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2010 AFC Preview

Senior Reporter

Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 17:09

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The NFL season is almost ready to kick off again and once again there are a lot of storylines and question marks for teams heading into the season.  The AFC saw a surprising team in the New York Jets challenge the perennial powers for the rights to play in the Super Bowl.  What is in store for the 2010-11 season?  Will Tom Brady lead the Patriots back to the top, can the Steelers stay in contention without Ben Roethlisberger for the first few weeks, and will someone be able to challenge the Colts in the AFC South?  All of these questions will be answered in the coming weeks. In the meantime we’ll take a look at what may happen in the AFC.

Last year the New York Jets were cocky and believed that even with a rookie quarterback, they could win the Super Bowl and to the surprise of most, they were almost right.  The Jets are led by one of the most impressive defenses in the NFL and after adding Jason Taylor and Antonio Cromartie should be even better this season.  The offense should also be improved after signing LaDanian Tomlinson and if Mark Sanchez can avoid the proverbial sophomore slump, he could prove to be a more effective unit this year.  The big concerns with the Jets have to be a soft special teams unit and whether Darrelle Revis will sign before the season starts.

Even though the Jets ran to the AFC Championship game, the Patriots might still be the favorites in the conference this season.  Tom Brady will be completely healthy following a rebuilding year after his season ending injury suffered in the opener of the 2009 season.  Wes Welker is another Patriot coming off an injury as well and although he is making a quick recovery, questions still remain as to how effective he can be early on.  Former UNC receiver Brandon Tate is playing well and can give the offense an explosive target and the Patriots will be led on defense by Jerod Mayo at linebacker and Vince Wilfork at nose tackle.  The Patriots are relying on Brady and Welker to return to form so that the Patriots also can return to their strong selves of old.

The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins are both used to battling for the final position in the East, and it looks no different this year.  The Dolphins have two solid running backs in Ronnie Brown and the aging Ricky Williams, but are hoping that Chad Henne can connect with newly acquired Brandon Marshall and give some firepower to an offense that severely needs some.  The Dolphins may take a big hit on defense with the losses of Joey Porter and Jason Taylor from a poor performing unit last year.  The Bills have a new coach in Chan Gailey and will once again struggle this season as Trent Edwards will try and work with an offense that lost its only well known receiver in Terrell Owens.  The Bills will struggle to climb out of the cellar of the East this year.

The biggest question marks in the North division are how the Steelers will start without Ben Roethlisberger and how the Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens project work out for the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Steelers will be led by Byron Leftwich early in the season and will hope that a healthy Troy Polamalu will restore the defense to a respectable level, and help win some early season games.  The Steelers have a tough opening stretch against the Atlanta Falcons, on the road at Tennessee and on the road at last year’s division winner, Baltimore.

The Ravens are coming off a good 2009 season that ended with a loss to the Colts, but saw improvement from quarterback Joe Flacco and a coming out year for running back Ray Rice.  With the addition of Anquan Boldin the Ravens offense should be even better.  The Ravens secondary was hurt some late in 2009, but after having the offseason to heal and an impressive front seven, the Ravens defense will once again be a solid unit.

The Cincinnati Bengals are the biggest unknown in the North division.  With the addition of Terrell Owens the offense looks to improve, if all of the egos can stay in check.  The Bengals defense has steadily improved, but will still need to improve for Cincinnati to make it to the playoffs this season.   The Cleveland Browns are staring at another long season, although there is hope that Jake Delhomme can regain some of his old form and lead the Browns to some upset wins through the year.

The Indianapolis Colts are the clear cut favorite after another run to the Super Bowl last season with a determined Peyton Manning leading the way.  The biggest question for the Colts will be to sure up the offensive line with center Jeff Saturday out early in the season.  The defense needs to improve against the run as well, but the Colts will most likely walk through the conference again this year. 

The biggest potential challengers to the Colts in the South are the Tennessee Titans, who, after making a quarterback switch midway through the season, went on an 8-2 tear and nearly made the playoffs.  Vince Young will lead the offense with the help of Chris Johnson who exploded onto the NFL scene, putting up tremendous numbers last season.  Tennessee needs to improve on the defensive side, particularly against the pass this season if they expect to challenge the Colts. 

The Houston Texans and Jacksonville jaguars will most likey fill the 3 and 4 spot in the division this season.  Houston though will try and build on their first winning season in franchise history and look to cross off “playoff appearance” on the to-do-list.  It will take a better rushing game to compliment one of the top passing offenses in the league to challenge the top powers in the NFL.  The defense will have to survive the first four games without Brian Cushing, but still has Mario Williams who can lead the Texans.  Jacksonville will need a lot of improvement from a weak defense and some more offensive help for running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

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