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Nick Ferraro

NFL Preview ~ East

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By Senior Columnist
Nic Ferraro

The final installment of our NFL preview continues with a breakdown of the NFL’s East Divisions. In the AFC the defending champions are looking to extend their dynasty, as the Jets and Bills are eager to end it. In the NFC the champion Eagles figure to continue their hold on the NFC East for at least another year.

AFC East
Division Rank: 1st
Last Season:

New England 14-2
New York 10-6
Buffalo 9-7
Miami 4-12

2005 Projection:

New England 11-5
New York 11-5
Buffalo 10-6
Miami 4-12

The AFC East is one of best and most intriguing divisions entering the season. There are questions surrounding the Patriots for the first time in quite a while. The Jets are moving forward, but are they ready to win the division? The Bills finished with a rush last year, but what kind of player is J.P. Losman? As the season shakes out, it may look a lot like old times.

Buffalo Bills

Off-season: C-
The Bills made a nice move in adding Bennie Anderson to the OL. Jonas Jennings will be missed at OT, as will Pat Williams at DT. Kevin Everett should be able to crack the starting lineup at TE by midseason. The Bills needed to get more help along the OL.

The season will go well if….
The OL can move people off the ball. The ground game will need to carry the team. McGahee is a franchise back, but he needs some space to run through.

The season will go poorly if…
Losman isn’t ready, and teams can stack up at the line to stop the running game. Losman has to limit mistakes and make a few big plays through the air for the team to win.

Key Game
NEW YORK JETS – October 16th
The Jets game will be the Bills first major test in the division. They have to beat New York if they want to contend. The Bills take it on the road for three of four after meeting New York on the 16th.

Bottom Line:
The Bills can finish almost anywhere in the division. If Losman is a player, they could get by New England and New York to steal the crown. If he struggles, they may finish below .500. The Bills will probably land them somewhere between those two extremes.

Miami Dolphins

Off-season: B+
The Dolphins fared well in free agency. They lost some talented players, but were able to add Kevin Carter, Vonnie Holiday, and Stockar McDougle. Each should start and contribute. Another playmaker on offense would have been nice. Ronnie Brown may have been the most talented player in the draft. Channing Crowder was a nice pick in the third round. The Dolphins should have taken a quarterback to develop for the future.

The season will go well if….
The Dolphins can get consistent play at QB. Either Frerotte or Feeley have to provide some leadership and make plays. This team is without identity on offense. They need a leader, and they need to post more than the 17 points per game they averaged last season.

The season will go poorly if…
Brown doesn’t help the running game. The Dolphins got nothing out of the running game last year. You can’t compete in this division averaging the 84 yards per game the Dolphins did last year.

Key Game
at Cleveland – November 20th
The Cleveland game will indicate which of last year’s big losers has improved the most. The Dolphins will not compete in the division, so they need to grab some wins when the schedule allows.

Bottom Line:
The Dolphins are in for a long year considering the opposition in the East. Stealing even one win in the division will be tough. The Dolphins are another year away from making any noise.

New York Jets

Off-season: B-
The Jets lost key players along both lines in Jason Ferguson and Kareem McKenzie. Adequate replacements don’t appear to be in place. The reacquisition of Laveranues Coles will bolster the offense. Losing backup LaMont Jordan was inevitable. The most notable addition may be Mike Heimerdinger. The team needed to rethink its approach on offense. “Dinger� will bring more creativity to the play calling. The Jets traded out of round one in what looks like a major error with new TE Doug Jolley headed to the bench. A team this close to the prize needed to connect on an impact player in the first round.

The season will go well if….
Pennington is healthy enough to take advantage of a more aggressive offense. This will still look like Paul Hackett’s team if Pennington can’t get the ball downfield. Replacements for McKenzie and Ferguson have to be found to keep the Jets running and stopping the run with the leagues elite teams.

The season will go poorly if…
Curtis Martin isn’t able to maintain his remarkable pace. The Jets will still key off the hall-of-famer on offense. With LaMont Jordan gone, Derrick Blaylock will serve as Martin’s primary backup. Sixth-round steal, Cedric Houston, may develop, but neither Houston nor Blaylock is going to post the 1,700 yards and 12 TDs Martin provided last year.

Key Game
NEW ENGLAND – December 26th
The Jets are 1-7 against the Pats over the last four years. They have dropped seven straight to the defending champs. Losing two again will keep the Jets in wild-card mode. If the Pats are ready to be caught in the division, the Jets can prove it on the 26th.

Bottom Line:
This is very good team. Pennington and Martin’s health is key to a championship run. If the Jets can find replacements for the departed talent along the lines, they can catch New England and compete for the AFC crown. The schedule is absolutely brutal. The greatest obstacle may be the mental edge the Pats have had over the last few years.

New England Patriots

Off-season: D
The Pats lost some irreplaceable parts this offseason. Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weiss were key components to the Patriot’s dynasty. The countless big plays made by Teddy Bruschi and, perhaps more notably, his presence will be greatly missed. Chad Brown is a playmaker at LB, but his ability against the run is questionable. The losses of Joe Andruzzi and Adrian Klemm leave questions on the OL. Logan Mankins was a need pick in round one. He will plug one of the holes on the OL.

The season will go well if….
The defense can continue to perform with the elite despite the losses in personnel. The Pats will find ways to put points on the board with Tom Brady throwing and Corey Dillion running. The dynasty was built with great defense. If the Pats are able to continue plugging new players into their scheme, they will remain the team to beat.

