On The Record: A Quote Filled NFL Preview-AFC Edition
Ah, the signs of fall. The weather’s getting colder, the leaves are changing color, and ESPN is devoting exactly 45 minutes of every SportsCenter to the life and legacy of one Timothy Tebow. Yes, football is back, and its about time! By now, most fans have read all of the expert previews and believe they have a good idea of how the season is going to go. But, why listen to those experts? They’re more wrong than right, and they can’t have accurate predictions of EVERY team. I’m sure they care as little about the Jacksonville Jaguars as I do. So, I decided instead of lecturing you about how I think every team is going to do this year, I decided to go to the fans. They’re the ones who follow their teams with a fine-tooth comb, and they know exactly how their team functions. Who better to talk to? I went to Facebook and tried to get quotes from every friend that followed an NFL team. The following are their quotes, with a bit of my analysis thrown in. We’ll be doing the AFC today, but be sure to join me Saturday for the NFC and Super Bowl picks (which are guaranteed 100% inaccurate.).
“Originally, I thought the Ravens were only going to go 9-7 but following their impressive preseason performance I believe that we’ll end the year at 11 – 5. Ravens are a force not to be reckon’d with!”
This one came from my friend Dmytri, and besides the fact that I think he means the Ravens are a force to be reckon’d (solid Maryland spelling) with, this is a very optimistic look at the Ravens. But is it false? Maybe not. The Ravens lost a lot of good veteran personnel to either retirement or free agency. It’s difficult to predict that the cheaper replacement options will produce the same, but the Ravens needed to get cheaper talent to keep themselves under the salary cap. Getting under the cap became drastically harder after giving $100 million dollars to Joe Flacco. While Flacco may not have the reputation of Brady or Manning, his record in playoff games shows that he deserves the price tag (although we’d been having an entirely different conversation if the Broncos secondary didn’t forget Jacoby Jones.) the Ravens will have to deal with his occasional inconsistent play. The Ravens have found themselves in a situation similar to where they were in 2000 after winning their first Super Bowl. The real question is whether or not this new talent will bring them back to the Super Bowl. I don’t think so, but the talent that remains on both sides of the ball should lead to a playoff berth.
“This is a squad looking to compete this year, and with a team looking this good it’s to the point of looking past just winning the AFC north even landing a wild card spot would be a disappointment, a high seed is a more than reachable goal.”
Cincinnati fans have good reason to be confident, they are bringing back one of the best wide receiver-quarterback tandems in AJ Green and Andy Dalton. The defense was impressive last season, and new running back Giovanni Bernard has looked impressive in the preseason. With a much weaker AFC north, the Bengals could easily win the division and earn the high seed that my friend Zach covets. Will it be enough to win anything? Probably not, but the Bengals are done playing third banana to the Ravens and the Steelers.
“I am optimistic about the new coaching staff. If Brandon Weeden can prove he belongs in the NFL and the Browns take advantage of Pittsburgh and Baltimore’s sizable losses of talent it could be a fun season. Otherwise, I’ll look forward to our next new quarterback development for another 3 years.”
This quote from my friend Brandon shows how most Browns fans feel about their chances this year: optimistic, but ready for disappointment. The Browns look to have an improved defense this year, with key additions Paul Kruger and first round draft pick Barkevious Mingo the Browns pass rush will be the best its been in several years, but it won’t matter much if the offense can’t put up any points. Trent Richardson’s second season is predicted to be his breakout year, but I’m not sold. I don’t think that Richardson can stay healthy enough to make a big enough impact on the field. The real questions still lie with Brandon Weeden. The 31-year-old second year player still has to prove that he can be a starter in the NFL. The Browns have been searching since 1999 to find a starting quarterback, and if Weeden can’t show that he belongs this year, the quest for a QB will begin again.
“Every year I think one thing will be the problem when in reality it’s something else”
Oh, how the mighty have fallen in Pittsburgh! What once was a sure lock playoff contender now has some major questions at several key positions. The steel curtain has begun to rust. The Steelers are filled to the brim with veteran players, but are those players up for another season of above .500 football? I don’t think so. Last season the Steelers surprised a lot of teams by playing above their heads and making the wild card, but this year the wheels finally fall off. Ben Roethlisburger can’t keep himself healthy and is on the wrong side of 30, and the Steelers lack the weaponry to keep him successful. While Pittsburgh has been able to remain a key player in the AFC North, I don’t see them finishing about .500 this year. Sorry Scott.
