With that in mind here's the first installment in my division by division look at American football at the professional level:
The American Football Conference:
Team by Team:
1. The New England Patriots. Yes, everyone not living in the Boston area is giddy over the prospect of Tom Brady being out the first four weeks. And yes, there is a little bit of reason for fans of the team to be nervous given the early pre-season 'meh' that is Jimmy Garappolo. But the Patriots are still a talented team with one of the best quarterbacks of all time for 3/4th of the season. While Tom Brady is barred from playing football and off trying to take money from the clueless and easily swayed with his "superfood" supplement business, the Patriots play Arizona (Loss), Buffalo (Win), Miami (win) and the Houston Texans (win). Yes, I think they will go 3-1 against that less-than-murderers-row of a schedule and greet Tom Thumb back to the lineup in.....first place. They should win most of the rest of their games and be in contention for the number one AFC playoff seed yet again.
2. The New York Jets. This is a trendy pick (by a few) to jump up and grab a playoff slot who happens to be one Fitz concussion away from starting Geno Smith. Offensively, outside of Brandon Marshall, this team is undertalented and lacks a quality #2 WR. (Currently Eric Decker is penciled in as the starter). At RB they're relying on father time to not catch up to former Bear Matt Forte, who is capable but might not have much running room behind a rebuilt offensive line. Defensively Darrelle Revis will grab all of the headlines, but their ability to stop the pass will probably be more determined by whether or not Buster Skrine can develop into a quality NFL CB. Their LB corps are young, and their D-line is....meh. Coaching is their biggest deficiency. Todd Bowels seems like a nice man, and was a helluva coordinator. I'm not yet convinced he's of head coaching quality. Two entirely different skill sets. I see the Jets struggling and failing, again, to make the playoffs.
3. The Buffalo Bills. To my way of thinking, this is the most overrated team in the most overrated division in the NFL. Everyone WANTS them to do well, in part because they're from hardscrabble (read: awful) Buffalo and party because their head coach is Rex Ryan. Ironically, I think Ryan is one of the reasons this team is going to be pretty bad this year. That and QB play. I find starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor to be just OK, but not much else. However, when your backup option is E.J. Manuel, OK is A-OK. Sammy Watkins is a good receiver but currently not top 10 in the league, and RB LeSean McCoy can score, but he can also be injured. It's OK to root against this group solely due to the fact that all-around bad guy Richie Incognito is staring on the O-line. On defense they have a group of guys and Shaq Lawson who might end up being pretty good. But these are the Bills, and their coach is Rex Ryan, whose going to try and make it very much about him and no one else. I think the off-season will be very much about him getting fired. (again)
4. The Miami Dolphins. I think head coach Adam Gase might turn out to be a pretty good coach. Unfortunately he's been saddled with a roster that's only got slightly more talent than a top-level college football team. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a bust in progress, RB Jay Ajayi is meh, and backup RB Arian Foster is a worn-down injury waiting to happen. WR Kenny Stills has some potential, as does C Mike Pouncey. But if you're having to talk about the center on an offense as a bright spot you've got some issues on that side of the ball. This defense could either be pretty good, or a total dumpster fire. I'm going with the latter as low-motor guy Mario Williams teams up with crazy-motor guy Ndamukong Suh to form the most dysfunctional d-line in the league. Alonso, Jenkins and Maxwell might turn out to be a pretty good LB corps, but the DB talent cupboard on this team is BARREN. Rebuilding without a GM who knows what they are doing is hard.
So, it's more of the same in 2016 for the division that's seen much of the same for the last decade or so. As is usual, New England is the cream of the crop while the remaining three teams spin their wheels trying to gain traction. Last year I caught some grief (a little, not a lot) due to my 3-13 record for the Dolphins. This year I think they go one game worse than that and challenge for the 1st draft-pick in 2017. The Bills and the Jets continue to be the Bills and the Jets. In other words, same old, same old.