Let’s just keep chugging along, this train won’t stop for everyone! First we look at the Giants cross-parking lot neighbors:
New York Jets
Boy, were things looking up back in the halcyon Josh McCown days. The nearly 39 year old former Bear and Brown set career records in all sorts of statistical categories. Then some punk kid had to be drafted, some red-headed upstart that management adores. Even though there was a perfectly good quarterback waiting in the wings, it makes more sense to go with the kid. Former QB turned receiver Terrelle Pryor certainly boosts the weapon options beyond the underrated Robby Anderson and Seattle transfer Jermaine Kearse, but the true power – the run game – will balance Sam Darnold’s arm. Isaiah Crowell is finally out from under the weight of the tragic Cleveland Browns, and will be able to prove why it had at one time been a mistake to skip him at the draft. Really, though, in a division dominated by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the Jets and Dolphins are often left wondering whether they’ll steal a title or sneak into a wild card. It’s all possible on paper, but this team hinges once again on their unproven quarterback.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady will never stop, he’s a cyborg. The day will finally come when New England is put to bed, to rest for the next decade or so in obsoletion waiting for the next coming of a superstar. It all comes in cycles, and the Patriots will likely have to luck heavily into their future quarterback (or have the League gift it to them). For now, it’s Brady’s show, and the revolving door of receivers and running backs in front of him continues. I’m actually shocked they’ve latched on to Rob Gronkowski for this long, and he’s due for major regression (if he hasn’t already…sorry fantasy fans). Julian Edelman is another remaining veteran who will compete for time alongside Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett. The running corps is similarly untouched, as Rex Burkhead and James White command the top spots in the depth chart. The most intriguing acquisition here is Jeremy Hill, underrated for years in Cincinnati. Even with fillers like Hill, the Patriots are in a weird spot. They’re expected to be top-notch for years to come, so any sign of faltering is the outlier. The Red Wings, The Lakers and the Yankees can attest, there will be more said if this team doesn’t walk away with the division, and early.
Stop the presses! Ryan Tannehill is back in town! Okay, that might not elicit headlines, or even page-five articles, but before his lost year to nasty knee injuries, Tannehill was a solid yet trustworthy lynch pin for the sorry Dolphins. Each time they would add an arsenal to his lineup, Tannehill would get hurt, 2017 being the most egregious. DeVante Parker is a useful catch, but his broken middle finger will hamper expectations, with his backup stalwart Kenny Stills shouldering a heavy load. Kenyan Drake looks like the real deal, running his way into a slot after Jay Ajayi made his way over to the Super Bowl winning Eagles midway through last year. He’ll also have veteran Frank Gore to assist, so if the playbook is right with the Dolphins, they could sneak their way into division title conversation. It is always an issue for the Patriots that the Dolphins steal a couple of division games each year. So if the Dolphins can win outside the East? They’re a great spoiler pick.
Not returning to the playoffs, for obvious reasons, will be the Buffalo Bills. No one seems to be warm to their choices this offseason, between dumping Tyrod Taylor and choosing between two iffy rookies for the position – to Kelvin Benjamin taking over the lead receiver role from . The biggest issue is a QB – with Taylor gone, the Bills nabbed AJ McCarron from the backup role in Cincinnati…only to pit him against the two young players, Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman. McCarron was let go over to Oakland, while Peterman was named the starter just last week. His biggest chance to play came last year in week 11, where he set the record for most interceptions in a player’s first start as quarterback. So….good luck with that. He’ll have Kelvin Benjamin to throw to, who had an okay time in Carolina, but after that? Zay Jones? They’re going to run the ball in the shade of LeSean McCoy, and that will be worth something for a few games, but could they pull off that perfect 0-16? It’s very possible, sadly a year removed from their postseason return.
Predictions: New England, Miami, New York, Buffalo
Tomorrow we’ll try to get through an entire region by taking a look at the AFC and NFC South, just before those Atlanta Falcons head up to Philly to kickoff our new season.