Let’s start with stating the obvious, Tom Brady is not from this planet. He is a real life “Superman.”
After Sunday’s 30-23 win over the New York Jets even the most skeptical Brady hater has to be in awe of the unhuman things he is doing in his 16th year as an NFL Quarterback. Brady literally took the team on his back and refused to lose. We all knew he didn’t need any help in passing the ball, but:
10 (or more) drops and he still throws for 355 yards
1 rushing TD
If that’s not enough he also leads the team in rushing for the 1st time in his career…at the age of 38
C’mon fans of the Steelers, Jets, Colts, Ravens (and on and on and on), admit it, you have to respect what this man has done. I know you may not be willing to admit anything publicly. Deep inside you still think he had to be cheating to do what he has, otherwise you’d have to admit your team actually lost to a “human” and you don’t want to do that. Among your fellow fans, when you belly up to the bar, you still mock him and talk about deflated footballs.
But when you take a moment and are honest with yourself you would love to have Tom Brady QB your team. You know it…I know it…and, don’t feel bad, your team feels the same way.
You can click on the above green link to find and compare Brady’s career statistics and decide for yourself. So, the question is, what more can he do? What is left to challenge the greatest QB in the history of the NFL (that will trigger some debate)? Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL owners provided the motivation he needed -or maybe he didn’t – to rejuvenate him for the 2015 season by questioning his honesty and integrity. His response has been to quietly embarrass them and their position. Hell, even the most avid Patriot fan has to admit he has surpassed any expectations we had for this season. Think about it:
2,054 yards passing in 6 games
16 TDs with just 1 interception
2 rushing TDs after going the past two seasons with 0
With a mobility in the pocket that he has never shown before he looks like a “new” Tom Brady. Don’t get me wrong, he has always been great, but this year he has moved into a new stratosphere. It’s not hyperbole, it is a fact and the eye test backs it up. Game-by-game he meets and exceeds expectations.
Brady brings out the best of everyone around him
Please don’t tell me he doesn’t have the weapons that other great QBs have. It doesn’t take anything away from what Mr. Brady has done this year to acknowledge the greatness of Rob Gronkowski (or Randy Moss in 2007). Julian Edelman and the now healthy Danny Amendola aren’t anything to laugh at, and Dion Lewis has emerged as a top tier running back/receiver.
However, with that said, Brady makes everyone on the offense look better. The ensemble that makes up the offensive line attests to what he is capable of doing. If you can name the starting five linemen for last night’s match-up with the amazing pass rush of the rejuvenated Miami Dolphins without looking it up, congratulations.
Credit the quick release (fastest in the NFL) of Tom Brady with the fact we’re not in panic as each weeks latest super team lines up on the other side of the ball. Speaking of which, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing how all these teams are suddenly able to “challenge” the Patriots dominance in the NFL. Before they can challenge they have to show they can beat the best…and so far no one has done that.
There might not be a team that had more hype than the Miami Dolphins going into this year and yet here they sit, 1-3 with a fired head coach. His replacement, TE coach Dan Campbell, was drafted a year AFTER QB’s Matt Hasselbeck and Peyton Manning, who will start this week for their respected teams. What brought Miami back into the foray of a rebuilding team with a new coach yet again? What has caused their inability to find stability in a franchise that was considered one of the best in the first part of the Super Bowl era? It all starts at the top, but here are five instances that show why they are still years away from contending:
Lack of consistency in regards to coaching. There might not be a more prima donna owner than Stephen Ross, who is too involved and has made awful hires for his head coaches (Joe Philbin, Tony Sporano, Cam Cameron, and Dave Wannstedt) and GM’s (Jeff Ireland, Nick Saban (who was both HC and GM). By constantly going through unreliable, unestablished coordinators as their coaches and then forcing Saban back to the college ranks is why this team has not gotten ahead.
Poor decisions regarding drafting and free agency. The biggest blunder, of course, is trading for an injured Dante Culpepper instead of signing Drew Brees. The trades for AJ Feely and Brandon Marshall also backfired. Drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan, and the first round busts of CB Jason Allen, Dion Jordan and WR Ted Ginn. Also, giving up on CB Vontae Davis, who is now one of the best CB’s in the league, is something that still haunts them. Also, paying DT Ndamukong Suh $100 million and WR Mike Wallace a lot of money for less than desirable results. All awful decisions.
