Predicting the Win/Loss Records for Every AFC East Team

Who will win Super Bowl XLVII?

If you polled NFL writers and fans at this time last year, the prevailing sentiment would have been that the Philadelphia Eagles would meet the New England Patriots at Super Bowl 46. Half of that proved true, as the Patriots faced the New York Giants.

As training camps and offseason workouts approach, here’s how the NFL looks in a division-by-division breakdown of the 2012 NFL season.

The AFC East features last season’s conference champions, the New England Patriots, and three teams on the outside looking in, hoping that the offseason additions will put them in place to challenge the ever-consistent Pats.

New England Patriots**

Predicted Record: 13-3

New England brings back most of the old cast, but adding Brandon Lloyd and beefing up the offensive-line depth was huge this offseason. With Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still around, the Patriots have to be considered heavy favorites. 

 

Buffalo Bills

Predicted Record: 9-7

The Bills made big moves by signing Mario Williams and keeping Stevie Johnson in town, but the question marks still exist on offense.

Can the offensive tackles protect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick—and can the aforementioned Fitzpatrick consistently deliver a good football over a 17-week season? If he can, the Bills are a playoff contender. 

 

New York Jets

Predicted Record: 6-10

A predicted drop-off is coming in New York, and not even Tim Tebow can save them. The Jets’ problems are along the offensive line and in their inability to rush the passer from outside the tackle box.

These issues, plus a tough schedule, will see the Jets decline in 2012. 

 

Miami Dolphins

Predicted Record: 3-13

The Dolphins’ record will hinge on who plays quarterback. If Matt Moore is the starter, the record could be much improved. If it’s rookie Ryan Tannehill back there, expect many bumps in the road.

The Dolphins managed to get worse at receiver—an area of need in the offseason—and will have trouble scoring points in Year 1 of the Joe Philbin reign.

 

** Division Winner, First-Round Playoff Bye

Matt Miller is the founder of the NFL draft site, New Era Scouting, which TicketCity is proud to sponsor. Matt will be a guest author for several posts a month on the TicketCity blog. Matt is Bleacher Report’s No. 1 ranked writer, and his work has also been featured on NFL.com, SI.com and USA Today.

Breaking Down the Top 10 Sleepers in the NFL Draft

Every NFL fan knows that Tom Brady wasn’t the No. 1 overall pick. He wasn’t even a first-round pick. He was barely a Top 200 draft pick.

Coming in at No. 199 overall, Tom Brady has become the poster boy for players who severely outplay their draft position. We call them “sleepers.”

The 2012 NFL draft features a bevy of players who may not be at Brady-like levels of sleeperdom, but they still have the tools to play higher than their draft stock would suggest.

Who are the top 10 sleepers in the 2012 NFL draft class? We’ve got you covered.

10. Bradie Ewing, Fullback, Wisconsin

Fullbacks are rarely drafted high, but you also don’t see many draft busts at fullback. It’s the nature of the beast, to some extent, but Wisconsin’s Bradie Ewing is his own kind of beast.

A versatile runner with good power between the tackles and nice range as a receiver out of the backfield, Ewing has the classic toughness of a mauler at the position but brings a new-age quickness and athleticism to the position.

Ewing may not be drafted until the fifth or sixth round, but he has legit Pro Bowl potential.

9. DeQuan Menzie, Cornerback, Alabama

Early in the 2011 college football season, one of our great readers told me that DeQuan Menzie was the best cornerback on the Alabama team—better than Dre Kirkpatrick, even.

I thought he was crazy. Today, I’m willing to gladly admit he was right.

Menzie is a better pure cornerback than Kirkpatrick, who looks more like a free safety lining up at cornerback. Add in Menzie’s quick feet and ability to stick receivers at the line of scrimmage, and you have a player who is ready to start in the NFL as a slot cornerback.

As teams move to more spread offenses with three and four wide receivers, having a dedicated cover man to take on the slot will be key.

Menzie has potential to be a stud in that role.

8. Kyle Wilber, Outside Linebacker, Wake Forest

A college defensive end who projects well as a convert to a stand-up position in a 3-4 defense, Kyle Wilber’s performance at the East-West Shrine Game put his name on the NFL draft community map.

Every year, there is at least one pass-rusher who no one expected to break out who does.

This year, that player could very well be Wilber, who has the quickness and natural strength to be a very good outside linebacker.

A leg injury suffered in his senior season is the only thing keeping Wilber from being a higher draft pick.

7. DeVier Posey, Wide Receiver, Penn State

You can barely call DeVier Posey a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes after he was suspended for 10 games during the 2011 season after being overpaid for work he did in the summer. Posey played in just three games this season.

