AFC Divisional Breakdown - By Nick Signorelli

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

OK, we have passed the 4th of July, we are in the home stretch to the NFL training camps. We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Every year people complain that preseason should be shorter. I don't agree. I think it should be longer. For that matter, football should be a year around sport. I say, give the players a month off, then it is time to play. Coaches only get 2 weeks. The other two weeks they need to have the draft and negotiate ALL contracts. I don't know why they need more than that. Can you imagine, telling your boss you're only going to work 6 months a year and still get paid in full?

Anyway, this is the time of year that, since there is nothing else to write about, everyone breaks out their mystical crystal ball and tries to tell you what is going to happen this year. Just remember, 2 years ago (when we knew going into training camp that Tommy Maddox was going to be the starter) we were predicted to win the Super Bowl. We went 6-10. Last year, most writers had us finishing last, or next to, in the AFC North.

AFC North
Steelers [13-3]
Ravens [10-6]
Bengals [9-7]
Browns [3-13]

Pittsburgh Steelers - We had an amazing season last year. Was it luck? Was it a fluke? Don't think so. The fact that a rookie QB played as well as Ben Roethlisberger did, some people say that with an entire off season to prepare for him, he will come back down to Earth. I want everyone to think of this for a second. Last year, Roethlisberger did not start practicing until, what June? He has been working with his receivers all off season this year, and the playbook is going to be opened up. When it comes to the offensive line, we are going to have Kendall Simmons back, and with a TE that can actually be a target for Roethlisberger, we should be better on offense.

Defensively, we are returning every starter. Chad Scott is gone, which is good for us, bad for the New England Patriots. With Bryant McFadden stepping up, he could work his way into nickel role by mid season. The reason for the 2 losses more than last year? You all know we are going to get robbed at least once or twice.

Baltimore Ravens - With this team, 10-6 could happen as easily as 6-10. I have to give their coaching staff credit. They have good coaches. HOWEVER, their front office has taken a page out of the Washington Redskins playbook and signed everyone with a name they could. Fact is Kyle Boller is the key to making this team work. And, even though he has a little bit of speed, and a decent arm, he still has a problem hitting receivers when they are open. This guy reminds me of a slower Kordell Stewart. I wont be shocked if the Baltimore Ravens choke and end up going 7-9, or worse.

Cincinnati Bengals - Two years ago, when the Cincinnati Bengals signed Marvin Lewis (former Steelers coach) he said that the Cincinnati Bengals would need more than a year. That year they went 8-8. Everyone in Cincinnati was ecstatic. Then they said that they would do better again last year. Again 8-8. Does anyone else see a pattern here? Fact is, Cincinnati has not improved the talent of their team at all. Not their fault, no one wants to play there. They are an EXTREMELY cheap team. They want to spend no money, they wont get better.

Cleveland Browns - Mark my words, barring a trade, the Cleveland Browns will be picking in the top 5 of the draft again this year. Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Quarterback? Interesting fact, Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl as the starting QB of the Baltimore Ravens. I could have won the Super Bowl as the starting QB of that team. If everyone remembers, the year the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl they went 4 straight games with out scoring an offensive TD. Kellen Winslow is out AGAIN this year, Braylon Edwards is a rookie. They lost their entire defensive line, which isn't a bad thing, being they were last in the league. This team will be lucky to win 3 games. Funny thing is, Matt Leinart decided to stay at USC another year, meaning more than likely he will end up playing for the Browns next year. Great call kid. You could have been the starting QB on a bad team in California. Instead, you are going to be the starting QB of a bad team in Cleveland.

AFC South
Colts [12-4]
Jaguars [8-8]
Texans [7-9]
Titans [4-12]

Indianapolis Colts - Peyton Manning is the Dan Marino of the generation. By the time his career is over, they will be compared in every stat. TD passes to INT, yards, and Super Bowl rings. IF the Colts do not start building their defense, they will have the same number of rings. They have locked up all of their offensive weapons, with the exception of Edgerrin James. Their defense is weak and getting no better. In a weak division, they should be a schoo' in to win the division, but will have problems in the playoffs again. Every time they play a good team with a decent offense and a good defense, they fold. Am I the only one that has noticed that if you smack Manning early, he folds?

