Hackin’ the NFL by Nolan Hack: Predictions (AFC East)
New England Patriots – 11-5
Aaron Hernandez has been charged with double-murder and was cut from the team. Rob Gronkowski will start the season on the sideline because of injury, and Wes Welker joined Peyton Manning in Denver.
The Patriots will bring back an a sturdy offensive line and productive running game. New England also has a young and improving defense. Most importantly, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick haven't gone anywhere, so the Patriots are the favorites in the AFC East.
New England will be guided by Belichick and Brady, and that gives them a punchers chance. Never doubt Belichick and Brady.
Best Offensive Player: Tom Brady
Best Defensive Player: Vince Wilfork
Projected 2013 Record: 11-5
The offensive line is a good run blocking unit, but its prospects for success relies on the pass-blocking skills of second-year tackle Jonathan Martin. Martin played out of position at right tackle as a rookie, and some thought he was a first-round talent coming out of Stanford.
Brandon Gibson replaces Davone Bess, and provides an upgrade in strength in the slot. Athletic tight end Dustin Keller is lost for the year, so Gibson, Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace will need come through. Running back Lamar Miller was a steal for Miami. Miller possesses 4.4 speed to go with his 5-10/216 pounds frame.
Ryan Tannehill is poised to take steps forward in his development as an NFL quarterback. He was a raw top-ten pick, but he has plenty of ability. If he becomes a good quarterback, Miami can wrangle the AFC East crown away from New England for the first time since "the wildcat" was still in vogue.
Talented rookies Dion Jordan and Jamar Taylor won't be counted on early, but both posses starting ability and can, in time, turn into impact players. The sooner Jordan makes a name for himself, the quicker this pass rush turns into a top end front four.
The AFC East is a two team race, and the Dolphins are certainly one of those two teams.
Best Offensive Player: Lamar Miller
Best Defensive Player: Cameron Wake
Projected 2013 Record: 9-7
Despite glaring flaws in his game, Buffalo took EJ Manuel in the first round with pick sixteen. Manuel had a number of future and current NFL starters for teammates during his time at Florida State, but even with all that help, Manuel failed to deliver for the Seminoles (leaving wins and points off the board).
The Bills offense has serious potential after adding Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller. The defense still possesses one of the best defensive lines in the league. The secondary has two very talented young players in Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore, but the defense will be switching to a 3-4 scheme this season.
Best Offensive Player: C.J. Spiller
Best Defensive Player: Jairus Byrd
Projected 2013 Record: 5-11
New York Jets
The defense I'd been talking up isn't as good as it has been in some time. I knew the offense was lacking, but now I see it is boarding on a train wreck. I expect this to be Rex Ryan's last season with Gang Green. The two appearances in the AFC Title games in 2009 and 2010 seem like they happened a century ago.
The defense lacks depth, and will be starting two rookies. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will struggle because he's unpolished and raw. To make matters worse for the defense, young stud Quinton Coples is out indefinitely. His absence will take away from the Jets pass rush, which has been lacking.
The consensus is that Geno Smith will have serious growing pains. He'll be playing with a declining offensive line, one of the weakest receiving cores in the league, and a very uninspiring group of running backs.
The Jets won't be bad enough to set their sights on Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridewater, but a top 5 pick looks like a good possibility.
Best Offensive Player: Nick Mangold
Best Defensive Player: Muhammad Wilkerson
Projected 2013 Record: 3-13