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AFC Hot Commodity, Hold, or Stay Away!



In a different way to preview the NFL teams post-draft, I thought maybe I can apply a stock market concept into evaluating the NFL. Each team is listed, by division; in the order of roster strength with a short summary of the good, bad and my take of each team so far this offseason (post-draft). Then the ‘Analyst' (aka ME) rate each team based on how each team finished the 2011 regular season and what they have accomplished thus far this off-season in improving their team. Then I will advise you (the public) whether that team so far for the 2012 season is a ‘Hot Commodity’, a team you should ‘Stay Away’ from, or if the team seems to be no better nor worse than their 2011 season, they would receive a ‘Hold’ rating. Keep in mind that I am comparing each individual team now against their end of 2011 roster, NOT to other teams in the same division. In other words, a team with a poor record in 2011 that have made moves that on paper could result in them improving this upcoming season (like the Bucs) would receive a ‘Hot Commodity' rating. Likewise, a team that did well in 2011 but is likely to slide back a bit (like the 49ers) would receive a ‘Stay Away!!!' rating. But if a team has not done enough to improve or regress from their 2011 roster (like the Packers), they would receive a ‘Hold' rating. So if I give a 3-13 team a ‘Hot Commodity' rating, that DOES NOT mean I expect them to be in the playoffs. It simply implies that based on their offseason moves thus far they have done enough to reasonably believe they have improved their team since the end of the 2011 season. Obvious this is purely for fun and debate and is in no way an exact science. Got it? Good, then let’s get going, starting with the AFC.


New England Patriots- 2011 record: 13-3 (AFC Champions)

The Good: The passing combination of Brady to Gronkowski, Hernandez, Welker, etc… Three Top 50 draft picks used on defense.

The Bad: They absolutely NEEDED those Top 50 picks to be on defense (15th in points allowed and 31st in yardage allowed).

The Verdict: The Patriots won the AFC Championship in spite of their defense. They’ve also brought back offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel, even though they could really use (former defensive coordinator) Romeo Crennel…

The Analyst says: Hold.

Buffalo Bills- 2011 record: 6-10 (missed playoffs)

The Good: Signed FA DE Mario Williams. Extended RB Fred Jackson’s contract. Drafted CB Stephon Gilmore and OG Cody Glenn.

The Bad: Still no true #1 receiver or offensive threat outside of Jackson and RB C.J. Spiller.

The Verdict: The acquisition of Williams and Gilmore for their 4-3 defense was huge considering the leftover talent they will be joining. It should be considered amazing that the offense was 14th in the NFL in scoring last season. But after a start to the 2012 season that includes facing the Jets, Chiefs, Browns, Patriots, and 49ers, expect their offensive production to be offensive.

The Analyst says: Hold.

New York Jets- 2011 record: 8-8 (missed playoffs)

The Good: FA signee QB Tim Tebow’s presence should motivate Mark Sanchez (or diminish him). Drafting (if he’s motivated) Quinton Coples.

The Bad: Drafting (if he’s unmotivated) Coples. Rookie WR Steven Hill to replace Plaxico Burress??? A bulk of unrestricted FAs yet to be resigned.

The Verdict: If nothing else, this team will be ‘interesting’. Unfortunately for them, interesting usually does not translate into wins (just ask the Raiders).

The Analyst says: Stay Away!!!

Miami Dolphins- 2011 record: 6-10 (missed playoffs)

The Good: Squeezed over 1,000 yards rushing out of Reggie Bush. Drafted OL Jonathan Martin as a bookend to Jake Long. End of the Chad Henne experiment.

The Bad: Beginning of the Tannehill experiment. The likelihood of Bush having an encore 1,000 yard rushing season. Traded WR Brandon Marshall (OK, maybe that’s a draw).

The Verdict: Let me put it this way. “With the first pick of the 2013 NFL Draft…”

The Analyst says: Stay Away!!!


Pittsburgh Steelers- 2011 record: 12-4 (Lost in Wildcard Round)

The Good: Drafting OLs David DeCastro and Mike Adams. Nice depth picks throughout rest of draft. Heck, most of their drafts are good.

The Bad: Inconsistent health of RBs. Suspect CBs. In same division as Ravens and Bengals.

The Verdict: At least one of their rookie OL, if not both, should start early. Receivers are under-sized, but very solid. If their safeties stay healthy and the linebackers (other than Lawrence Timmons) do not show their age, the corners’ liabilities will continue to be masked.

The Analyst says: Hot Commodity.

Baltimore Ravens- 2011 record: 12-4 (lost AFC championship game)

The Good: RB Ray Rice. 3rd ranked defense in scoring and total yardage. Another solid draft (on paper).

The Bad: Lost yet another defensive coordinator, this time to the Colts. QB Joe Flacco regressed statisticly (from 93.6 in 2010 to 80.9 in 2011). Ed Reed’s health.

The Verdict: The defense will be injected with youth, with DT Terrence “Mount” Cody and rookie LB Courtney Upshaw likely to start in 2012. Rice has been durable thus far, but with 737 rushing and receiving touches the last two regular seasons at only 212 pounds, how long will that last???

The Analyst says: Stay Away!!!

Cincinnati Bengals- 2011 record: 9-7 (Lost in Wildcard Round)

The Good: Successfully replacing an older, disgruntled above-average QB (Carson Palmer) and WR (Chad Johnson) with a much younger and already above-average QB (Andy Dalton) and WR (A.J. Green). Top 10 scoring defense.

The Bad: Possible sophomore slump for Dalton, which in turn would hurt Green. I know Cedric Benson is not an elite RB, but FA replacement BenJarvus Green-Ellis has only one 200+ carry season.

