AFC NORTH AFC SOUTH AFC WEST AFC EAST by yaofenji

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									S4 FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2011       uuu
                                                                                                                                                                                       RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH

                                                                      F O O T B A L L 2 0 11 : N F L
                           NEW YORK                                            NEW ENGLAND                                        MIAMI                                               BUFFALO
 AFC EAST
                           JETS                                                PATRIOTS                                           DOLPHINS                                            BILLS
                                                                                                                     3
                                                                                                                             2010: 7-9      Coach: Tony Sparano

             1                                                   2                                                                                                      4
                  2010: 11-5      Coach: Rex Ryan                      2010: 14-2 Coach: Bill Belichick                                                                        2010: 4-12      Coach: Chan Gailey
                  New faces: WR Plaxico Burress (Virginia              New faces: WR Chad Ochocinco, DL                      New faces: RB Reggie Bush, RB Daniel              New faces: DL Marcell Dareus, LB Nick
                  Beach), WR Derrick Mason, DE Muham-                  Andre Carter, DL Albert Haynesworth,                  Thomas, C Mike Pouncey, LB Kevin                  Barnett, WR-KR Brad Smith, QB Tyler
             mad Wilkerson, DT Kenrick Ellis                     DL Shaun Ellis, T Nate Solder                       Burnett, T Marc Colombo, LB Jason Taylor, QB       Thigpen
             Key losses: WR Braylon Edwards, WR Jer-                                                                 Matt Moore                                         Key losses: WR Lee Evans, LB Paul Posluszny,
                                                                 Key losses: G Stephen Neal, DE Ty Warren,
             richo Cotchery, WR-KR Brad Smith, DE Shaun          TE Alge Crumpler                                    Key losses: RB Ronnie Brown, RB Ricky              DB Donte Whitner
             Ellis, LB Jason Taylor, FB Tony Richardson, P                                                           Williams, LB Channing Crowder, LB Tim Dob-         Strengths: Dareus adds bulk to the defensive
             Steve Weatherford, NT Kris Jenkins, RT Da-          Strengths: The offense that led the NFL with        bins, QB Chad Pennington, QB Tyler Thigpen
                                                                 32.4 ppg last year is outstanding. As usual,                                                           front-three, providing a run-stopping and
             mien Woody (Patrick Henry High)                                                                         Strengths: Defense returns mostly intact           pass-rushing presence alongside veteran DT
                                                                 Tom Brady is the key after winning last year's
             Strengths: Solid secondary is back almost                                                               after ranking fourth in the NFL in yards per       Kyle Williams. The Gailey-led coaching staff,
                                                                 NFL MVP award. The addition of Ochocinco,
             intact. After losing out on CB Nnamdi Aso-                                                              play and sixth in yards per game. Burnett is an    which already is astute at devising offensive
                                                                 along with Wes Welker and Deion Branch,
             mugha, the Jets turned back to Antonio                                                                  upgrade over Crowder, and the depth up front       plays, added defensive specialist Dave Wann-
                                                                 gives him three quality WRs. A veteran offen-
             Cromartie and re-signed him to pair with                                                                is bolstered by return of 2010 first-round pick    stedt as as assistant head coach. LB Shawne