The development of Ryan Tannehill has been troubling. He is someone that got paid a lot of money for not really doing much after having a good 2014 (albeit statistically). He looks to have regressed (his completion percentage went from 66% last year to 56% so far this year)and now with recent reports of berating practice squad players for intercepting him shows that he has a long way to go when it comes to be a leader.
So, bad leadership from the Top down to the Quarterback shows that Miami is an organization that has a lot of deep seeded issues. All of these factoids show that they are a team is trending down and due to consistent mistakes in every facet of the organization. If they are to fix the issue, they need to a complete overhaul and try to build a team with a coach/GM that have the same mindset and an owner that will stay out of their way. Kraft learned this in New England in regards to Bill Parcells and due to Stephen Ross’ arrogance, I doubt that will happen anytime soon.
Currently, the Jets and Patriots are tied atop of the AFC East with the Dolphins and Bills at 1-1. Is the AFC East much different than last year? The Bills look like a typical Rex Ryan team, a lot of vibrato after beating the most overrated team in the NFL in Week One and then crashing to earth against a team with actual talent. The Jets are undefeated, yet struggled against the hapless Colts and destroyed the dangerous tandem of McCown/Manziel in Cleveland. Miami snuck by Washington and lost to the Jags. Not saying the Patriots don’t have faults (i.e. their run defense), but it seems like the flaws of these teams will do them in again. Even though it’s early, Pats fans should get their popcorn ready and enjoy this season.
The run defense has been the biggest issue so far this season. The Steelers and Bills both ran very well against New England and Belichick and Company have noted this. Bringing in two defensive tackles (6’1, 340 LB Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and 6’6 330 LB Kendrick Ellis) of note means that they recognize this as an issue. It would be interesting to see if they sign one of these players, but the trio of Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga and Malcom Brown aren’t cutting it at the moment. How can this be resolved? It’s tough to say, since the Patriots morph their scheme to fit their opponent. Although, it seems as it could be something that gradually improves as the season goes on. Luckily, the next three opponents (Jaguars, Colts and Cowboys) have trouble running the ball. That could be enough time, with the bye mixed in, for Belichick and Matt Patricia to figure out what they can do to improve the defense.
The addition of Keshawn Martin last week means a few things: depth at WR and reliability on special teams. Martin is a special teamer that is also a solid returner (25.1 YPG on kick returns, 8.9 on punt returns with a TD). This addition could mean that they want current return men Amendola and Edelman to more focus on being the top 2 receiver options for Brady until LaFell comes back. With the use of Aaron Dobson in the last game (7 catches, 87 yards), adding Martin is a solid move across the board.
The biggest surprise this year is how well the interior offensive line has played. Guards Josh Kline, Tre Jackson, Shaq Mason and Center David Andrews have exceeded everyone’s expectations. With handling some talented defensive linemen in the first two weeks (Cameron Heyward, Marcel Dareus, Mario Williams to name a few) has been impressive to say the least. The biggest surprise has been Andrews, who is undersized (6’3, 285), yet has held his own. The MVP (outside Brady, of course) has to be OL Coach Dave DeGuglielmo. Having 3 rookies ready in the interior of an offensive line that has protected Brady and opened up holes for surprising RB Dion Lewis (Having Mason play FB might be the definition of smash mouth). Filling in for a HOF coach in Scarnecchia hasn’t been easy, but DeGuglielmo has stepped up and done an admirable job. As the season progresses, it’d be interesting to see if the rookies can keep it up and keep the dominance streak going.
For the last few seasons in the NFL the AFC East has been the New England Patriots and a bunch of other guys. Right now they are the only NFL conference without a loss. Yup, 4-0 while beating some formidable foes to get things started. Many were predicting the Steelers were back, but the Patriots took care of that notion. The Colts had Luck on their side, but that was all as the rejuvenated Bills put them in their place.
The Dolphins didn’t exactly impress in their 17-10 win over the clueless Washington Redskins and the Jets…well, they destroying the Browns, who haven’t won an opener in about 320 years! Both still have a lot to prove to the skeptics.
Last year the Jets (Raiders), Bills (Bears) & Fins won their openers while the Pats lost (to Miami). One of the few times the Patriots have been on the bottom of the pack!
While the NFC South has been an embarrassment, the teams in the AFC East have slid under the radar. 2015 could be different! While the beasts in the east are nowhere near the NFC West (Seattle, St.Louis, Arizona & SF), Miami, NY & Buffalo have all taken a step up, while the Patriots remain the favorite.
