AFC East - Week 1 ~ Start 'em and Sit 'em Overview
The NFL schedule makers were kind to the AFC East in 2008. Not so much in 2009. While the New England Patriots may not be complaining, their week one doormats, the Buffalo Bills cannot be terribly happy to draw their high-powered division rivals so soon. Three of the four AFC east teams start their season on the road. The Miami Dolphins must face last season's Cinderella success, the Atlanta Falcons, and the New York Jets must start their first season under defensive-minded coach Rex Ryan, against the offensively aggressive Houston Texans. As the preseason started last month I broke down all four teams: AFC East Breakdown. On the eve of the season opener, it's time to see how these four franchises will look in week one.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
The New England Patriots seem set to bypass 2008 as a lull, and return to the scorching offense of their 2007, near perfect season. While I do not foresee the Pats putting up quite such gaudy numbers this season, game one against the Buffalo Bills should get them off to a strong offensive start. The Pats start the season on home turf; just an extra thorn in the Bills side. Tom Brady looked very strong in his limited preseason play, so look for a high scoring one-sided bloodbath. The addition of Terrell Owens is not likely to do much of anything to make a dent this week other than open up more room for Lee Evans.
Start 'em - Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and the NEP defense
Sit 'em - The entire Buffalo team, including T.O.
Sleeper alert - If any Bills player breaks out this week, WR Lee Evans will be that guy.
Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons
The Miami Dolphins went from the basement to the penthouse in 2008, and may find themselves free-falling down the elevator shaft again in 2009. They have an ugly schedule and no one significantly exciting has been added to their mix. RB Ronnie Brown should have another quietly respectable season in 2009, with Ricky Williams backing him up. However, QB Chad Pennington is not terribly inspiring and his top receiver, Ted Ginn, Jr, is on the verge of bust-ville. The fins will have to count on their defense to keep the game close. Their running game will have to do most of the damage this week against a porous Falcon's run defense that was 22nd in the league last season. I believe the Atlanta offense will be too much for Miami in week one.
Start 'em- Dolphins: Ronnie Brown <> Falcons: Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
Sit 'em- Ted Ginn, Jr.
Sleeper alert- Atlanta RB Jerious Norwood
New York Jets at Houston Texans
The Jets must start the season without stalwart defensive lineman, Shaun Ellis and linebacker Calvin Pace, who are both suspended; for one and four games, respectively. Well, this is the National Felony League. What would one expect? Rex Ryan has anointed rookie Mark Sanchez his starter at QB, and I think he could have a season somewhere between the 2008 performances of Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan. Ryan will make the defense better, and he already has the division's rushing leader from last season, Thomas Jones, backed up by rookie RB, Shonn Greene. His secret weapon may be specialist Leon Washington who can do just about everything except kick field goals. The team's glaring weakness may be its receiving corp. Jericho Cotchery moves from number two to numero uno, which is not his best position. Perhaps the best receiver on the team is David Clowney, who has, despite a mammoth preseason, been relegated to WR3 status.
Start 'em - Jets: Jericho Cotchery, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and Dustin Keller <> Texans: Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, Andre Johnson, and Owen Daniels
Sit 'em- The Texan's WR2, Kevin Walter, is questionable and not a good start this week. For the Jets, keep QB Sanchez, and rookie RB Shonn Greene in wait and see mode.
Sleeper alert - WR David Clowney