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Patriots are the powerhouses 
By fghfgnrtq on Feb 13, 2014 03:02 AM
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<P>Few teams seem on the surface to have as many givens as the Patriots. We know Tom Brady is an all world quarterback and winner; that Randy Moss is as dangerous as any receiver and Wes Welker as reliable as any; that the offensive line is a stone wall; that the defence will be stingy and make big plays; and that Bill Belichick is a coaching genius.</P>
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<P>Well, Brady didn't set the NFL afire last year in his comeback season he missed all but the first half of the opener in 2008 with a knee injury. Moss has not gotten a contract extension. Welker comes off a severe knee injury himself, although his quick comeback has been impressive. Outstanding guard Logan Mankins wants out. The defence is being rebuilt before our eyes, with questionable leadership and depth. And Belichick hasn't won a championship in five years.</P>
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<P>But guess what: New England still should have enough to win a tight three way division race, particularly if the running game is better. Brady easily could return to his previous stratospheric playing level, helped by Welker's stunning recovery.</P>
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<P>The Jets might fall shy of winning the division, but they won't be shy about anything else. Including telling you how good they are, particularly with the additions of RB LaDainian Tomlinson, LB Jason Taylor, WR Santonio Holmes (suspended for the first four games) and CB Antonio Cromartie.</P>
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<P>They will be good, probably enough so to make the playoffs as a wild card. Coach Rex Ryan's bragging about his defence is valid after it finished 2009 ranked atop the NFL, then added a couple of playmakers in Taylor and Cromartie and finally got All Pro CB Darrelle Revis to sign a new deal and report before the opening kickoff. Maybe the tone Ryan sets will offset the loss of leadership that went with the departures of RB Thomas Jones and guard Alan Faneca.</P>
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<P>Still, the Jets are relying on Mark Sanchez to take a huge step forward, and second year quarterbacks often go in the opposite direction, so that is a dicey proposition. Special teams also took some hits, so New York perhaps should look out below, not up toward the Patriots.</P>
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<P>Two years back, in the first season of the Bill Parcells regime, the Dolphins surged to the division crown. Last year, they flopped down the stretch and didn't make the post season.</P>
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<P>One culprit was a lack of downfield passing, which Parcells seems to have solved by acquiring Brandon Marshall, a pass catching machine who will be Chad Henne's favourite target. Henne, unlike predecessor Chad Pennington, has a strong arm to make the connections with Marshall that could define the offence. Of course, Henne is unproven compared to Pennington, and he'll lean on RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, something coach Tony Sparano, a former offensive line mentor, will make certain happens. LT Jake Long already is an All Pro heading into his third season.</P>
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<P>The Dolphins swallowed hard and allowed rookies Sean Smith and Vontae Davis to start at cornerback in 2009. That trial by fire could pay off for Davis this year, but Smith lost his job to Jason Allen. New Miami co ordinator Mike Nolan must find a pass rush after losing LBs Joey Porter and Jason Taylor, who combined for 16 sacks.</P>
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<P>Chan Gailey, whose success as the Cowboys' coach tends to get overlooked, is an offensive mastermind. Buffalo was 30th on offence in 2009 thanks to a porous line, inconsistent quarterbacking and unproductive wideouts. Gailey was hired to work some magic with QB Trent Edwards, who does have one solid target in Lee Evans. Edwards doesn't have Terrell Owens on hand anymore; you be the judge on that one.</P>
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<P>The Bills already have been ravaged by injuries in the pre season, and they weren't particularly deep beforehand. They will need superb special teams, something they usually have, and a much improved run defence to manage even the six victories of last season.</P>
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<P>One team looking up with good reason is Baltimore, which eliminated the Patriots at New England, no less in the playoffs last season. RB Ray Rice had a breakout season and QB Joe Flacco made great progress.</P>
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<P>This still will be a run first team with Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain. But with Boldin, the ageless Derrick Mason, Houshmandzadeh, Donte' Stallworth (when he recovers from a broken left foot), and TE Todd Heap, Flacco has plenty to work with on offence.</P>
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<P>If the Ravens solve some issues in the secondary, which has been hit by injuries, they should be a Super Bowl contender. Their Gabriel Landeskog Jersey front seven is terrific, and great linebacker Ray Lewis isn't even their best player. Nathan MacKinnon Jersey DT Haloti Ngata is.</P>
