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My NFL power rankings in the AFC by division

Tye give his opinion on upcoming NFL season
AFC East
1. New England Patriots: Due in large part to the acquisitions of linebacker Adalius Thomas and receiver Randy Moss among others, I see the Pats returning to the Super Bowl in ’07-08. My main concerns are if running back Laurence Maroney can stay healthy the entire season and the linebacking corp outside of Thomas is quite old. Even so, Tom Brady’s never had this much talent around him and New England always finds a way defensively.
2. New York Jets: They might be the league’s biggest overachievers, but the Jets win ballgames. Chad Pennington is actually staying healthy and New York will greatly benefit from the acquisition of running back Thomas Jones as he works with the team’s stout, young O-line. Led by linebacker Jonathan Vilma, New York’s defense is no pushover.
3. Buffalo Bills: We’re talking about a large dropoff from the Jets’ level. Quarterback J.P. Losman did make strides late last year, yet he’s got a rookie running back (Marshawn Lynch) coming in and only one good receiver (Lee Evans) to connect with. Buffalo lost several key defenders in free agency and will likely struggle to stop the run once again.
4. Miami Dolphins: The Fins should be at least solid defensively with a quality front seven led by Jason Taylor, Joey Porter and Zach Thomas. Offense, however, could be a major struggle. Running back Ronnie Brown hasn’t put it together yet, wide receiver Chris Chambers is overrated and quarterback Trent Green is running on fumes. Three touchdowns will probably be enough to beat Miami most weeks.

AFC North
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Think Rams of the AFC with a little more playmaking on defense. Quarterback Carson Palmer leads a loaded offense with the Johnsons (Chad and Rudi) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. These big cats struggle to stop the run and stay out of trouble off the field, but I foresee too many touchdowns in Cincinnati’s future to pull it out of No.1.
2. Baltimore Ravens: Running back Willis McGahee is a big upgrade over Jamal Lewis, yet Steve McNair is one year older and the Ravens are weak at receiver beyond Mark Clayton. Baltimore will still be strong defensively, but versatile linebacker Adalius Thomas will be missed. If the offense reaches its ceiling, the Ravens could still hold off the Bengals.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: This division is tight at the top considering the Steelers could surpass the Ravens if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger puts last year’s injury-marred struggles behind him. Willie Parker has developed into an elite running back and receiver Santonio Holmes is on the rise. Troy Polamalu leads a still-formidable defense.
4. Cleveland Browns: Unless they know something I don’t, the Browns could be the whipping boy of this division. Between a three-headed quarterback situation and a washed-up running back in Jamal Lewis, points will come at a premium. When you consider Cleveland might be the worst team in the division on both sides of the ball, it’s not going to be pretty.

AFC South
1. Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are another one of these spectacular offensive teams with little to offer defensively. With the loss of five defensive players in free agency – including Cato June and Nick Harper – Indy will definitely take a step back from its stingy play in the postseason. Fortunately, the team is loaded offensively with rookie slot receiver Anthony Gonzalez joining the party and the Colts will simply score too many points most weeks to be defeated.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags should field the best defense in this division by a wide margin with better players now behind defensive tackles John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. Maurice Jones-Drew is a star running back in the making as he exploded on the scene last year with 15 offensive touchdowns and another on special teams. If quarterback Byron Leftwich can turn the corner and receiver Matt Jones can stay on the field, Jacksonville could stay close to the Colts.
3. Houston Texans: In the first start of his career as a backup in Atlanta, quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns against the Patriots. He will be an upgrade over David Carr and help receiver Andre Johnson get back to his dominant ways. The Texas stayed out of the bottom spot by putting together a strong group of young players in its defensive front seven including DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams and rookie Amobi Okoye.
4. Tennessee Titans: I thought long and hard about putting the Titans at three, but it’s truly absurd when you consider the lack of talent surrounding quarterback Vince Young after the departures of Travis Henry and Drew Bennett. While Keith Bullock is a great linebacker, the Texans hold more promise among their defensive personnel.

AFC West
1. San Diego Chargers: Most league insiders will tell you the Chargers have the most talented roster in the NFL. With LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and an improved quarterback in Philip Rivers, San Diego should again be an elite offensive team. On defense, Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo will lead a top-10 unit. San Diego still has to prove it won’t choke in the playoffs, but in the regular season this team is a beast.
2. Denver Broncos: The Denver defense could make the jump to elite this year with rookie defensive end Jarvis Moss providing more of a pass rush and Dre’ Bly coming aboard to form the league’s best cornerback tandem with Champ Bailey. Quarterback Jay Cutler has the potential for a big-time first full season as a starter while Travis Henry may be the next big thing in the Bronco backfield. Javon Walker can beat teams deep and Denver should challenge San Diego in the division.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: As his elite offensive linemen keep retiring, Larry Johnson is rapidly becoming a one-man gang for the KC offense if he wasn’t already. Unless quarterback Damon Huard and rookie receiver Dwayne Bowe play well out of the gate, the Chiefs could struggle to score. KC has several quality defensive players, including new addition Donnie Edwards, but playing well as a unit will be key.
4. Oakland Raiders: Lost in the shadow of one of the league’s worst offensive seasons ever, Oakland was very good defensively last year. Linebackers Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard, defensive end Derrick Burgess and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha were all superb last year while safety Michael Huff has great potential. This team has nowhere to go but up after only scoring 12 offensive touchdowns last year! Quarterback JaMarcus Russell isn’t ready quite yet and the lone offensive difference maker may be emerging receiver Ronald Curry.

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Posted by on Jul 31 2007. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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