Strength Of Schedule
Here’s where I throw out a bunch of mean nothing statistics. You can browse over this paragraph in the reading room when you have nothing else to do (well, you’ve got something to do, but you know what I mean). It can certainly be misleading, but, based on strength of schedule, courtesy of CBSSports.com, the Patriots (#22*), Buffalo (#19*), Jets (#18*) and Miami (#17*) all have relatively easy schedules. (* represents strength of schedule with #1 [Pittsburgh] hardest and #32 [Atlanta] easiest) Yes, they do play each other twice so, theoretically, with the division stronger it could mean more in-conference losses for each and that will be important if tie-breakers decide who’s in and who’s out at the end of the regular season.
Whew, now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the match-ups.
This year’s common opponents:
The AFC East matches up with the relatively weak AFC South (Tennessee, Indy, Jacksonville & Houston) and, with Indianapolis’ poor/soft showing in their opening loss to the Bills, they all could run the table. The Colts looked incredibly soft in Buffalo, but you know they’ll play better with Andrew Luck at QB. Look for a lot of shootouts in their games as they still can’t stop anyone.
It’s another story when the AFC East plays the NFC East, with possible powerhouses Dallas and Philly (yeah, I know, they didn’t look good on the road in their opening loss to the Falcons), the always tough Giants (Eli doesn’t make those same “dumb” decisions against the Pats) and the helpless Redskins.
If all goes well, that schedule might give the AFC East teams as many as 6-8 wins. If they split games against each other their win total climbs to 9-11. Now, I know that’s a big leap after one game, but, hey it could happen and no one would be shocked…except Patriot and Colt fans.
The Patriots beat the Steelers (whatever happened to the Steel Curtain? It’s turned to tin) and have the always tough Broncos in Denver coming up. Manning’s arm still looks dead, but playing the game at home is definitely to their advantage. The Bronco’s offense will be different under Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Peyton will have to adjust to the short, clock killing style Kubiak likes.
Miami faces Baltimore’s tough defense at home and the enigmatic Chargers on the road
The Jets have it easy beating Cleveland at home and the Raiders (who have no home advantage) on the road
Buffalo has the most difficult twosome, pairing off with Cincinnati at home and the powerful Chiefs in KC (my sleeper team this year).
Let’s face it, after one game no one knows what will shake out down the road. The only thing that seems certain is its great to have football back and lawsuits set aside for a while.
Please, don’t bet the family jewels (if you have any) on what I write, ’cause basically I’m just like you…A longtime fan who thinks he knows more than he does!
The AFC East for a long stretch of time has been ragged on for not being very relevant, outside of the New England Patriots. Some followers have discounted the Patriots reign of success because of the lack of competitors in the division. However, this past offseason there was a great amount of turnaround on all four teams within the division, which should make things a lot more interesting this upcoming season. So without further a due, here is my full breakdown of each team in the AFC East, with with a prediction of their final record and playoff standing.
New England Patriots: Once again the New England Patriots enter the season as the favorites to win the AFC East. Nevertheless, with the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Kyle Arrington the secondary is now a work-in-progress that could cost the team some games early on in the season. In addition, with Vince Wilfork signing with the Houston Texans and Dan Connolly retiring, both sides of the line of scrimmage are in a transition period with a lot of young players that are still a bit unknown.
If the Patriots offensive line can figure out some early struggles, like they did very well last year, the offense as a whole should be very explosive. With weapons such as Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Brandon LaFell all with at least a year or more in the Patriots system under their belt, the offense should be able to move the ball up and down the field very effectively.
Also, the offense should not have to pick up the slack for the defense constantly if the front seven of the defense lives up to their potential. With young talented players on the rise like Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Jabaal Sheard, along with unproven players such as Dominique Easley and Chandler Jones with potentially high ceilings the front could carry the defense and allow Bill Belichick to, “turn the dogs loose.” Something they haven’t been able to do for a long stretch of time.
Prediction: 12-4, second spot in AFC Playoffs.
Buffalo Bills: Certainly one of the most talked about teams in the offseason, the Buffalo Bills are now filled with all sorts of bravado with new head coach Rex Ryan. Buffalo added tons of fire power on offense, with continued additions to their already strong defense. With Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Marcell Dareus plugging up the interior, with an extremely talented player such as Jerry Hughes coming off the edge, the Bills should cause all sorts of headaches for opposing quarterbacks. The secondary still has some question marks in Buffalo, but Rex Ryan has been known to make up for a weak secondary with his phenomenal pass rush.
