By Jimmy Rouse
For the first time in nearly six months, regular season football returned on September 5 as the Patriots began their quest to defend their title during week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Each division is incredibly talented, however major questions surround each team, particularly those in the NFC East, AFC North, and AFC East.
The NFC East went from a laughing stock two years ago to one of the toughest divisions last year.The Dallas Cowboys grabbed the first seed, the New York Giants grabbed the first Wild Card, the Washington Redskins remained in the hunt until the final week, and the Philadelphia Eagles showed a glimpse of their rookie franchise quarterback. With Ezekiel Elliott suspended for six games, many question how the Cowboys can expect themselves to live up to the hype similar to last year. Although the Giants proved last year they had one of the top defenses in the NFL, it will be difficult for them to remain healthy and all have career years like last year. The Eagles upgraded their offensive line tremendously in the offseason and gave Carson Wentz new weapons; however, with a shaky secondary, their offense will need to consistently put up big numbers, or they will find themselves with a losing record. The Redskins had a down year, especially with Kirk Cousins. Losing Desean Jackson hurts their offense; even though they signed Terrelle Pryor, it will be hard for Kirk Cousins to consistently put up big numbers. The AFC North went from the most talented division in football two years ago to one of the worst last year. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the only team to make the playoffs, while the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens all finished below expectations. The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the best, if not the best, offense when all are healthy with Antonio Brown, Le’veon Bell, and Ben Roethlisberger; however, the biggest question is still whether or not they will all stay healthy, which will be a major challenge.
The season has just begun and the Baltimore Ravens already have key players injured, such as Joe Flacco. With an injured quarterback and a sub par roster as is, it will be difficult for the Ravens to make their first playoff appearance since 2012. The Bengals struggled a lot last year and didn’t do much to give their fans hope. With a mostly identical roster, many question how the Bengals can expect themselves to compete. The Browns were the worst team in the NFL by a long shot; however, with three solid first round picks, it will be difficult for them to not compete in their fair share of games, but how many is unknown. As long as Tom Brady is the quarterback for the Patriots, the AFC East will be considered a talented division. However, after the Patriots, the drop off in talent is massive. The Patriots are coming off a Super Bowl win and did nothing but add more talent in the offseason, trading for Brandon Cooks and adding cornerback Stephon Gilmore. At this point the only question surrounding the Patriots is how they will fare without Julian Edelman.
The Dolphins came off a stellar season with much promise. However, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill out for the year, questions surround their offense. Without Tannehill under center, it will be difficult for the Dolphins to put up points, which will cause them to ride on a not so talented defense. The Bills are coming off an incredibly disappointing year. One that featured the firing of head coach Rex Ryan, and another year without a playoff appearance. By trading Sammy Watkins prior to training camp, it will be interesting to see how their offense will play without a massive deep threat. The 2016-2017 Jets were a disaster. By cutting Erik Decker, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, and Nick Mangold they are worse talent wise. Without a proven quarterback, it will be interesting to see how many games they will win or even be able to compete in.
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