Team by Team: AFC East and AFC North

Kent Nishimura

There have been many winners and losers in the AFC East and AFC North this year.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: This team was supposed to be much improved this season but has severely under achieved. The Bills tried to revamp their defense this offseason by signing Mario Williams. The signing of Williams has amounted to seemingly nothing. The Bills are 3-6 and dead last in the AFC east. Paying Ryan Fitzpatrick and looking to him to be the quarterback of the future also looks to be a bad mistake on the part of Buffalo. Time and time again we watch Fitzpatrick make catastrophic mistakes that show how limited he is as a quarterback. There really isn’t much to say about the Bills. They need a lot of changes: Defense, QB, Coaching, etc…

Miami Dolphins: The Miami Dolphins have had moments this season where they have shown glimpses of what they can be in 2-3 years. Drafting Ryan Tannehill was certainly a huge pick up for the Dolphins. In a league that has become quarterback driven, Tannehill will give the Dolphins a chance to win big in the future. Tannehill is a great talent and needs a few years to mature. Reggie Bush has continued to show signs that he can be a productive running back. The Dolphins won’t do anything this year but they are a very intriguing team moving forward to next year and beyond. If the Dolphins can ad weapons on the outside for Tannehill and a complimentary RB to Bush, they can be a team to recon with in years to come.

New England Patriots: The Patriots continue to be the class of the AFC East. The Patriots offense is among the best in the league year after year. As long as Brady can produce with the plethora of weapons he has at his disposal, the Patriot will be perennial contenders. The Patriots have plenty to clean up on the defensive side of the ball. They have looked dreadful for much of the past two seasons. Bill Belichick has relied mostly on his offense to win games. In the playoffs this way of winning can come back to bite you. Belichick knows he has one of the greats in Brady, so he’ll continue to put games in Tom’s hands. Look for the Patriots to make another deep run in the playoffs this year.

New York Jets: Soon to Come!!

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens: Losing Ray Lewis for the season was a huge blow to the Baltimore Ravens. Ray Lewis has inspired and led this team for the last 17 seasons. Although his game was on the decline, his presence has never been questioned. This Ravens team does not resemble the Ravens of old that dominated teams with a ferocious defense. Ray Lewis has aged and will have to inspire from the sidelines for the rest of the season. The NEW Ravens will go as far as Joe Flacco and Ray Rice will take them. Flacco has played very well this year throwing for 2,331 yards and 13 TD’s, but has had games where he’s disappeared. Ray Rice is the motor that drives this team. If Ray Rice can get through the season healthy, and play big come the postseason time (I believe the Ravens will make the playoffs), the Ravens have a chance to make serious noise. Rice is one of the best in the game and will take pressure off of Joe Flacco. But make no mistake, if the Ravens are going to get to a Superbowl, Joe Flacco will have to get them there.

Cincinnati Bengals: A big weekend win over the New York Giants doesn’t say much to the credit of the Cincinnati Bengals. They have a legit quarterback in Any Dalton, Yes. And A.J. Green is a STUD. But this team plays inconsistently much too often for me to sing their praises and have any high expectations for them. The defense has under achieved. Last week head coach Marvin Lewis called out Dalton and starting middle linebacker Ray Maualuga, challenging both to take a more assertive leadership rolls on the team. The Bengals remain a middle of the road team. They play in a tough division but have shown little signs that they are ready to take control of the division. I do not believe they will make the postseason this year. Moving forward to next year, the Bengals need another weapon opposite A.J. Green and some more playmakers on defense.

Cleveland Browns: Not much to say about the Cleveland browns. Aside from Trent Richardson the Browns are not very good. Quarterback Brandon Weeden has had some success but I am not sold just yet (Definitely an upgrade from Colt McCoy). The Browns rank 26th in total defense and 29th in total offense. They have 2 wins on the season and I only give them a chance in 2 of their last 7 games. The upside for Cleveland is that they have been in every game, and have played tough. They need play makers at wide receiver. Weeden has a huge arm. Look for the Browns to get him some talent on the outside. If Trent Richardson can continue to develop into the running back he was drafted to be, and the organization can draft, trade for a big time playmaker, look for the Browns to be more competitive in the years to come.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Pittsburg Steelers have had the luxury of Bill Cowher as a head coach and Mike Tomlin as his successor. Both Coaches in my eyes are future hall of famers, although Tomlin still has much to prove. The Steelers are a perennial playoff team and I believe they will make the postseason again. After a slow start this year the Steelers have weathered the storm and have won 4 of their last 5 games. Big Ben is one of the best in the game and has the ability to extend plays like no other quarterback in the league. The offense has been able to stay on the field, being one of the best units on 3rd down. The Defense seemed to have lost a step from what we are accustomed to seeing but remain one of the best, if not, the best defense in the league. The defense reflects the attitude of their head coach. They play tough week after week, year after year. The Steelers will undoubtedly be in the mix come postseason. They have a legitimate chance whenever and however they reach the playoffs.

To Be Continued...

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