By Stefan Anderson
No more questions on Deflategate, No more pondering on why Marshawn Lynch didn’t receive the last carry, the 2015-2016 season is finally here. Lets preview the season starting with the AFC.
Buffalo Bills-The Bills are looking to make a splash this season. With all the new additions and the new found comradery with HC Rex Ryan. Buffalo has improved after trading for former rushing champ Lesean McCoy after finishing 25th in on the ground, McCoy will help in the rushing department. Handing the keys over to former Virginia Tech standout Tyrod Taylor will be interesting to watch as he now has the option of handing the ball to McCoy or passing to the likes of Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and Robert Wood, should Taylor’s transition into starting easier. Bringing back that top-10 defense from the year prior, the Bills should be able to adjust to Ryan’s Ground and Pound style.
New England Patriots- The defending champs will return to the same fashion with their offense that contains the same players, especially with Tom Brady at the helm. Despite what most think the Patriots only were 17th in passing yards allowed with Revis and Browner at corner. Now with the two corners gone, they will remain steady but all on the heels of their talented linebackers and defensive line core.
New York Jets- Now in the Todd Bowles era, the Jets have found their defense more stacked than ever before bringing back their tandem of Revis and Cromartie to help lead Gang Green back to competitive measures. The Jets have found a way to shore up their biggest weakness the passing game where they were at the bottom of the barrel at 30th, with the addition of WR’s Devin Smith and Brandon Marshall. But after the punch the Jets took at QB, can Ryan Fitzpatrick do it for the Jets?
Miami Dolphins-The Dolphins have been on the cusp for the past few years but still have not made that jump yet but have an opportunity to do so with the team they put together this season. They have given Ryan Tannehill more targets with vets Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings. They have improved their run defense with and now have one of the scariest defensive lines with Suh, Wake and Vernon.
Cleveland Browns- The Browns are looking forward to making progress, following their rough 2014 season and could do so but have to figure it out in the tough AFC North division. The Browns will now rely on Isaiah Crowell,a young bruiser to help shoulder the load following the departure of Terrence West. A league’s worst 12 passing TD’s is a major cause for concern but can improved with receivers Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe in the West Coast system that QB Josh McCown is familiar with and had his best season in Chicago under the system. The Browns running defense has to find away to help out after giving up 141 ypg.
Baltimore Ravens- The Ravens expect to remain the same ravens playing smash mouth football, but a few questions arise. How does rookie WR Breshad Perriman replace Torrey Smith? Does the contract make Will Hill return to the potential shown last season? And how much of the blow is that OC Gary Kubiak is gone?
Pittsburg Steelers- As you see with the Ravens, you will see with the Steelers you will get the same team year in and year out. With Bryant and Bell out to suspension will have to figure out how to help out Big Ben and Antonio Bryant on the offensive end. Health is always a major concern when looking at Pittsburg; will injuries tamper their potential success? And will we get a different defense with the absence of legendary DC Dick Lebeau, what does Keith Butler do?
Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals are reminiscent of the early 2000 Philadelphia Eagles teams, good regular season teams that cannot translate their success to the postseason. Their defense is solid on all levels and hope for the leadership of players like A.J. Hawk can help lead them further in the postseason this year. This year will also determine a lot whether Andy Dalton deserves his contract and if Marvin Lewis is the right fit in Cincy.
Tennessee Titans- The Marcus Mariota era has begun and will he will be looking toward veterans Hugh Douglas and Kendall Wright to help support the rookie. The Titans are certainly in the rebuilding stages are a year or two away from the team they want to be. Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo will be the leaders on the defensive end for a team that allowed up 27 points a game.
Houston Texans- The defensive side of the ball for the Texans is one of the best in the league, with a front 7 that features Clowney, Watt, Cushing and Wilfork. The firepower on defense is prevelant but their offensive output is not. The Texans have their playmaker Arian Foster’s health in question and the loss of Andre Johnson leaves the pressure on Alfred Blue and DeAndre Hopkins to shoulder the offensive load. Brian Hoyer has a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove as the Texans look to make progression this season.
Indianapolis Colts- The addition of Frank Gore and Andre Johnson to support the league’s best budding talent in Andrew Luck makes Indy’s offense even more explosive. The Colts were in the middle of the pack with yards allowed last season (11th), but will use the pass rushing of Trent Cole to bolster the core upfront that can improve into a Super Bowl contender.
Jacksonville Jaguars- This could be a big year for the Jags prized possession Blake Bortles as he gains more options with Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, and if Marquise Lee and Julian Thomas can remain healthy could be key for the QB’s step to the next level. Expectation should not be high for Jacksonville as they figuring out their direction as a young roster.
Denver Broncos- The Broncos remain the same team despite the loss of possession heavy WR Wes Welker. Despite the loss the Broncos are still a juggernaut offensively and Defense full of talent. How will the switch of the Erhardt-Perkins system to West Coast system affect the team? Should be interesting and I am also excited to see the progression of CJ Anderson with the exit of Monte Ball.
Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs have seen their revival since the arrival of HC Andy Reid but have been the little brother to the Broncos since the arrival of Peyton Manning. The Chiefs often fail to make the big play or attack through the air. Former Andy Reid recruit Jeremy Macklin comes in to help the Chiefs make big plays.
San Diego Chargers- I expect for the Chargers to remain the same solid team with Phillip Rivers as the foreman,. The Chargers have given Rivers some targets to help them spread the field out more with additions of Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones. Melvin Gordon will also help the rushing attack alongside Branden Oliver. The abudance of DB’s will help lead the Chargers into the postseason.
Oakland Raiders- I look for the Raiders to make their next step as a rebuilding roster, they have a mixture of good young talent and veterans. The veteran defense lead by Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson will support the rising QB in David Carr. Carr will expand on his rookie season as he now has two big targets with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Oakland’s real crutch will come from how their running backs can support both the passing game and defense with solid run attempts. If all holds up the Raiders could make some noise this season.