                                                                 sive line will clear the way for RB BenJarvus
             All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis. S Jim Leonhard is                                                            Jared Odrick, whose rookie season was cur-         Merriman, if healthy, adds a potent pass-
                                                                 Green-Ellis, coming off a 1,000-yard rushing
             healthy after breaking his right leg late last                                                          tailed by injury.                                  rushing dimension.
                                                                 season, and Danny Woodhead, who made a
             season, and safeties Eric Smith and Brodney                                                             Weaknesses: Mistake-prone QB Chad Henne            Weaknesses: A patchwork offensive line
                                                                 solid impact after signing early in season.
             Pool return. Linebackers are solid with play-                                                           was benched briefly at midseason and threw         springing leaks and lacking experienced depth.
                                                                 Defensive line is bolstered with Carter, Hay-
             makers David Harris and Bart Scott.                                                                     19 interceptions. He also lost the support of      Buffalo’s receivers are young and without their
                                                                 nesworth and Ellis. Return of CB Leigh Bodden,
             Weaknesses: Aside from the re-signed Santo-                                                             two-time Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall,       former leader, Evans. A once-strong special
                                                                 who spent all last season on injured reserve,
             nio Holmes, QB Mark Sanchez has a revamped                                                              who caught only three TD passes. The offen-        teams unit has been undone by a youth
                                                                 should help.
             group of wide receivers. The challenge will be                                                          sive line remains in flux, and it's unclear        movement.
             developing rapport with Burress, who hasn't         Weaknesses: Not many. Despite making the            whether the fragile Bush and unproven rookie       Expectations: The defense should be im-
             played in nearly three years, and Mason, who        past two Pro Bowls, S Brandon Meriweather's         Thomas will be an upgrade over unproductive        proved after finishing 32nd against the run
             spent the past six seasons with Baltimore.          play may not be solid enough for him to keep        combo of Brown and Williams.                       last year. Smith brings a wildcat threat to the
             Offensive line depth might be issue with Wayne      starting. And the Pats’ third-down defense          Expectations: Miami flirted with replacing         offense, but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick may have a
             Hunter stepping in for the retired Woody.           was worst in the league.                            Henne and Sparano. Instead, both are back.         tough time finding open receivers minus
             Expectations: Goal remains same for Ryan            Expectations: Very high. Brady appears fully        Fans likely will be quick to turn on Henne, but    Evans, who drew double coverage. It’s too
             and the Jets: Super Bowl win. The key will be       recovered from surgery on his right foot.           the Dolphins hope Henne will benefit from the      much to expect for the Bills to make anything
             whether Sanchez can take his development to         Newcomers should help pass rush, coverage           addition of Bush, who provides a long-sought       but modest gains competing in the AFC East
             the next level in his third season.                 and third-down performance.                         quick-strike threat.                               and in the midst of another rebuilding phase.
             Prediction: 14-2                                    Prediction: 11-5                                    Prediction: 7-9                                    Prediction: 4-12


