Reviewing the League - AFC East and AFC West

September 08, 2005|By Previews compiled by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

AFC East

New England Patriots

1. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 14-2, first place, won Super Bowl.

Coach: Bill Belichick (sixth season with Patriots, 62-27; 11th season overall, 99-72).

Key stat: Dillon carried 21.6 times a game.

Schedule: The first-place schedule is rough all the way to January.

2005 opponents

9-8 Oakland, 9 p.m.

9-18 at Carolina, 1 p.m.

9-25 at Pittsburgh, 4:15 p.m.

10-2 San Diego, 1 p.m.

10-9 at Atlanta, 1 p.m.

10-16 at Denver, 4:15 p.m.

10-23 Open date

10-30 Buffalo, 8:30 p.m.

11-7 Indianapolis, 9 p.m.

11-13 at Miami, 1 p.m.

11-20 New Orleans, 1 p.m.

11-27 at Kansas City, 1 p.m.

12-4 N.Y. Jets, 4:15 p.m.

12-11 at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

12-17 Tampa Bay, 1:30 p.m.

12-26 at N.Y. Jets, 9 p.m.

1-1 Miami, 1 p.m.

They've lost coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, and LB Tedy Bruschi is out for the season after suffering a stroke. Still, this remains a very strong team, led by Belichick (above) and QB Tom Brady. They have enough depth to compensate for the Bruschi loss on defense, and are still a cut above the rest of the division clubs.

Buffalo Bills

2. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 9-7, third place.

Coach: Mike Mularkey (second season with Bills, 9-7).

Key stat: Defense allowed fewest yards per play (4.3).

Schedule: First seven games are comfortable enough, and then they go on the road to face Patriots.

2005 opponents

9-11 Houston, 1 p.m.

9-18 at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

9-25 Atlanta, 1 p.m.

10-2 at New Orleans, 1 p.m.

10-9 Miami, 1 p.m.

10-16 N.Y. Jets, 4:15 p.m.

10-23 at Oakland, 4:15 p.m.

10-30 at New England, 8:30 p.m.

11-6 Open date

11-13 Kansas City, 1 p.m.

11-20 at San Diego, 4:15 p.m.

11-27 Carolina, 1 p.m.

12-4 at Miami, 1 p.m.

12-11 New England, 1 p.m.

12-17 Denver, 8:30 p.m.

12-24 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

1-1 at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

They jettisoned QB Drew Bledsoe at least a year too late, allowing the flamboyant J.P. Losman (above) to step in. It could take him half a season to get some rhythm, but he has a great defense that will limit the number of times he has to do something risky on offense. RB Willis McGahee is being counted on for 1,500 rushing yards.

New York Jets

3. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 10-6, second place, lost divisional playoff game.

Coach: Herman Edwards (fifth season with Jets, 37-32).

Key stat: Committed 16 turnovers, fewest in NFL.

Schedule: Three out of four on the road in midseason, then a tough finish.

2005 opponents

9-11 at Kansas City, 1 p.m.

9-18 Miami, 4:15 p.m.

9-25 Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

10-2 at Ravens , 4:05 p.m.

10-9 Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

10-16 at Buffalo, 4:15 p.m.

10-24 at Atlanta, 9 p.m.

10-30 Open date

11-6 San Diego, 1 p.m.

11-13 at Carolina, 4:05 p.m.

11-20 at Denver, 4:15 p.m.

11-27 New Orleans, 8:30 p.m.

12-4 at New England, 4:15 p.m.

12-11 Oakland, 1 p.m.

12-18 at Miami, 1 p.m.

12-26 New England, 9 p.m.

1-1 Buffalo, 1 p.m.

Chad Pennington's rising star has taken a plunge, and there are serious questions about his ability to be a top quarterback, especially after shoulder surgery. They've got Laveranues Coles back and he's a more sophisticated receiver than Santana Moss, and the running game appears to be fine with Curtis Martin and Derrick Blaylock. MLB Jonathan Vilma (above) might be the NFL's best defender.

Miami Dolphins

4. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 4-12, fourth place.

Coach: Nick Saban (first season with Dolphins).

Key stat: Averaged league-low 3.49 yards a carry.

Schedule: Browns, Raiders and Titans in the final seven weeks give them a crack at six wins.

2005 opponents

9-11 Denver, 1 p.m.

9-18 at N.Y. Jets, 4:15 p.m.

9-25 Carolina, 1 p.m.

10-2 Open date

10-9 at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

10-16 at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

10-23 Kansas City, 1 p.m.

10-30 at New Orleans, 1 p.m.

11-6 Atlanta, 1 p.m.

11-13 New England, 1 p.m.

11-20 at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

11-27 at Oakland, 4:05 p.m.

12-4 Buffalo, 1 p.m.

12-11 at San Diego, 4:15 p.m.

12-18 N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

12-24 Tennessee, 1 p.m.

1-1 at New England, 1 p.m.

It could take a year or two before Saban's personality and system take hold. He brought back RB Ricky Williams (above) and drafted RB Ronnie Brown, so the running game should improve. The quarterback situation is still playing itself out, with Gus Frerotte the starter for now.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

1. PREDICTED FINISH

2004 record: 7-9, third place.

Coach: Dick Vermeil (fifth season with Chiefs, 34-31; 15th season overall, 116-108).

Key stat: Allowed 262.7 passing yards a game.

Schedule: They host Eagles on Oct. 2, and Patriots come to town Nov. 27.

2005 opponents

9-11 N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

9-18 at Oakland, 8:30 p.m.

9-26 at Denver, 9 p.m.

10-2 Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

10-9 Open date

10-16 Washington, 1 p.m.

10-23 at Miami, 1 p.m.

10-30 at San Diego, 4:05 p.m.

11-6 Oakland, 1 p.m.

11-13 at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

11-20 at Houston, 8:30 p.m.

11-27 New England, 1 p.m.

12-4 Denver, 4:15 p.m.

12-11 at Dallas, 4:15 p.m.

12-17 at N.Y. Giants, 5 p.m.

12-24 San Diego, 1 p.m.

1-1 Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

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