The Bills offense can be described with in one word, speed. With speedy wide receivers such as olympic track star Marquise Goodwin, along with Percy Harvin, and future superstar Sammy Watkins the passing game has some burners that can really stretch the field. To add to the insanely fast wide receivers, the Bills added Lesean McCoy via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. McCoy along with grizzled veteran Fred Jackson will contribute greatly to Rex Ryan’s run heavy offense. Also, McCoy can come out of the backfield and be effective in the passing game.
The biggest question for the Bills this season is the quarterback position. A three-way competition has spurred throughout training camp between Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, and Tyrod Taylor. None of those three will strike great fear in any opposing team, especially the New England Patriots who are their biggest competition in the division. Unfortunately, their lack of quarterback talent will lead to their offense not reaching their full potential.
Prediction: 10-6, sixth spot in AFC Playoffs.
New York Jets: Much like the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets have added a lot of new talent to the roster along with some old friends. The biggest additions of course being Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Brandon Marshall. In addition, the Jets now have a Todd Bowles as head coach who was the architect of the defense in Arizona that is now one of the league’s best.
On offense, the Jets have a plethora of weapons starting with an elite wide receiver such as Brandon Marshall whom they acquired through a trade with the Chicago Bears this past offseason. Marshall is a freakish athlete that is a threat to score anytime he is on the field. The only problem is keeping his head on straight.
To compliment Marshall the Jets have a solid veteran in Eric Decker and promising rookie Devin Smith, who was a great player on Ohio State’s national championship team last year. Again, the Jets biggest question mark will come at the quarterback position. With Geno Smith now out for a long stretch of time, the team will have to rely on veteran cast off Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead them. That is something that fans of the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans will tell you not to be over confident about.
On defense, the Jets have possibly more all around talent than any team in the National Football League. When you have the best cornerback in the game in Darrelle Revis on your roster, you can do all sorts of things because he essentially takes away the opposing offenses number one target. On the other side of Revis, the Jets have Pro-Bowler Antonio Cromartie who is also a menace for quarterbacks and wide receivers to deal with.
Based off of those two players alone the Jets should have a top three secondary. In addition to their secondary, the front seven of the Jets will be one that can get to the quarterback. With Muhammed Wilkerson coming off the edge, and first-round pick Leonard Williams who was considered to be the best overall player in the draft.
In the end however, the Jets will probably not live up to there potential simply because they are the Jets and their locker room is already starting to collapse. With Sheldon Richardson likely out for the season because of his antics, and Geno Smith not commanding the respect of his teammates, Todd Bowles already seems to be letting the inmates run the asylum. That is something that has not bode well for former head coaches of the NYJ.
Prediction: 7-9, Miss playoffs.
Miami Dolphins: The Miami Dolphins have given the New England Patriots the biggest run for their money over the past couple of seasons. Head coach Joe Philibin has been able to keep his team in the playoff race until mid December, and then his squad falls apart. This was never more evident than last December when they had a chance to make a statement against the Patriots in Foxborough. The Dolphins came out with zero energy and fell flat on their face getting walloped by a score of 41-13.
This past March, Miami made arguably the biggest move of the offseason by signing perennial Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a six-year, 114 million dollar contract. Their defensive line should be able to get in the backfield with ease with Cameron Wake coming off the edge, and Suh up the middle.
Furthermore, the Phins extended fourth-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a six-year 97 million dollar contract extension. Therefore, the Dolphins are spending big cash to protect their most valuable assets.
However, when you spend big money like that you can be left vulnerable at other positions. For example, Miami continues to have a weak offensive line, in a division with three stout defensive fronts. What good is your expensive quarterback if you cannot keep him upright. Also, the Dolphins offense is not exactly filled with offensive power, and Tannehill is not the type of player that can make players around him exceedingly better.
Overall, the Miami Dolphins on paper seem to have a very talented roster, but they just don’t have the coaching. That will be proven this year once again when Miami fans are disappointed that their team is golfing in January once again.
The Dolphins are probably the most stable team in the division outside of the Patriots. They have the pieces in place to make a substantial run, but there are some serious questions that the team hasn’t answered. Should the Patriots be afraid of being dethroned by the Dolphins? Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses and decide:
Why should the Patriots be afraid: On offense, Joe Philbin has given the reigns over to QB Ryan Tannehill and have signed him to a large extension (6 year, 95 million) as a sign of good faith. He has improved every year and threw for over 4,000 yards last year. The Dolphins acquired WR Kenny Stills in a trade, signed TE Jordan Cameron and drafted WR DaVante Parker in the first round to improve his weapons. Second year Jarvis Landry looks like a future stud and adding a healthy Lamar Miller gives him a capable runner.