                           PITTSBURGH                                          BALTIMORE                                          CLEVELAND                                           CINCINNATI
 AFC NORTH




                           STEELERS                                            RAVENS                                             BROWNS                                              BENGALS
             1                                                   2                                                   3                                                  4
                  2010: 12-4     Coach: Mike Tomlin                     2010: 12-4         Coach: John Harbaugh              2010: 5-11       Coach: Pat Shurmur                2010: 4-12      Coach: Marvin Lewis
                  New faces: WR Jerricho Cotchery, TE                   New faces: RB Ricky Williams, WR Lee                 New faces: RB Brandon Jackson, DB                  New faces: QB Andy Dalton, QB Bruce
                 John Gilmore, DT Cameron Heyward                       Evans, WR James Hardy, FB Vonta                      Dimitri Patterson, S Usama Young, DT              Gradkowski, WR A.J. Green, CB Nate
             Key losses: G Max Starks, T Flozell Adams.          Leach, S Bernard Pollard                            Phil Taylor, WR Greg Little, DL Jabaal Sheard      Clements, LB Manny Lawson
             Strengths: Steelers kept the league's top           Key losses: WR Derrick Mason, TE Todd               Key losses: FB Lawrence Vickers, CB Eric           Key losses: QB Carson Palmer, WR Chad
             scoring defense intact by re-signing CB Ike         Heap, RB Le'Ron McClain, CB Fabian Washing-         Wright, S Abram Elam, WR Chansi Stuckey, CB        Ochocinco, WR Terrell Owens, CB Johnathan
             Taylor. Though it’s easily the oldest unit in the   ton, S Dawan Landry, DT Kelly Gregg, OT Jared       Brandon McDonald, OL Floyd Womack                  Joseph
             NFL with nine starters at least 30 by the end       Gaither, WR Donte' Stallworth, QB Marc Bulger       Strengths: An offensive line that must             Strengths: A young defensive line emerged
             of the season, the defense remains one of           Strengths: As long as Ray Lewis is at middle        protect QB Colt McCoy and open holes for RB        at end of last season. RB Cedric Benson
             best. Steelers brought in Cotchery, who is          linebacker, Baltimore's strength will be its        Peyton Hillis. With Pro Bowl LT Joe Thomas         decided to stay, steadying the running game.
             recovering from back surgery and should fit in      defense. Lewis has strong support from S Ed         and C Alex Mack, the Browns have a nice            Weaknesses: Many. The Bengals likely are
             nicely with dynamic third-year man Mike             Reed, OLB Terrell Suggs and Pollard. Signing        blend of experience, size, athleticism up front.   going with the rookie Dalton under center,
             Wallace, veteran Hines Ward and youngsters          Leach should perk up the running game and           Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and burst into       running a new offense that will feature Green.
             Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.                 the addition of Evans gives QB Joe Flacco a         stardom in 2010.                                   The offensive line struggled last season and
             Weaknesses: Issues remain on the offensive          needed deep threat.                                 Weaknesses: Browns still lack a big-play           didn't get much of an upgrade. The defense
             line. Jonathan Scott was re-signed to protect       Weaknesses: Offensive line is thin. C Matt          receiver who scares defenses. Mohamed              lost a key player when Joseph decided he'd
             QB Ben Roethlisberger's blind side, and there       Birk made it through 16 games last season with      Massaquoi (two) and Brian Robiskie (three)         rather play for a team with a better chance of
             could be a revolving door at guard with Doug        bad knee, had arthroscopic surgery during the       combined for five TDs last season, and they        winning and went to Houston.
             Legursky and Tony Hills. Pass protection has        preseason and does not have a solid backup.         lack the speed to stretch a defense. Rookie        Expectations: Low, as usual. The Bengals got
             been spotty during the preseason, though            Right side is iffy, too, because Marshal Yanda is   Greg Little has size, suspect hands and may        rid of their underperforming reality-show
             Roethlisberger's mobility and habit for making      better at guard than tackle, but he might be        be rusty after being suspended for his senior      receivers, letting Owens leave as a free agent
             plays outside pocket helps overcome some of         forced outside if Oniel Cousins and rookie Jah      season at North Carolina.                          and trading Ochocinco. Not much experience
             that. Even with Troy Polamalu healthy, the          Reid can't handle the load.                         Expectations: Shurmur is the Browns' fifth         in the receiving group. Dalton couldn't learn
             secondary has looked suspect when teams             Expectations: Ravens fully expect to make a         coach since 1999, and Cleveland is his first gig   coordinator Jay Gruden's new offense be-
             spread the field.                                   fourth straight trip to the playoffs, but they      as a head man. He's installing the same West       cause of the lockout, and growing pains
             Expectations: Anything less than Vince              need improved performance from an offense           Coast offense he used with Sam Bradford in         should be expected. Cincinnati tied a franchise
             Lombardi Trophy No. 7 will be considered a          that lacks depth on line. As usual, success will    St. Louis — a short-passing scheme the             record by losing 10 in row last year but gave
             disappointment in the Steel City after Pitts-       depend on the defense, but if Suggs and Sergio      Browns feel is perfectly suited for McCoy's        Lewis a contract extension. Lewis stayed even
             burgh opted to keep core its together rather        Kindle can't ramp up pressure on quarterbacks,      accurate arm. Lack of depth leaves little          though owner Mike Brown insisted there will
             than play aggressively in free agency.              a postseason berth could be dicey.                  margin for error.                                  be no significant changes.
             Prediction: 12-4                                    Prediction: 12-4                                    Prediction: 4-12                                   Prediction: 2-14


