea of trying to run a 3-4, and they added a couple guys, and Rex Ryan is Tater Salad. They'll be better, but not enough to really scare the bejesus out of anyone. This team will be a defense and running back-based team, and I don't see the offense helping the defense out much at all. 7-9? 6-10?
The Dolphins made the playoffs last year, but they won't gimmick their way in this time. Who's their QB? Curly Sue Pennington? If he makes it the entire year, Curly is good for absolute shit against a real defense in the playoffs. The Dolphins wideouts aren't much. The Wildcat was a flash in the pan that a real defense (again) blew the fuck up. The Dolphins, like the Pats, are relying on some older players (Peazy, Jason Taylor, Jason Ferguson), with too much imbalance. This team won't be back in the playoffs this year, sorry.
The fact is, over the past 5 years, four AFC teams have completely dominated the rest. In the NFC, 14 of 16 teams have actually made the playoffs in that stretch, with no team having more than 3 appearances, and only the Eagles making the CC game twice. In the AFC, that's culled down slightly to 12 of 16 teams making the playoffs, but of those 12 NE, Pitt, SD, and Indy all made the playoffs four times; NE and Pitt have 3 CC appearances each; NE and Pitt have 2 SB appearances each; and NE, Pitt, and Indy have all won the Lombardi at least once. Five teams in the AFC made 2 playoff appearances in that frame, as compared to 8 in the NFC.
Point being, there's much more fluidity in the NFC, and IMO a larger number of teams that could be considered solid playoff powers. In the AFC, it's the aforementioned 4, and probably Baltimore and Tennessee, barring some upstart team like the Texans. VAST improvement in the AFC? Uhhh, not. Try this:
1. Pitt. Stock: steady. A solid candidate for the ever-difficult repeat. Barring injury, should return to the CC game at least.
2. SD. Stock: up. Has all the weapons, if it can overcome its coach. Now is the time to leapfrog NE and Indy.
3. Tenn. Stock: steady. A CC contender last year, with few weak spots. They lose Haynesworth, but otherwise are solid. QB upside limited.
4. Balt. Stock: down. After making the CC, Baltimore should still have one of the AFC's better defenses, even with several vets on the wrong side of 30; they seem to have a better balance of vets to youth than, say, the Pats. Wideout situation is worrisome, as Mason is a question mark.
5. Indy. Stock: up. After a season where the offense wasn't clicking and the defense couldn't stop the run, the offense should be on the mend. A lot of changes here, and the run D is still a question.
6. NE. Stock: steady. Missed the playoffs last year, but any upside to Brady's return appears negated by a defense in decline.
7. Houston. Stock: up. They've been adding talent, and despite being spanked by Pittsburgh in the '08 opener, could be legit on both sides of the ball this year. If Schaub stays healthy, has nice weapons in Andre Johnson, Steve Slaton, and Kevin Walter. Added Antonio Smith to the DL (from Zona), alongside Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye. Dunta Robinson returns, and rookies Connor Barwin and Brian Cushing may contribute.
The rest, in some semblance of W-L:
8. NY Jets.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars.
10. Miami Dolphins.
11. Cincinatti Bengals.
12. Buffalo Bills.
13. Oakland Raiders.
14. Kansas City Chiefs.
15. Denver Broncos.
16. Cleveland Browns.