Support for the New York Jets to become AFC East Champions is growing. The Jets started their positive momentum in the press when they made some big signings and trades during the offseason, added to the fact that they were in the AFC Championship Game last season. Head Coach Rex Ryan’s big, um, personality, also helps the Jets garner some extra attention in the press, and they will all be on display this year on Hard Knocks during training camp. Recently, NFL.com writer Vic Carucci wrote a piece on who he picks to win each division, and he chose the Jets to come out on top. Here’s his case against the Patriots:
“As usual, the New England Patriots will have something to say about who sits at the top. Tom Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and is capable of making the Patriots a viable contender. However, he has some potential burdens in an inconsistent running game and a defense that doesn’t always look like it can hold up when it needs to.”
I can’t say that I can argue very much with his contentions with the Pats. The running game is dependent largely on Laurence Maroney finally putting it all together. He showed signs that he could be an effective runner last season but then hit a stretch where he had a case of fumblitis, and two of his four fumbles came on the goal line, one of which would have the been the nail in the coffin of the Indianapolis Colts. Forget the 4th-and-2 call if Maroney had scored instead of turning the ball over to the Colts. It never would have happened.
The defense should be improved, but the question mark with the pass rush remains. Will rookie Jermain Cunningham emerge as a playmaker? Will Shawn Crable finally step up? The improvement in the pass rush at outside linebacker is dependent on the development of the younger players, as I think we’ll get much of the same old same old with the returning veterans. The secondary looks to be the most improved unit and I think will surprise some with their play. What will hurt them is if they have to cover receivers for an excessive amount of time due to the lack of a pass rush.
I think that the Pats still have as good a chance as any to win the division. However, the AFC East is unquestionably a much tougher division now and there is no easy road for any team in the division. At the moment, it looks like a three-team race with Buffalo likely finishing last while it tries to find a quarterback and switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.