New England Patriots
“We could lose 7 games this year and still be a Super Bowl threat so long as we are gaining momentum in December, since the rest o the AFC East will be lucky to combine for 10 wins. Brady and the Hoodie will lead this team to at least an 11-5 record, and probably higher.”
My friend Weston highlights two truths about the Patriots: 1. The fans are still as arrogant as ever, and 2. Even with the worst receiving core Brady’s ever had, and a defense that doesn’t scare puppies, the Pats are still the class of an overall weak AFC east. With all the drama surrounding this team during the off-season, not much was made of the fact that Tom Brady’s two best targets this year are rookies and an often injured slot receiver. But, because they are the Patriots, and they still have one of the greatest QB-head coach duos of all time, expect the Pats to start off slow and then run away with this division.
“The Bills run game may be top five but that’s where the Bills stop impressing.”
Buffalo may have the only other fanbase that rivals Cleveland fans in depression. For every one or two good things they have to say about the team, they can quickly bring up five or six bad things they’re terrified of. Consistently with one foot off the ledge, Bills fans deserve to have a contender. They do not have one this year. That doesn’t mean that this team won’t be fun to watch however, fantasy favorite CJ Spiller is a candidate for a breakout season as long as he stays healthy, and EJ Manuel has looked impressive in his preseason starts. The one problem is that Manuel is hurt, and as his backup, Kevin Kolb. So whose starting the season against the Pats?
“The team struggles to get off to a good start as our brutal schedule, lack of certainty on the OL and unpredictability at RB and TE cause our offense to stutter badly to start the season. I can envision a 2-4 start for this team, which will effectively eliminate us from thinking about the playoffs by the midway point.”
For some of these quotes, I was unable to find a friend who was a fan of the Miami Dolphins, so I grabbed this quote from thephins.com, a Miami Dolphins fan message board. I think username Bumrush sums it up well here: the Dolphins lack enough weapons for promising quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but have a strong enough defense to remain interesting. The fins don’t challenge for a playoff spot, but won’t find themselves at the bottom of the pile either. A very mediocre year coming for a team that’s made a legacy of just being average.
New York Jets
“I am excited about the rise of the Geno era. I think it’s taken far too long for the jets not to give another QB a shot. We will need to develop a better overall offense though so I’m not even anticipating a shot at the playoffs.”
Ah the garbage fire of the NFL, the Jets! It crazy to think that just as recent as 2010 Mark Sanchez was beating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in playoff games and leading the Jets to consecutive AFC Title game. Fast forward three years, and Sanchez is now known as the guy who couldn’t avoid his teammates giant ass. I mean, look at that quote from my friend Nick. When Geno Smith is cause for excitement, you know this team has been struggling. The Jets will be a disaster this year, but because they are the Jets, they will still get more coverage on ESPN then your local team.
A quick disclaimer before we get to the next division, I was unable to find any fans of the following teams among my friends, so all of these quotes will be taken from fan message boards and or made up by me.
“I say we go 13-3 again. The only games that really scare me are @NE and @Hou. We’ll probably drop another random one somewhere. Our home schedule is a joke this year. We should definitely go 8-0 at home.”
This quote, from username BroncosWave sums up my feelings about this Broncos team. Dangerous on offense and powerful on defense, the Broncos have talent on both sides of the ball. The loss of Elvis Dumervil was one of the silliest off-season plots I’ve ever seen and should prompt the Broncos front office to stop sending faxes (its 2013 guys, come on.). But with Peyton Manning’s biotic neck, the Broncos should cruise to a playoff berth in a division set to very easy mode.
San Diego Chargers
“I have them at 6-10 – I am usually overly optimistic, but C’mon let’s be real here.”
Thank you username RAWDOGG. I don’t really have much else to discuss here, but remember when Phillip Rivers was considered an elite quarterback who rivaled Tom Brady and Peyton Manning? How did he end up getting lapped by Eli Manning twice? Norv Turner’s bungling and an inability to bring in a strong defense ended up wasting Phillip Rivers best years. A guy who should have been regarded as one of the best of his generation will now, with a few more bad seasons, will be regulated to a footnote. Sad.