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<P>Bungles no longer, Cincinnati won the division last season, sweeping its six games within the AFC North with a strong running game and solid defence. But the team was too conservative with the ball and got ousted by the wild card Jets in the playoff opener.</P>
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<P>Adding Terrell Owens will bring spice to the offence, not to mention to the locker room. If Carson Palmer gets protection and a tight end emerges watch rookie Jermaine Gresham Cincinnati should score more points and create some excitement. Of course, can Owens and Chad Ochocinco shelve their egos and share the ball, particularly with RB Cedric Benson a focal point of the attack?</P>
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<P>The defence has several emerging players, led by DE Antwan Odom, who comes off an Achilles' tendon injury that cut short a superb 2009, and cornerbacks Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. Still, Cincy might need another clean sweep of the division games to finish first.</P>
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<P>In going from Super Bowl champions to also rans, albeit at 9 7, the Steelers lost their consistency on both sides of the ball. They won five straight, then lost five in a row before closing with three victories.</P>
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<P>They begin this season without QB Ben Roethlisberger, and his suspension could damage their chances of getting into the playoffs again. With Byron Leftwich injured, Dennis Dixon is the nominal starter. But he doesn't have the winning experience of a Roethlisberger. At least he has some nice helpers in WRs Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, TE Heath Miller, RB Rashard Mendenhall and the returning WR KR Antwaan Randle El. Losing OT Willie Colon for the season hurts.</P>
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<P>Pittsburgh's meltdown in pass defence was directly attributable to the absence of S Troy Polamalu, one of the league's five most valuable players. He's healthy now and ready to rock opponents, with the help of fellow safety Ryan Clark and LBs LaMarr Woodley (13 sacks), James Harrison (10) and Lawrence Timmons (7).</P>
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<P>Once Mike Holmgren took charge of the sputtering Browns, things began looking up. The breakthrough might not come for another season when, perhaps, Holmgren returns to coaching. For now, the team president is www.officialhockeyauthentic.com/womens-youth-paul-stastny-authentic-jersey-c-1_117_120.html giving Eric Mangini one more chance.</P>
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<P>Cleveland won its last four games in 2009, although only Pittsburgh was a decent opponent. Still, the Browns were a mess in all areas but special teams, where All Pro Joshua Cribbs is among the league's most dangerous performers.</P>
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<P>Jake Delhomme has replaced Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn at quarterback, trying to resurrect his career. He doesn't have much talent surrounding him, and the defence could be just as bad, although LB Scott Fujita must have seen something he likes he left the Saints for Cleveland.</P>
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<P>Hard to find much to fault here. Sure, they lost the Super Bowl, but the Colts were the NFL's elite team over the 17 week season. Had new coach Jim Caldwell talk about successful transitions not rested his regulars in the final game, Indy might have gone into the playoffs undefeated.</P>
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<P>The Colts might challenge their 14 2 mark of a year ago if the offensive line comes together; right now, with centre Jeff Saturday's status uncertain after right knee surgery, it's a question mark.</P>
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<P>Peyton Manning sets the pace for all quarterbacks. Make that all players. The NFL's only four time MVP is a favourite for a fifth award, surrounded by the strongest cast on offence in the conference. That cast will be deeper with the return of WR Anthony Gonzalez from a knee injury, and with the further maturation of RB Donald Brown to complement Joseph Addai. The line allowed just 13 sacks in 2009, and Manning will weave his magic to WRs Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, and TE Dallas Clark.</P>
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<P>One reason Jeff Fisher is the longest tenured coach with the same team is he knows how to listen to the owner. And Bud Adams made a good call last season.</P>
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<P>The Titans plunged to 0 6 with Kerry Collins at quarterback, including a 59 0 annihilation at New England. Adams told Fisher he wanted him to bench Collins for Vince Young, and the Titans were among the league's best closers, going 8 2 the rest of the way and barely missing the playoffs. Young hardly was the main reason that would be NFL Offensive Player of the Year Chris Johnson with his 2,006 yards rushing, 503 receiving and 16 TDs but his maturity and playmaking abilities were critical.</P>
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<P>Can the Titans build on that surge? There's been transition on the offensive line and at linebacker, and the defence must improve against the pass, which means a stronger pass rush and stingier play in the secondary.</P>
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