The season will go poorly if…
The Pats lose the focus that made them champions. There have been no three-time champions in this league’s history. This has more to do with the mental and emotional challenges of defending the title than a change in talent level. The Pats are still talented enough to win a third straight championship. The question is how long can they keep up their level of play.

Key Game
NEW YORK JETS – December 4th
The Jets figure to give New England all they can handle in the division. The Jets almost stole one from the Pats last year in New England. The Pats need to continue their dominance over their most dangerous division rival.

Bottom Line:
The Pats are still the league’s best team as the season opens and the favorite in the division. The AFC East will come down to tiebreakers with the Jets as the two will finish with identical records. This version of the Patriots will stumble before the finish line as the three-peat remains elusive in the NFL.


NFC East
Division Rank: 7th

Last Season:
Philadelphia 13-3
New York 6-10
Dallas 6-10
Washington 6-10

2005 Projection:
Philadelphia 12-4
Dallas 9-7
New York 7-9
Washington 5-11

The NFC East is still the Eagles to rule. Dallas has made the greatest gains in the offseason, but they can only hope for a wild card. The Giants and Redskins still have work to do to catch up to the pace.

Dallas Cowboys

Off-season: A
The Cowboys nabbed key free agents Marco Rivera and Jason Ferguson to help their offensive and defensive lines. Ferguson was a key addition that will help Dallas convert to a 3-4 defense at least part time. Dallas also scored nicely in the draft with their two first-round picks. Marcus Spears and Demarcus Ware will be impact players. Rob Petitti was a steal in round six. The late addition of Peerless Price may turn out to be the Cowboy’s best move of all.

The season will go well if….
Bledsoe can make some plays in the passing game. Price’s presence should help, but Bledsoe has to complement what should be a solid ground game.

The season will go poorly if…
The rookies and free agents additions don’t produce on defense. The Cowboys allowed 25 points per game last year. They don’t have enough on offense yet to keep pace with that mark.

Key Game
NEW YORK GIANTS –October 16th
Dallas is not ready to challenge the Eagles for the division, so they need to show they have stepped out in front of the Giants and Redskins. Last year the Giants throttled the Cowboys in front of their home crowd.

Bottom Line:
This will be an improved team and a wild card contender in the NFC. They will lean on the ground game and what figures to be a solid defense. The QB position figures to keep them a step behind the Eagles and out quick in the post-season.

New York Giants

Off-season: B
The Giants landed key free agents in Plaxico Burress and Kareem McKenzie. McKenzie will help what was a terrible OL last year. Corey Webster was solid in the LSU secondary and should contribute along with third-rounder DE Justin Tuck.

The season will go well if….
Manning can get a little help from his friends. If he has time, Manning can develop into the player the Giants hoped he could be when they traded for him. If the OL doesn’t improve, the Giants will post another anemic passing year.

The season will go poorly if…
Burress isn’t the playmaker he is expected to be. Amani Toomer didn’t have a touchdown grab last year as the number one wideout. The Giants will pick early in the draft if their receivers don’t make some plays.

Key Game
at San Francisco – November 6th
The Giants lost a terrible game at home last year to the Bears. That loss began an eight-game skid. A loss against the Niners could have a similar impact as the second half of the schedule figures to be much more difficult than the first.

Bottom Line:
The Giants have made improvements and figure to gain as Manning continues to develop. They haven’t kept pace with Dallas though, and they are not ready to contend for the post-season.

Philadelphia Eagles

Off-season: D
The Eagles did nothing in free agency. The decision to let Corey Simon go will haunt them down the road. The continuing soap opera surrounding Terrell Owens will weigh on the NFC champs. Second-round pick Reggie Brown looks like a player at WR, as does Ryan Moats at RB.

The season will go well if….
The Eagles can avoid distractions and improve their running game. They were a dominant team last year despite a 24th-ranked rushing attack. More plays have to come from the RBs.

The season will go poorly if…
The Owens saga continues to be a theme for the season. The Eagles are the only team in the NFC that can stop the Eagles.

Key Game
DALLAS – November 14th
The Cowboys will have established themselves as an improved team and playoff contender by November. The Eagles need to keep them in their place with a Monday-night win at home.

Bottom Line:
The Eagles are still the best team in the division and the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. If they avoid internal strife, they figure to have another shot at the Lombardi trophy.

Washington Redskins

Off-season: D+
The Skins lost more talent than they gained in free agency. Santana Moss is not the equal of Laveranues Coles. Fred Smoot was a key loss in the defensive secondary. The first round was a good one for the Skins. We like Jason Campbell and Carlos Rogers should become a shutdown corner in time.

The season will go well if….
The Skins find people who can throw, catch, and block. The Skins mustered fifteen points per game last season placing them 31st in the league in scoring. Portis will produce if the OL can create a few holes.

The season will go poorly if…
The defense wears down as the offense struggles. The Skins were terrific on defense last year, but they can’t hold up if the offense keeps them on the field for the entire game.

Key Game
CHICAGO – September 11th
The Skins may open 0-5 if they drop a winnable game against Chicago. The schedule is daunting for the next four weeks.

Bottom Line:
The Skins will remain in the cellar of the NFC East. This offense scares nobody. The lone hope is that Jason Campbell develops quickly and can spark something through the air.

This Article Was Written By Phil Sullivan

Avatar for Phil Sullivan
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I started JetNation in 2005 and have been a New York Jets season ticket holder since graduating from high school. My dream is to see the New York Jets win the Super Bowl. Until then, I will be right here on JetNation writing, dreaming and talking NY Jets football.