When Posey was on the field, he was limited by inexperience and a coaching staff that seemed ready to pull him at any time. Posey didn’t follow that up well with a strong pre-draft performance in the Senior Bowl or combine.

What Posey does possess are strong hands and the frame to be a solid wide receiver off the line of scrimmage.

If he can get coached up a bit, Posey can be a starter from the late rounds of the 2012 draft.

6. Brandon Taylor, Strong Safety, LSU

Finding a hard-hitting safety who can line up off the tight end and make plays in both coverage and against the run isn’t easy.

Brandon Taylor makes it look much simpler than it is.

Taylor made a big impact every time he walked onto the field this year, including at the Senior Bowl, where he rocked receivers who dared come over the middle against his zone coverage.

Taylor isn’t afraid to hit, and he’s a clean tackler who won’t bring on the wrath of the NFL commissioner for hitting too high.

Taylor has game-changing ability to separate players from the ball. Don’t forget this name.

5. Lennon Creer, Running Back, Louisiana Tech

The comparison is almost too easy to make, but Lennon Creer reminds you of Arian Foster in many ways.

Former Tennessee running back who people overlooked? Yep.

Injury issues limiting his senior season? Check.

Potential late-round or undrafted running back with legit NFL skills? Spot on.

Creer is a big, strong runner who has to overcome some injury question marks, but he has the raw talent to be great if given a chance.

4. Austin Davis, Quarterback, Southern Miss

It wouldn’t be a complete list of draft sleepers without at least one quarterback. Austin Davis is our guy.

An underrated performer at the combine who got lost in the shuffle of the bigger-named players, Davis capped a solid career with good postseason performances in thepre-draft run-up.

Davis is a good athlete with dual-threat skills as a runner or passer and has the ability to throw well enough on the run to pressure defenses.

He needs help learning to anticipate routes and finding passing windows in the pocket, but the raw tools are there for Davis to be molded into a good quarterback.

3. Amini Silatolu, Guard, Midwestern State

Diehard draft fans may have heard of Amini Silatolu, but casual observers should take note. This big, powerful offensive guard is loved by those who have seen his game.

Silatolu has the raw power and quickness to become a Mike Iupati-like power guard. His power and drive at the point of impact are the best of any interior lineman in this year’s class.

Silatolu may have a funny-sounding name, and he certainly didn’t play at a major university, but he has big-time NFL talent.

2. Jake Bequette, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Arkansas

Jake Bequette has the strength and speed to play down on the defensive line as a defensive end, but he’s also nimble enough to stand up at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

While many are touting Shea McClellin as a late riser at the position, keep an eye on Bequette.

His big body, strength and good feet have Bequette ready to be a starter in the NFL. Teams looking for a Brooks Reed-like steal in this year’s class will fall in love with the Arkansas defender.

1. Ron Brooks, Cornerback, LSU

If you are looking for a player who will be drafted outside the top 50, but could become an elite player down the road, Ron Brooks is your man.

Brooks was a No. 3 cornerback at LSU, playing mostly behind Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, but his talents cannot be ignored by NFL scouts.

Brooks has the speed, size and range to play in man coverage, but he’s silky smooth enough to flip and glide through zone cover alignments.

Go ahead and invest in Brooks. He’s a safe bet as a sleeper who could be an early Pro Bowler.

Matt Miller is the founder of the NFL draft site, New Era Scouting, which TicketCity is proud to sponsor. Matt will be a guest author for several posts a month on the TicketCity blog. Matt is Bleacher Report’s No. 1 ranked writer, and his work has also been featured on NFL.com, SI.com and USA Today.

Super Bowl 46: Who Has the Edge?

The “Big Game” is just around the corner, and perhaps you’ve already decided who you think will win, but think again. Which team has the advantage in the pivotal points of the game? Here’s our take.

OFFENSE

Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning. That’s what this Super Bowl will be about. The rematch of the 2008 Super Bowl will feature heavy commentary surrounding the two, and any objective fan will tell you that Brady is the far better quarterback than Manning. Hands down.

Brady is great—we all know that Brady is the best quarterback ever in my book—but it’s the play of the New England tight ends that will dominate this game.

How do you cover Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski with the New York linebackers and safeties? The answer is, you don’t. Antrel Rolle is a “name” player, but he’s horrible in coverage and cannot be asked to take on one of the Patriot safeties.

And if you think the Giants’ linebackers can cover these two, look back to Week 9 and see that both tight ends were open routinely. It’s just giving Brady enough time to find them that counts.