                           HOUSTON                                             INDIANAPOLIS                                       JACKSONVILLE                                        TENNESSEE
 AFC SOUTH




                           TEXANS                                              COLTS                                              JAGUARS                                             TITANS
             1                                                   2                                                   3                                                  4
                 2010: 6-10        Coach: Gary Kubiak                    2010: 10-6      Coach: Jim Caldwell                2010: 8-8       Coach: Jack Del Rio                2010: 6-10      Coach: Mike Munchak
                 New faces: CB Johnathan Joseph, S                       New faces: DL Jamaal Anderson, DE                  New faces: LB Paul Posluszny, LB Clint            New faces: QB Matt Hasselbeck, QB
                 Danieal Manning, DE J.J. Watt, P Brad                   Tyler Brayton, OT Anthony Castonzo, DT             Session, S Dawan Landry, CB Drew                  Jake Locker, DT Shaun Smith, LB
             Maynard, FB Lawrence Vickers                        Tommie Harris, OT Ben Ijalana, DT Drake             Coleman, DE Matt Roth, OL Jason Spitz, QB          Akeem Ayers, LB Barrett Ruud, S Jordan
             Key losses: FB Vonta Leach, S Bernard               Nevis, LB Ernie Sims                                Blaine Gabbert, G Will Rackley, WR Cecil           Babineaux
             Pollard, P Matt Turk, LB Zac Diles                  Key losses: CB Kelvin Hayden, OT Charlie            Shorts, P Matt Turk
                                                                                                                                                                        Key losses: DE Jason Babin, QB Vince Young,
             Strengths: The Texans were the only team            Johnson, S Bob Sanders, LB Clint Session            Key losses: WR Mike Sims-Walker, LB Justin         LB Stephen Tulloch
             to rank in the top 10 in rushing (127.6 ypg) and    Strengths: If healthy, which is a big if, the       Durant (Hampton), LB Kirk Morrison
                                                                                                                                                                        Strengths: The pieces are here for a strong
             passing (259 ypg) in 2010. Arian Foster led the     Colts have the only four-time MVP at QB and         Strengths: Behind Maurice Jones-Drew, the          offense, with RB Chris Johnson and his shiny
             league in rushing (1,616 yards), and the entire     likely the deepest receiving corps in the Pey-      Jaguars have been one of the league's top
                                                                                                                                                                        new contract, a solid offensive line that
             offensive line returns. WR Andre Johnson dealt      ton Manning era. Indianapolis also has one of       running teams the past five years. Jones-Drew
                                                                                                                                                                        returns intact, up-and-coming TE Jared Cook
             with a high ankle sprain most of last season        the league's most feared pass-rushing tan-          had 1,324 yards rushing in 2010 despite playing
                                                                                                                                                                        and a potential superstar in WR Kenny Britt, if
             and still finished with 86 catches for 1,216        dems with Pro Bowlers Dwight Freeney and            with a torn meniscus in his right knee. He
                                                                                                                                                                        he can keep his head on straight. Ruud is a
             yards. Matt Schaub (U.Va.) threw for 4,370          Robert Mathis.                                      insists he's healthy and ready for a big year.
