Post columnist Mark Cannizzaro breaks down each team and every division in the NFC as part of our 2019 NFL preview:
1. New England Patriots
Coach: Bill Belichick
2018 record: 11-5
O/U wins: 11 ½
Key additions: WR N’Keal Harry, RB Damien Harris, WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Matt LaCosse, TE Ben Watson
Key losses: TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Trey Flowers, WR Chris Hogan
First-and-goal: Tom Brady and Belichick still rule the division, having won 10 or more games in 16 of their 17 full seasons together. Pats should have WR Julian Edelman for full season after he caught 74 passes for 850 yards in 12 games last year after serving a suspension. Top runner Sony Michel returns.
Look for veteran DE Michael Bennett to help the pass rush. LT Isaiah Wynn, a 2018 first-round pick, is healthy after missing last season with an Achilles injury.
Fourth-and-long: How will the recent cocaine charge against S Patrick Chung affect his play? Chung has been one of the most consistent and productive tacklers on the New England defense. How do Pats replace retired TE Rob Gronkowski? Or will they replace him? As usual, Pats lost more key players in free agency than they gained. Odds are, Belichick will find a way to compensate.
Cann’s Call: 12-4. Wake me when someone is serious about unseating Brady and Belichick. That time has not yet arrived.
2. New York Jets
Coach: Adam Gase
2018 record: 4-12
O/U wins: 7 ½
Key additions: RB Le’Veon Bell, LB C.J. Mosley, RB Ty Montgomery, WR Jamison Crowder, DT Quinnen Williams
Key losses: K Jason Myers, WR Jermaine Kearse
First-and-goal: RB Le’Veon Bell, despite missing all of 2018 in a contract holdout, is the skill position star the Jets have lacked for years. His presence for second-year QB Sam Darnold, who figures to be better than he was in his encouraging rookie year, could make all the difference. Bell and WR Jamison Crowder should aid that process.
Defensively, it’s possible Gregg Williams, the aggressive defensive coordinator, might be able to mask some personnel deficiencies with schemes.
Fourth-and-long: Cornerback, already a thin position on the roster, looks problematic, with starter Trumaine Johnson having missed much of training camp with a hamstring injury.
Kaare Vedvik, their third kicker this summer, goes into Sunday’s opener having never kicked an NFL field goal. Is there an edge pass rusher in the house? Not the Jets’ house. With starting LB Avery Williamson lost for the season with a knee injury, depth might be an issue.
Cann’s Call: 9-7. New coaching staff has injected energy into a dead team. Darnold will take a major leap forward. Bell is a difference-maker.
3. Buffalo Bills
Coach: Sean McDermott
2018 record: 6-10
O/U wins: 7
Key additions: WR Cole Beasley, WR John Brown, TE Tyler Kroft, RB Frank Gore, RB Devin Singletary, RB T.J. Yeldon
Key losses: TE Charles Clay, RB Chris Ivory, RB LeSean McCoy
First-and-goal: Second-year QB Josh Allen is the centerpiece of the team with his speed and athletic ability, but he needs to take steps to improve. He went 5-6 in 11 starts (he won four of his last five starts) and threw 10 TDs and had 12 INTs and rushed for 631 yards and eight TDs. The O-line has been revamped, so that should help his Year 2 progress. So, too, should new WRs Cole Beasley and John Brown. The secondary, anchored by CB Tre’Davious White and S Micah Hyde, is one of the best in the league. Look for a big year from rookie DT Ed Oliver.
Fourth-and-long: The bad news about Allen is that he ran too often in ‘18 and will get himself hurt if he doesn’t start throwing to his check-down receivers. Running back is a problem, with LeSean McCoy no longer with the team after a spotty 2018. Frank Gore was added to the mix, but he’s 36. The Bills hope rookie Devin Singletary injects some life into the backfield.
Cann’s Call: 7-9. Allen still must prove himself as a better passer and not just a quarterback with great running ability.
4. Miami Dolphins
Coach: Brian Flores
2018 record: 7-9
O/U wins: 4 ½
Key additions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB Josh Rosen, DT Christian Wilkins
Key losses: LT Laremy Tunsil, WR Kenny Stills, DE Cameron Wake, QB Ryan Tannehill, WR Danny Amendola, RB Frank Gore
First-and-goal: The running back position looks improved with Kenyan Drake about to take over the workload.
sleeper behind Drake, who had 444 rushing yards in the final four games in 2018, is Kalen Ballage, a 237-pounder who is a good pass catcher. A rare bright spot: CB Xavien Howard, who had seven INTs in 12 games in 2018. The Dolphins, in full tank mode, are expected to have more than $100 million in salary-cap space and at least 12 draft picks in 2020. So, they’ve got that going for them.
Fourth-and-long: The fact the Dolphins haven’t solved the QB dilemma, with Ryan Fitzpatrick essentially winning by default over Josh Rosen, is a problem and will continue to be. Whether they have the firepower at receiver with Kenny Stills gone is in question. And their O-line, particularly after T Ja’Wuan James wasn’t re-signed and T Laremy Tunsil was moved, might be the worst in the league. No more DE Cameron Wake means a weakened pass rush.
Cann’s Call: 4-12. The adage about teams that have two starting quarterbacks having none applies to the Dolphins, who are almost certain to have to draft one in 2020. In this case, we’re not sure the Dolphins actually have one starting QB.
Credit: Source link