Advantage: New England Patriots

DEFENSE

One look at the defenses in this game and it’s pretty obvious who holds the advantage.

I know, I know…the Patriots have a “bend-don’t-break” defense. I’ve heard the excuses and rationale. I don’t buy it.

The Patriot defense isn’t great, even if they have moments of playing very well. Vince Wilfork is a beast to handle, Pat Chung can make bone-crushing hits and it seems like the rotating players at cornerback can do a decent job against Lee Evans and Anquan Boldin. Against the Giants’ receivers? Don’t think so.

New York holds the advantage due to their play in the front four, with Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul being unstoppable at times, and with a solid group in the secondary. Both units will be tested for sure, but the advantage still slants heavily in the favor of the G-Men.

Advantage: New York Giants

SPECIAL TEAMS

Neither the Giants nor the Patriots stand out as a great special teams unit, but that is only because neither team features an elite return man. There’s no Devin Hester here, and the return game may be less exciting than in years past, but special teams in general will be key to this game as in any big game.

The Patriots have won three Super Bowls thanks to big plays in big spots from their kicking game. Why would this year be any different? Stephen Gostkowski is one of the best kickers in the game, 85 percent of his field goals and a crazy 82 percent when the distance is between 40 and 50 yards. Gostkowski is dependable, accurate and used to playing under the spotlight.

The Giants have their own special teams aces—look at Pierre-Paul’s blocked kick against the Dallas Cowboys to secure a lead. The Patriots are better suited to score through special teams, but the Giants play an almost defensive special teams that makes it hard for the opposition to move the ball on kick and punt returns, and they are even damn good at blocking kicks.

Advantage: New England Patriots

Matt Miller is the founder of the NFL draft site, New Era Scouting, which TicketCity is proud to sponsor. Matt will be a guest author for several posts a month on the TicketCity blog. Matt is Bleacher Report’s No. 1 ranked writer, and his work has also been featured on NFL.com, SI.com and USA Today.

Inside the AFC & NFC Championship Games

It doesn’t seem right, but there are just three football games left in the 2011 NFL season—well, four if you count the Pro Bowl, but I don’t.

This weekend will cap the race to Super Bowl XLVI when the Baltimore Ravens meet the New England Patriots—an AFC showdown of the top two seeds—and when the No. 4 seeded New York Giants travel cross-country to take on the No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers.

As if you weren’t already rabid at the thought of these two games, here’s a little something to get you excited—our take on each game.

AFC Championship Game—New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens

New England’s offense ranked No. 2 in NFL this season, Baltimore’s defense ranked No. 3 (and second against the run) while the Ravens’ offense was No. 15 and the Patriots’ defense ranked 31st.

The New England Patriots’ dynasty continues, with Bill Belichick leading his Patriots to their six AFC title game in his 11 seasons as head coach. Belichick and co. have perhaps their best all-around team this season, especially if you consider their strength down the stretch. Tom Brady has mastered this offense, using match-up nightmares Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to mystify defenders.

The Baltimore defense is no slouch, though. The Ravens are smart, with future Hall of Famers Ed Reed and Ray Lewis—and maybe Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata too—patrolling the field. Brady will face the toughest test of the season in a game that could put the Patriots in line for their fourth Super Bowl ring and a top the NFL hierarchy with Bill Walsh’s 49ers and Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

Prediction: New England 34, Baltimore 17


NFC Championship Game—San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants

San Francisco’s offense ranked No.26 in the NFL this season and New York’s defense ranked No. 27—on the flip side, the Giant’s offense was No. 8 overall and the 49er defense ranked No. 4 overall and first against the run.

The NFC Championship game will feature hard hits, little scoring and plenty of pressure on the quarterback—the two teams combined for 90 sacks during the regular season.

The 49ers, as the home team, open -2.5 as favorites to win the game. For the 49ers to pull out a victory, they’ll need a big day from Frank Gore at running back. Gore was limited to zero yards on just six carries due to injury when the 49ers defeated the Giants 27-20 in Week 10. The 49ers have Gore back, and cut Braylon Edwards after numerous timing problems in the first game, but the Giants have a healthy Justin Tuck and a suddenly unstoppable secondary.

Prediction: San Francisco 24, New York 20

Matt Miller is the founder of the NFL draft site, New Era Scouting, which TicketCity is proud to sponsor. Matt will be a guest author for several posts a month on the TicketCity blog. Matt is Bleacher Report’s No. 1 ranked writer, and his work has also been featured on NFL.com, SI.com and USA Today.