Finally, we have some football. After a fantastic first week of college football, the professionals are gearing up to start their seasons. The New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, and Arizona Cardinals eye a Super Bowl title, while teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, and Indianapolis Colts desperately try to stay relevant. There is a plethora of storylines before Week 1, so lets get right into it.
Can Anyone Knock Off The Patriots In The AFC East?
No; the answer is no. Sorry New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills fans, the Patriots aren't going anywhere, even without their fearless leader, Tom Brady. Sure, Jimmy Garoppolo may experience some growing in the first four games of the season, but, thankfully, the Patriots will play three of their first four games at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots have seen homegrown defensive players like Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Malcolm Butler take humongous strides forward, and appear ready to lead this team as a top five defense in the NFL. Furthermore, even with Tom Brady, next Sunday night's game in Arizona was going to be an extremely difficult game for the Patriots to pull off. Like always, the Patriots will go 13-3 or 12-4 and make a deep run in the playoffs. Nothing to see here.
Can The Jets Replicate Their 2015 Success?
The Jets have always been the Patriots' little brother, especially in the AFC East. Sure, the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills have better teams on occasion, but there is a certain rivalry with the Jets that won't be going away any time soon. After the Jets' pathetic 4-12 campaign in 2014 under Rex Ryan, Todd Bowles took over the team in 2015 and led them to an improved and competent 10-6 record. However, I do not see Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the Jets to another 10- or 11-win season and threatening for a playoff spot. There are too many question marks on both sides of the football to feel confident about the New York Jets knocking off the New England Patriots in the AFC East. Will Darrelle Revis' skills continue to deteriorate? How will Matt Forte fit in Chris Ivory's spot at running back? Can Brandon Marshall continue to play at an all-pro level? Does Ryan Fitzpatrick regress at all from last season at the age of 33?
Will New Franchise QB Tyrod Taylor Lead Buffalo To The Playoffs?
Ah, our old friend Rex Ryan. Do you remember just how much hype was surrounding this team a year ago? People were saying that the Bills and their stacked defensive line were going to roll over the Patriots and reign supreme atop the AFC. Spoiler alert: they went 8-8 and finished third in the AFC East. To be honest, I don't see much of a difference this year for the Bills. Sure, Tyrod Taylor has been locked up long-term and they still have LeSean McCoy, but it is the freakin' Bills. Nothing they do ever scares me. They may beat the Pats with Tom Brady suspended, but I wouldn't even bank on that. Rex Ryan will try to prove that he is smarter than Bill Belichick and cough up the game. Expect another 7-9, 8-8 season and a deeper slip in the world of irrelevance.
Will Miami's Additions Amount To Anything?
After back-to-back 8-8 seasons in 2013 and 2014, the Dolphins underachieved (shocker, right?) under Joe Philbin and Dan Campbell to a 6-10 record. Former Bears and Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase has taken over the reigns and will be looking to notch Miami's first playoff win since 2000. The Phins were able to acquire cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso via a trade with Philadelphia, while also signing former #1 overall pick Mario Williams. Offensively, Miami was able to sign injury-proned star running back Arian Foster, while drafting troubled offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. Unfortunately, even with all of these key additions, it has, and always will, come down to quarterback play. Ryan Tannehill has underperformed for most of his career and I would not be surprised if that continues this season.