Michael Vick in the AFC East?
Buffalo craves attention after teetering on the verge of irrelevancy for a decade. Having Vick on the same offense as Terrell Owens would at least keep Ralph Wilson awake on Sunday afternoons.
Vick could be the mother of all Wildcatters in Miami, and give the Dolphins a chance to score on every play.
How about the Jets, where Vick could be a fall-back in case things move too fast for Mark Sanchez?
And what about New England? Rumors had Vick working out for the Pats in Foxboro on Friday. Could Bill Belichick be up to something? Probably not. Looks like Dolphin castoff Cleo Lemon will be the man holding the clipboard this year in New England.
New England Patriots
Projected win total: 11.5
Now that the one-year sabbatical is over, the Patriots can go back to doing what they did so well in 2007 – crushing every ounce of dignity out of their opponents.
Tom Brady is back, and much of the record-setting offensive crew he remembers is also returning, with a few exceptions.
Jabar Gaffney, whose fate was sealed when he dropped a game-deciding TD pass in Indianapolis last season, is gone, replaced by veterans Greg Lewis and Joey Galloway. With Randy Moss at the other wideout and Wes Welker underneath, Lewis and Galloway will see mostly one-on-one coverage.
Enigmatic running back Laurence Maroney supposedly is healthy, and newcomer Fred Taylor will get a lot of carries, especially if Maroney disappoints early on.
The defense gave Belichick more than a few Excedrin headaches last year. The linebackers were slow and banged up, the secondary was in tatters after Asante Samuel flew the coop and the vaunted defensive line (Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork) too often was moved off the line of scrimmage.
Only cosmetic changes were made to the front 7, but vets Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden were brought in to shore up a secondary that gave up too many big plays last season.
Stat to remember: Last season’s Patriots scored 179 fewer points than the 2007 record-setting New England team, but still led the division in scoring.
Projected win total: 7
Dolphin fans will tell you that last season, when everything went right, was merely payback for 2007, when everything went wrong. Whatever.
But right from the get-go, things went Miami’s way – the Brady injury, the Wildcat offense, the fact that the out-of-gas Jets were on the schedule in Week 17. It all added up to 11-5 and the AFC East title.
GM Bill Parcells and coach Ton Sparano got blood out of a stone in 2008, and while 11 wins seems optimistic, 7 seems on the narrow side.
Pretty much what you saw last season is what you’ll see again next month – QB Chad Pennington running a don’t-screw-up offense and Joey Porter leading a trash-talking defense. (Porter led the AFC is sacks last season, with 17.5).
Miami tried to deal away the No. 1 pick in 2008, but they appear to have themselves a good one in Jake Long, a sure-fire staple on the left side of its O-line.
Stat to remember: Chad Pennington completed more than 72 percent of his passes in the third quarter of games last season.
New York Jets
Projected win total: 7
Coach Rex Ryan moves over from Baltimore and you can’t blame him if he tries to implement a similar defense to what the Ravens have shown over the past half-decade.
The alternative isn’t pretty. Last season the Jets gave up the most points in the division, and second-most in the AFC last season.
Linebacker Bart Scott was pilfered from Baltimore to stiffen the spine of the linebacker corps and there are some decent players returning, including safety Kerry Rhodes.
Now that the Brett Favre nonsense is over, the Jets can turn to serious rebuilding behind rookie Mark Sanchez. Sanchez, who will start sooner rather than later, has the benefit of an excellent offensive line that includes LG Alan Faneca, C Nick Mangold and LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
Ryan exudes confidence, especially in his defense, but there are some tough tests early. NY opens at Houston, then takes on New England and Tennessee at home before traveling to New Orleans.
Stat to remember: RB Thomas Jones was a strong finisher, averaging 90 yards rushing in games 9-16 after just 75 in games 1-8.
Projected win total: 7.5
OK, Terrell Owens might work out. But why stop there? Why not load up on every trouble-maker in the league? Kellen Winslow Jr.? Vick himself? What’s Pacman Jones up to these days? In for a dime, in for a dollar.
You can’t blame the Bills for the Owens move. They’ve been off the radar screen for too long and had to do something to keep from losing the fan base. What Owens (38 TDs in three years in Dallas) has left in the tank and how long he goes without blowing a gasket are Questions 1 and 1A, but if he can still play a bit he should make life easier for wideout Lee Evans.
QB Trent Edwards was never the same after that concussion last season, but he’s the guy and if he can stay on the field, the Bills should be able to move the ball. RB Marshawn Lynch went to his first Pro Bowl last season, but was suspended for three games after a hit-and-run incident in Buffalo and for carrying an unregistered gun in California. Picky, picky, picky.
Defensively, the Bills can be a top-tier defensive team, especially in the line where draft pick Aaron Maybin adds depth. Aaron Schobel appears healthy after being hampered by a foot injury last season.
Stat to remember: The four teams Buffalo defeated at the start of the 2008 season (Seattle, Jacksonville, Oakland and St. Louis) finished the season with a combined 16-48 record. None of the Bills’ seven victories came against teams that finished with winning records.