                                                                                                                                                                        playmaker, as are CB Cortland Finnegan and S
             yards and 24 touchdowns.                            Weaknesses: An offensive line that’s being          Weaknesses: The defense ranked 28th last           Michael Griffin.
             Weaknesses: The pass defense, where the             rebuilt on the fly. Rookie Castonzo is expected     season and allowed a franchise record 419
             Texans ranked last in NFL (267.5 ypg) and           to start at LT, and another newcomer, Ben           points, a performance so embarrassing that         Weaknesses: The Titans dodged a bullet
             23rd in sacks (30) in 2010. Houston lured free      Ijalana, could take over at RT before the           owner Wayne Weaver stripped Del Rio of             when Britt wasn’t suspended for three off-
             agents Joseph and Manning to shore up the           season's end. The Colts still must improve a        defensive play-calling duties. The unit was        season arrests because they occurred during
             porous secondary. Mario Williams moves to           ground game that hasn't averaged 4 yards per        overhauled, with four starters replaced.           the lockout. He’s one mistake away from a
             OLB in new scheme, and the Texans envision          carry since the 2006 Super Bowl-winning                                                                multigame suspension. Longtime Seahawks
                                                                                                                     Expectations: Jacksonville has missed the
             him morphing into a DeMarcus Ware-type.             season, and they must get better at defending                                                          QB Hasselbeck turns 36 on Sept. 25, and his
                                                                                                                     playoffs in nine of the past 11 years. It was in
                                                                 the run, too.                                                                                          stats have been in steady decline the past few
             Expectations: This better be the year for                                                               position for postseason berths in 2009 and
                                                                                                                                                                        years. How much does he have left?
             Kubiak and the Texans to earn their first           Expectations: It depends on Manning. If             2010 but faded. Another collapse could cost
             postseason berth. Kubiak kept his job despite       healthy, the Colts are Super Bowl contenders.       Del Rio his job. Nonetheless, the Jaguars          Expectations: The re-signing of Johnson
             Houston dropping eight of its final 10 games.       If not, their record-tying run of nine straight     believe if they play better defense, get Jones-    eliminates a major distraction in the locker
             The Texas better be ready to start the season:      playoff appearances could end. There's little       Drew back to 100 percent and keep QB David         room. The team’s first playoff berth since
             they play four of their first six games against     doubt the Colts have a lot to prove after last      Garrard off his back — he's been sacked 117        2008 is the goal, but that could be a difficult
             playoff teams but then play seven of their final    year’s early playoff exit, and they have most of    times the past three seasons — they can            task while trying to chase down the Texans
             10 against teams that finished .500 or worse.       their injured players back.                         make run at the AFC South title.                   and Colts in the AFC South.
             Prediction: 10-6                                    Prediction: 9-7                                     Prediction: 7-9                                    Prediction: 6-10