Jacksonville Jaguars - The Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the NFL. Last year they took the Pittsburgh Steelers to the limit, beat the Indianapolis Colts, and lost to the Tennessee Titans. If this team could somehow learn to play their A game, they could challenge the Indianapolis Colts for the division. Using their first round pick on Matt Jones from Arkansas, they were hoping to find a diamond in the rough. If he pans out, he could be awesome. The biggest question is the health of Fred Taylor, and will they make the trade for Travis Henry. They might not want to wait too long, or Henry could be somewhere else. If they lose Taylor, and cant get Henry, they'll be lucky to win 6 games.

Houston Texans - When the Houston Texans had the expansion draft, their first pick was Tony Boselli. This shows that they knew the importance of the left side of the offensive line in keeping David Carr healthy. That hasn't worked too well to this point. Boselli never really played a game, and they never really replaced him. The trade to bring Phillip Buchanon in to be on the opposite of Dunta Robinson gives them great, young corners. Will this be a great team someday? Maybe. Is it good enough to do it this year? No.

Tennessee Titans - This is the reason you don't sacrifice your future, when building for today. Today for the Tennessee Titans was 3 years ago. Now they are paying for their sins. They have had a roster purge, and barely have enough talent to play a game. They are destined to a top 5 pick in next years draft. I personally think that Steve McNair should be traded to get what they can for him. He is getting fragile, and probably wont be around too much longer. It is time to start looking to the future and give Billy Volek a chance.

AFC East
Patriots [12-4]
Jets [10-6]
Bills [6-10]
Dolphins [3-13]

New England Patriots - I don't care what anyone says, losing BOTH coordinators has to have a negative effect on this team. I mean, they are the ones that call the plays. Yes, they are good at resurrecting careers. But, Chad Scott and Chad Brown, are not an improvement from their roster. Tom Brady got his new contract, but Richard Seymour is mad and is threatening to hold out of camp. Add to that, Tedy Bruschi probably wont play, this team is not the team that won the last 2 Super Bowls. Only reason I have them winning this division is that the rest of it is so weak.

N.Y. Jets - IF Chad Pennington was healthy, I would have had them winning this division. Without him, they have no chance. It was a major benefit, to trade Santana Moss to the Washington Redskins for Laveranues Coles. To get this straight up, was their best move this year. They have a good defense, which will be better if they get Ty Law, but I think he is going to stay away from this team.

Buffalo Bills - As much as I hate to say it, this team is worse without Drew Bledsoe. JP Losman has no real experience and the rest of the team isn't that good. They have a decent defense, but Losman needs more experience. If Mike Mularkey truly new that Bledsoe would be gone, Losman should have gotten more experience last year. They will pay the price for that this year.

Miami Dolphins - They could have had ANY coach come in, this team is still at least a year or two before being decent. They have Jason Taylor at defensive end, and went and signed like 3 more. They have no QB, which makes me think this is the only team that has a shot at getting a better draft pick than the Cleveland Browns. Ricky Williams coming back is going to do nothing more than cause problems in the locker room. Good luck Nick Saban.

AFC West
Raiders [10-6]
Chiefs [9-7]
Chargers [6-10]
Broncos [5-11]

Oakland Raiders - This is the team that, to me, made the most of the off season. Randy Moss is going to be a difference maker, while Lamont Jordan will finally get the chance to show if he is a true every down back. With Jerry Porter on the other side of Moss, Kerry Collins is going to have a very good year, if everyone can keep their attitudes in check. I am kind of curious to see how Charles Woodson and Randy Moss are going to get along.

Kansas City Chiefs - A close second to the Oakland Raiders in off season moves. They finally improved their defense, but did they do it soon enough that the offense will hold up? Priest Holmes is a top back, but he is 32. Dick Vermeil will be crying before the season is over.

San Diego Chargers - They are going to show everyone that last year was a fluke. Drew Breese was a one year wonder. They should have traded him when they had the chance. They are having all kinds of trouble with draft picks, as I have noted before, they really made no moves to improve the team in free agency. They are going to have a much tougher schedule this year, and that will really hurt them.

Denver Broncos - Unlike the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns, the Denver Broncos really have no excuses for not being good this year. They went and signed the Cleveland Browns starting defensive line from last year, which was the worst in the league. Jake Plummer still has a lot to prove, and has never really proven to be worth the money he is making. Coach Mike Shannahan could be in his last year in Denver.