AFC - EAST Breakdown
The first week of pre-season games has come and gone with the usual amount of injuries, hopefulness, and notes of concern for teams and fantasy GMs alike. This will be the first in my series of eight quick looks at each team and where they stand at the outset, based on new additions, subtractions, strength of schedule, and of course, fantasy viability.
- Buffalo Bills ~ The Bills have a lot to be hopeful for this season. T.O. brings his dog and pony show to the frozen tundra, and Trent Edwards gets the nod as full time QB. Add to that a three-headed RB attack (Jackson, Lynch, Rhodes) who can all catch and run. WR Lee Evans should have the best year he's had in a long while. They may even get rookie wide-out James Hardy on the field this season. However, I would not expect much more than the seven wins they posted in '08 thanks to this year's strength of schedule. The Bills have the 6th harshest schedule this year, starting off the season against their division rival New England Patriots. The Bills went 0-6 last season against the AFC East. One bright note, they have the easiest travel schedule. Their two farthest destinations are Kansas City and Miami. The Bills lost their pre-season Hall of Fame game opener to Tennessee, 18-21, but won their pre-season game against Da Bears. The team looked solid in both affairs. The new no-huddle offense looks like a win for Edwards and the team.
Fantasy Viable: Offense- WR Terrell Owens, WR Lee Evans, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Fred Jackson, on the bubble- QB Trent Edwards and K Rian Lindell. IDP- CB Leodis McKelvin, LB Paul Posluszny, and DE Aaron Schobel.
- Miami Dolphins ~ QB Chad Pennington, who got little love from the NY Jets, joined division rival Miami Dolphins near the end of their train-wreck one win, 15 loss, 2007 season. In 2008 he guided them to a 11-5 division winning record. Of course last season the Fins had one of the easiest schedules. In 2009 they have the league's toughest schedule, including an opening three game stretch against Atlanta on the road, Indianapolis at home, and San Diego on the road. They won't play their first pre-season game until this evening (8/17) when the cross-state Jacksonville Jaguars come to town.
- New England Patriots ~ Tom Brady's back! Tom Brady's back! Ah, but which Brady will fantasy teams get? 2007's best fantasy performer, or middle-of-the-pack Brady? He's always been great for his team either way, but 2007's gaudy numbers have made it easy to overlook his average fantasy past. Regardless, a healthy Brady is a good thing to have on your team. He makes WR's Randy Moss and Wes Welker better from every perspective. The Pats are once again the team to beat in the NFL. Last season without Brady they still went 11-5, which shows just how good this team is. The team which lost the 2007 Super Bowl in the waning moments to Plaxico Burress and the NY Giants, has waited a long time for their season of redemption. They won their initial pre-season game 27-20 against the Philadelphia Eagles, with Brady playing most of the first half. He looked sharp, hitting tight end Chris Davis for two TD passes, and hooking up with Welker and Moss out of the gate. While the Patriots have the third toughest schedule, I don't see them slowing down for anyone.
Fantasy Viable: Offense- QB Tom Brady, WRs Randy Moss, Wes Welker, K Stephen Gostkowski. There are many other borderline viable opportunities here, but the team has a 5-man RBBC with no one the seeming go-to guy, so I'd avoid all their RBs at this point. Same with tight ends. IDP- LBs Jerod Mayo, Adalius Thomas.
- New York Jets ~ The Brett Favre experiment is over in New York, coach Eric Mangini has moved on to Cleveland, and new coach Rex Ryan takes over last year's 9-7 Jets. The team's pre-season started well enough, though they lost to the St. Louis Rams at home, 23-20. Both QBs, rookie Mark Sanchez and Kellen Clemens looked good for a first game. Who will get the nod in week one is still undetermined, but so far it appears rookie Sanchez has the momentum. The first black-mark this year came with today's announcement that DE Shaun Ellis will miss game one to suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy (marijuana). He was only a borderline IDP performer in fantasy leagues so this won't diminish his fantasy value much, but it's one more cloud over the NFL scene. The Jet's numerically face the seventh toughest schedule in 2009, but they get to play a lot of dome games, and they don't have to deal much with harsh weather. They conveniently avoid the Buffalo Bill's Ralph Wilson Stadium in December to face them in a Toronto dome game instead. Luck of the draw, I guess.
Fantasy Viable: Offense- RB's Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene, Leon Washington, WR Jerricho Cotchery, TE Dustin Keller, on the bubble- WRs Chansi Stuckey and David Clowney. IDP- LBs David Harris, Bart Scott, DE Calvin Pace, DBs Darrelle Revis, Jim Leonhard, Kerry Rhodes.