                           KANSAS CITY                                         SAN DIEGO                                          DENVER                                              OAKLAND
 AFC WEST




                           CHIEFS                                              CHARGERS                                           BRONCOS                                             RAIDERS
             1                                                   2                                                   3                                                  4
                 2010: 10-6       Coach: Todd Haley                    2010: 9-7       Coach: Norv Turner                    2010: 4-12       Coach: John Fox                   2010: 8-8        Coach: Hue Jackson
                 New faces: QB coach Jim Zorn, DT Kelly                New faces: LB Takeo Spikes, SS Bob                    New faces: DE Von Miller, SS Rahim                 New faces: TE Kevin Boss, DB DeMarcus
                 Gregg, OT Jared Gaither, FB Le'Ron                    Sanders, DE Corey Liuget, LB Travis LaBoy            Moore, RT Orlando Franklin, RB Willis               Van Dyke, OL Stefen Wisniewski, CB
             McClain, WR Steve Breaston, LB Brandon Siler                                                            McGahee, TE Daniel Fells, DT Brodrick Bunkley,     Chimdi Chekwa, QB Terrelle Pryor
                                                                 Key loss: RB Darren Sproles
             Key losses: Offensive coordinator Charlie                                                               TE Julius Thomas                                   Key losses: CB Nnamdi Asomugha, TE Zach
                                                                 Strengths: QB Philip Rivers leads a quick-
             Weis, OG Brian Waters, LB Mike Vrabel, DT                                                               Key losses: WR Jabar Gaffney, RT Ryan              Miller, OL Robert Gallery, OL Langston Walker,
             Shaun Smith, WR Chris Chambers                      strike offense that can seemingly score at will.    Harris, OL Russ Hochstein, TE Daniel Graham,       QB Bruce Gradkowski
                                                                 Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert are capable           DL Justin Bannan, DL Jamal Williams
             Strengths: The NFL's top running game from          of providing a strong 1-2 punch at running                                                             Strengths: Jackson takes over after a suc-
             last season returns. Jamaal Charles (1,467                                                              Strengths: The pass rush is Denver’s strong        cessful season as the offensive coordinator
                                                                 back. TE Antonio Gates gamely tried to play
             yards, five TDs) and former U.Va. standout                                                              suit. Elvis Dumervil, the 2009 NFL sacks           when Raiders more than doubled their scoring
                                                                 through a painful foot injury before shutting it
             Thomas Jones (896, six TDs) were excellent in                                                           champion, returns from a torn chest muscle         output. There’s speed in abundance, led by RB
                                                                 down late last season, but he says he’s fully
             2010, and they now have former All-Pro FB                                                               that sidelined him last season. He'll have a       Darren McFadden and WR Jacoby Ford. Solid
                                                                 recovered. San Diego will have WR Vincent
             McClain paving the way. Dexter McCluster                                                                pass-rushing partner in No. 2 overall draft pick   defensive line is led by DE Richard Seymour and
                                                                 Jackson available from start. Last year, he
             adds another element with his speed and                                                                 Miller. Fox brings some stability to the organi-   DT Tommy Kelly. Oakland finished tied for
                                                                 missed the 10 games during a bitter contract
             pass-catching ability.                                                                                  zation after the disastrous Josh McDaniels era.    second in sacks in 2010.
                                                                 dispute.
             Weaknesses: The defensive front struggled                                                               Weaknesses: The draft was deep in defen-           Weaknesses: Biggest questions are on the
             to stop the run last season. Ex-Ravens tackle       Weaknesses: The Chargers must rebound               sive tackles, and the Broncos passed on all of     offensive line and in secondary. With Asomugha
             Gregg was brought in to help out, but that          from perhaps the worst special teams perfor-        them, choosing to plug a gaping hole in the        gone, Raiders are thin at CB with no proven
             could be a questionable move.                       mance in NFL history. Plus, just one playoff        middle through free agency. They lured Ty          players behind veteran starters Stanford Routt
                                                                 victory in the past three seasons has some          Warren to Denver, but he tore his triceps in       and Chris Johnson. With Raiders expected to
             Expectations: The Chiefs went from four
                                                                 fans doubting whether Turner is capable of          August and is out at least until November.         play plenty of man-to-man, that puts heavy
             wins in 2009 to 10-6 last year, when they won
                                                                 taking them to the Super Bowl.                                                                         pressure on rookies Van Dyke and Chekwa.
             the division but were routed 30-7 by Ravens in                                                          Expectations: The Broncos would love to
             playoffs. They may be improved this season,         Expectations: Playing amid speculation              have a crack at Stanford QB Andrew Luck in         Expectations: After snapping a string of
             even if their record doesn't reflect it. Kansas     they'll relocate to Los Angeles after this          the 2012 draft, but don't want the kind of         seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses,
             City has perhaps the toughest schedule in the       season, the Chargers think they're good             season that would help those chances. With         the Raiders are hoping for more improve-
             league with road games against Indianapolis,        enough to win the Super Bowl. To do so, they        Fox, expect an emphasis on the running game.       ment. To do so they need QB Jason Campbell
             New England and the Jets, and home games            have to reverse a postseason slide that's seen      An end to their five-year playoff drought          to improve, reduce big plays allowed on
             against Pittsburgh and Green Bay. If the Chiefs     them go from reaching the AFC title game            might be much to ask, but anything over four       defense and hope some young players step in
             stay healthy — they were exceptionally fortu-       following the 2007 season to not making the         wins would show they're heading in the right       and contribute immediately on the offensive
             nate last season — the playoffs are in reach.       playoffs last season.                               direction.                                         line and in the secondary.
             Prediction: 11-5                                    Prediction: 8-8                                     Prediction: 6-10                                   Prediction: 5-11


                                         CAPSULES BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS / PREDICTIONS BY STAFF WRITER PAUL WOODY

								
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