By Marc Lawrence
With NFL ‘EAST' division teams leading the charge with a combined total of 13 games played in Conference title tilts this past decade, including an league high four championship game appearances games by squads playing out of the AFC EAST, it speaks to the strength of this group.
So does the division's 29-14 ATS mark as non-division road dogs from Game Twelve out this past decade, including a sterling 14-1 ATS when facing sub. 600 opposition.
Leading the charge is Mr. Personality himself, Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots. While his persona is hardly enduring, his manhandling of AFC East division foes that are off back-to-back losses is downright sinister, going 14-3 SU and 15-2 ATS with the Pats in these affairs.
The Jets go from the hunter to the hunted. It will be interesting to see how they handle their newfound celebrity status.
Meanwhile, Miami owner Stephen Ross insists his team has Super Bowl champion written all over them. Our best guess is that happens as they bust out their 1972 throwbacks at some point during the season.
And then there's Buffalo, ushering in a seventh different head coach this millennium. With the Bills enjoying only one winning season during this span, Chan Gailey's troops could mildly surprise, especially with all the pressure in this loop pointed elsewhere.
Note: Team writeups excerpted from the 2010 PLAYBOOK Football Preview magazine. Designated ‘Play On' and ‘Play Against' Best Bets follow each team's preview.
TEAM THEME: DRINKING THE KOOL-AID
January 8, 2000. It not only marked the start of a new millennium, it also commemorates the date this floundering franchise last appeared in a playoff game. That was under the lead of Wade Phillips. Greg Williams, Mike Mularkey and Dick Jauron have all since attempted, and failed, to secure a post-season berth for the Bills. Along with dreadful Detroit, it's been a long time between drinks of playoff water in Buffalo. Enter Chan Gailey, former NFL retread. In his two years at the helm with the Dallas Cowboys, Gailey managed a taste of the playoffs both seasons, albeit one-and-outs. That was likely the attraction in his hire by the Buffalo brass. To compete within the ultra-tough AFC East, Gailey will hope the selection of do-everything RB C.J. Spiller with the 9th pick in the first-round pays off. He provides a huge dose of excitement to a dreadful offense that was better than only Cleveland and Oakland last year.
PLAY AGAINST: vs. New England (12/26) - *KEY if Bills .500 >
TEAM THEME: MARSHALL PLAN
Some things in life come as no surprise. Ben Roethlisberger looking for a little bump-and-run. The Dallas Cowboys collapsing like the London Bridge on the road in December. Bill Parcells ordering up seven defensive players with his eight picks in this year's draft. You get the drift. First-round draft pick Jared Odrick, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year at Penn State, is moving from defensive tackle in a 4-3 at Penn State to defensive end in a 3-4. That's because of a shakeup on the DL due to the loss of massive NT Jason Ferguson, suspended the first eight games of the season for repeated violations of the performance enhancing policy. The addition of home-run hitting WR Brandon Marshall should kick-start QB Chad Henne's development while the running back tandem of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams is as good as any in the league. All in all, a grand plan by the Tuna for getting his Fish back into playoff waters.
PLAY ON: as dog at Cincinnati (10/31)
TEAM THEME: 3RD AND LONG IN THE TOOTH
Don't look now but the Pats are taking on the look of an aging rock group. WR Randy Moss turned 33 and a step slower. His partner, WR Wes Welker, caught more passes (123) than anyone in the league in 2009, but underwent off-season knee surgery for a torn ALC and MCL and as a result, 34-year old Torry Holt was signed. RB Kevin Faulk turned 34 this summer and even star QB Tom Brady lists a pair of 3's next to his age theses days. With other aging veterans either on or currently looking to earn a roster spot (Alge Cumpler, David Patten, Sammy Morris, Shawn Springs, etc.), the crow's feet are creeping in on the Patriots. It's why Bill Belichick loaded up on a stockpile of quality picks (12) in this year's draft. While there is no refuting their results (121 wins the last nine years), New England is the pre-season 3rd choice to win the AFC on 2010. An oldies concert in Foxboro this January is pending.
PLAY ON: as dog at San Diego (10/24)
TEAM THEME: ALL IN
Funny thing about Jets head coach Rex Ryan. He isn't a salesman but you sure get the feeling he's selling you something. Straight out of the World Series school of Poker Bluff, Ryan was not content playing the same hand that dealt the Jets 11 wins in 2009. Gone are G Alan Faneca, RB's Thomas Jones and Leon Washington and CB's Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland. In their place he acquired CB Antonio Cromartie, LB/DE Jason Taylor, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and WR Santonio Holmes. There is no disguising the fact the Jets owned the No. 1 team defense and rushing offense (the magic hand) in the league last year. Ryan, the master of "I wasn't aware of that," when asked about being underdogs in the playoffs last year said, "To me we should be favorites. I mean in the whole tournament... I want this football team. If I had a choice to coach any team in this tournament, I would choose this one." Are you buying it?
PLAY ON: as dog at Miami (9/26)