On defense is where the strength is. There might not be a more underrated and dangerous player outside of Cameron Wake and to add one of the best defensive tackles in DT Ndamukong Suh gives them a dangerous duo to team up with steady DE Olivier Vernon. This is a dangerous defensive line that can wreak havoc across the line. CB Brett Grimes is an incredibly talented CB that teams up with probably the most underrated safety in the game with Reshad Jones. He is solid against the run and is excellent in coverage. These core players are the keys to a dominant defense that has the potential to carry them far.
Why shouldn’t the Patriots be afraid: Despite the optimism, there are some glaring holes that the pundits aren’t really addressing. When it comes to the offense, Tannehill might be overpaid, but he produces enough to warrant his new contract. With that, they have only solid offensive line starter with C Mike Pouncey. LT Brandon Albert is 30 and is coming off a major knee injury. Last year’s rookie RT Ja’Wuan James was overwhelmed and they have no real proven starter at either Guard spot. It doesn’t matter who is playing QB, RB or WR, if they can’t protect Tannehill, they are going nowhere. Lamar Miller has trouble staying healthy and they don’t have proven depth behind him. This means that is truly ALL on Tannehill’s shoulders and if you have watched him play, you can question why the team would do that.
On defense, there are some huge holes that they haven’t addressed. The back 7 leaves a lot to be desired. They have a promising LB in Jelani Jenkins and a solid starter with MLB Koa Misi, but they are both unproven and there isn’t a starter outside of him. Grimes is a great corner, but he’s 32. How much longer can he play at an elite level? Also, who is playing opposite him? Right now, their biggest acquisition was slot CB Brice McCain. That’s not the most encouraging sign for anyone. FS Louis Delmas has shown flashes but can’t stay healthy and is coming off an ACL tear.
What does all this mean? There’s obvious talent there in Miami, but it’s too lofty to expect much more than .500 for this team. There is a lot of holes on this team and questions aplenty across the offensive line, secondary and line-backing corps. If they get these resolved, they are definitely a team to be reckoned with, but are still most likely a year away.
Ted Wells, the “independent” investigator who has become famous/infamous for his report which led to star quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, is under fire from another former member of the AFC East. Former Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner is suing Wells over his report done on the Dolphin’s bullying scandal a year ago. The report eventually led to Turner being fired.
The scandal occurred mainly between guard Richie Incognito and tackle Jonathan Martin. Incognito was accused of bullying/harassing Martin constantly in the locker room. Turner claims that Wells falsely accused him of creating an environment that allowed bullying and harassment to occur even though Wells knew this was false. Turner also alleges that the NFL hired Wells and his law firm to essentially find a few individuals to blame, while they were well-paid and well-positioned for future NFL cases, as has become evident with Well’s role in Deflategate.
Richie Incognito came out hard against Wells recently as well, saying, “I just think it’s bogus, the whole system in how it’s set up with Roger and the complete, absolute power he has. He has so much power and he hires independent investigators who are obviously not independent. They come in with an agenda and they come in looking to find facts to back up their argument. All the facts are slanted in their favor. Ted Wells came in with a mission against me. Ted Wells came in slanted against me and everything in his report was slanted against me. There were some things in there that would have helped my cause that were left out, [like] teammate testimony, stuff like that. You see that in Brady’s case. There’s a lot of stuff that got left out. There’s a lot of misinformation.”
It’s certainly understandable why Incognito would be so outspoken. The guard was suspended the final eight games of the 2013 season after the bullying scandal, and was a free agent for the entire 2014 season before the Buffalo Bills signed him in February. Turner was fired by the Dolphins in the wake of Well’s report on the issue, and has been unable to find another job in the NFL since. He believes the report has negatively and unfairly affected his reputation and ability to find work since, and possibly forever.
This is now the second instance where a federal lawsuit calls into question whether or not Ted Wells truly worked as an independent investigator for Roger Goodell and the NFL. This is also a big portion of Tom Brady’s lawsuit against the NFL involving Deflategate. As the old saying goes, once is an accident, twice is a trend, three times is a problem. While this is only the second time, it certainly reflects badly on both Ted Wells and the NFL.
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