The Verdict: The defense is set for the long haul, with the addition of rookies CB Dre Kirkpatrick and DT Devon Still. If the combination of Green-Ellis and RB Bernard Scott keep the chains moving, and Dalton continues to improve, they will be fine. But those are BIG ifs.

The Analyst says: Hold.

Cleveland Browns- 2011 record: 4-12 (missed playoffs)

The Good: Drafting tough RB Trent Richardson to go with tough division. ‘Mature’ rookie QB challenger (Brandon Weeden). Lots of draft picks that, on paper, could immediately fill lots of holes. Top 5 scoring defense.

The Bad: QB still a question mark and (unfortunately) Richardson will have to answer for it. WR is also a question mark, unless Greg Little has a breakout season.

The Verdict: Being in arguably the toughest division in football, the Browns will likely have the 2nd overall pick next year.

The Analyst says: Hold.


Houston Texans- 2011 record 10-6 (Lost Divisional Round)

The Good: QB Matt Schaub played very well when healthy; QB T.J. Yates played well when Schaub wasn’t. Defensive transition from base 4-3 to 3-4 was a huge success (4th in scoring) even without DE/OLB Mario Williams.

The Bad: Lost several players in free agency, most notable the fore-mentioned Williams.

The Verdict: Kubiak’s job was saved by finally winning the AFC South. With clearly the most talented roster in the division, he should lead the Texans to a second straight title and beyond.

The Analyst says: Hot Commodity!!!

Tennessee Titans- 2011 record: 9-7 (Missed the Playoffs)

The Good: Narrowly missed playoff berth despite instability at QB and underachieving holdout RB. Healthy WR Kenny Britt and the addition of rookie WR Kendall Wright. Up and coming defense (10th in scoring).

The Bad: Lost several key defensive players, including CB Courtland Finnegan (Rams) to free agency. Below-average defense in yardage allowed (19th).

The Verdict: The Titans have a rough opening month against the Patriots, Chargers, Lions, and

Texans. The Texans’ game will be telling, but do not expect a winning season in 2012.

The Analyst says: Stay Away!!!

Indianapolis Colts- 2011 record: 2-12 (Missed Playoffs)

The Good: Entire new coaching staff coming from winning franchises. Replaced HOF QB (Peyton Manning) with a ‘once in a decade’ QB (Andrew Luck). Retained proven WR (Reggie Wayne). Totally new defensive philosophy.

The Bad: Transitioning to aggressive 3-4 defense with passive 4-3 defense holdovers. Other than Wayne, mostly youth on offense. First time Head Coach (Chuck Pagano) and GM (Ryan Grigson).

The Verdict: After more than a decade of winning Colts’ football, last season was painful for Indy fans to watch. This team has a lot of question marks, but being in one of the weaker divisions in football, the Colts should do better than most experts predict. It’s not like they could do worse.

The Analyst says: Hot Commodity!!!

Jacksonville Jaguars- 2011 record: 5-11 (missed playoffs)

The Good: 2011 NFL rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew. Drafted WR Justin Blackmon. Defense tied for 6th in forced fumbles (16).

The Bad: QB Blaine Gabbert (50.8% completion, 12/11 TD: INT, 5 lost fumbles). Still no proven offensive weapons outside of MJD. DE Jeremy Mincey the closes thing to a healthy pass rusher (8 sacks).

The Verdict: The type of season MJD had was amazing considering the complete lack of offensive talent around him. Blackmon and FA WR Laurent Robinson should help. The defense is underrated (11th in scoring, 6th in yards allowed) and should be better with a healthy Aaron Kampman. It’s all on Gabbert now.

The Analyst: Hold.


San Diego Chargers- 2011 record: 8-8 (Missed Playoffs)

The Good: Elite offense (5th in scoring, 6th in yardage). Abundant of talent on both sides of the ball. Drafted heavy for…

The Bad: …underachieving defense (22nd in scoring, 16th in yardage allowed). Lost Vincent Jackson to FA. Norv Turner as their head coach???

The Verdict: 8-8 isn’t even good enough to win in the NFC West anymore. This franchise has severely underachieved for so long they are becoming an afterthought outside of the West Coast. That might be a good thing for them.

The Analyst says: Hold.

Denver Broncos- 2011 record: 8-8 (Lost Divisional Round)

The Good: Coming off divisional championship after poor start to 2011 season. Top ranked rushing attack by more than 11 yards per game. Signed some QB named Peyton Manning.

The Bad: Retirement of Safety Brian Dawkins. Projected starting RB (Willis McGhee) on last legs. Projected star RB Knowshon Moreno is entering into NFL Bust territory (466 yards, 4.1 avg in three seasons).

The Verdict: A lot has changed in the Mile High City the last few months, including the pending retirement of one of the NFL’s greats (Dawkins) and the FA signing of a first ballot HOFer (Manning). The running game and defense, not to mention his familiarity with the AFC West, should make life easy for Manning.

The Analyst says: Hot Commodity.

Kansas City Chiefs- 2011 record: 7-9 (missed playoffs)

The Good: Parted ways with toxic Head Coach Todd Haley. Decent, if not spectacular receiving threats. A healthy RB Jamaal Charles teamed with FA signee Peyton Hillis.

The Bad: 31st ranked scoring offense. QB situation.

The Verdict: If Matt Cassel reverts back to his 2010 form, this team could be the dark horse in this division. A BIG ‘if’…

The Analyst says: Hold.

Oakland Raiders- 2011 record: 8-8 (missed playoffs)

The Good: QB Carson Palmer, with a full offseason. A healthy Darren McFadden.

The Bad: 29th ranked scoring defense that (on paper) does not appear any stronger. The QB situation if Palmer is injured, or finished…

The Verdict: Going .500 was inspiring after the loss of their trailblazing owner. I just do not see an encore effort in 2012.

The Analyst says: Stay Away!!!


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