Kansas City Chiefs
“The Chiefs will be better than last year, and I think Alex Smith will cement himself as a starting NFL quarterback. The Chiefs won’t be getting blown out in games, but won’t win many either.”
Wasn’t able to find a good Chiefs message board, so I just wrote the one above. I swear, this team is where everyone goes to when they’ve either gotten too old, or haven’t proven themselves in multiple places. Looking at the legacy of this team, their best quarterback in team history was already past his prime when he arrived! Now they’re trying again to rejuvenate a career with taking Alex Smith off of the 49ers. I think Smith’s a good quarterback, but only in a system designed to protect his weaknesses. Smith is the definition of a game manager. He’ll get you by, but he won’t win you any games. The Chiefs will probably struggle for another year, but on the plus side they probably won’t lead the league in murder-suicides again.
Couldn’t find a quote, and I don’t want to raid through the potential pond scum and muck a Raiders fan message board must be like. So, short and sweet: they’ll be bad.
I mean, they’re starting Terrelle Pryor week one.
“The Texans will be an 11-5 team, at worst. It’s Superbowl or Bust for this team. A healthy preseason with draft improvements to both offense and defense, I expect to be talking about their success into February.”
The Texans were a hell of a story last season. A high-powered offense and an all-world defense, the Texans blazed their way to the AFC South crown and the second best record in the AFC. The Texans beat the Bengals, only to get crushed by the Pats in the divisional round. This year, as Ali points out in his quote, the Texans aren’t surprises any more, they’re a legit contender. After a season where JJ Watt emerged to haunt quarterback’s dreams, the Texans added veteran safety Ed Reed from the Super Bowl winning Ravens. Reed is hurt right now, but if he can give anything to the Texans, it will enhance an already dangerous defense. I don’t think there’s a coach on a hotter seat right now than Gary Kubiak. Despite turning the Texans around, he hasn’t been able to capitalize in the playoffs, and if the Texans suffer another early playoff exit, expect to see Kubiak and quarterback Matt Schaub kicked to the curb at the end of the year.
“I think our division is going to improve this year so I see us splitting games with the Texans and the Titans. I think we’ll fall to the 49ers, Seattle, and a surprise loss. So 10-6 or 11-5. I think we make it to the playoffs, lose on the road to a team that is on fire at the end of their season.”
That is username of the column right there. Thank you Funktacious12, you’re doing God’s work. The Colts snagged the first overall pick last year and Andrew Luck did not disappoint, showcasing his pure passing abilities, Luck proved to be the best pocket passer out of the three rookie quarterbacks that made the playoffs last year. Luck will surely improve on his numbers from last year, but can the Colts repeat a run to the postseason? I don’t think so. I believe Andrew Luck will continue to improve into one of the leagues best QBs but he does not have the Peyton Manning ability to carry a mediocre team on his shoulders. Yet.
“Our starting QB is awesome…if you don’t count the fact that he get’s hurt every year and is as durable as a wet paper towel. Our starting RB is a speed demon…that will rush for 17 yards one week and 147 the next. I’ll be happy to win six games.”
-David S. Rudick
The Titans have had some pretty bad luck since making the playoffs in 2009. Since then, the once perennial AFC contender has gone 8-8, 6-10, 9-7, and 6-10. The Titans have been unable to find a great quarterback since Steve Mcnair left them in 2004, and the search has haunted them. The latest candidate is Jake Locker, who, hasn’t been the best. The Titans are hoping to get a comeback year from running back Chris Johnson, who was once described as having running away from the cops speed and was once king of the fantasy footballs, has found that mortality isn’t that great. This Titans team doesn’t have a lot going for it, but should be able to grind out some wins. I don’t think the mythical beast known as “2009 Chris Johnson” is coming back, so Titans fans should prepare like David has: hoping for acceptable failure.
Just kidding. Fans don’t actually exist for this team. If you are a Jacksonville Jaguar fan, I’d like to ask you: Why? You have a perfectly fine college football team right there in your city. Put on the Tebow jersey and do the gator chomp, don’t put yourself through Blaine Gabbert. He is the lord of shitty quarterbacks.
Join me again on Saturday for the NFC and my picks for the Super Bowl!
Thanks to everyone who helped with this piece!
When Not Plagiarizing From Friends And Family, Ben Christ Writes About Sports And Videogames For HobbesLives.com