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AFC Team Questions

Welcome to the official season kickoff of the

Brew Crew Corner
. It feels so good to be back in football season. I have to be honest – this has, by far, been the longest offseason I can ever remember. Aside from the Jay Cutler saga and the standard Brett Favre-apalooza hype, it has been a pretty uneventful off-season compared to most seasons. After the draft it seemed as if it took twice as long for the season to get here. So now that it’s here and people are getting ready for 2009, I have some observations and questions for all the teams. These should be questions on every fantasy owners minds that we would like to see answered.

Before you start your drafts you need to sit down and take a look at each team individually. Look at the team as a whole rather then just seeing players on a cheat sheet in ranking order. Every year you want to have a better draft and staring at cheat sheets just isn’t enough. You need to have the desire to know details about players and the teams they are on because projections are just numbers on a page. Learn to trust your instinct on players and pay attention to information that is put out there.

At this point in the season you are not 100 percent sure about all the players that you will have to draft. Don’t be fooled about what has been reported in OTA’s. During that time, everyone is in the best shape of their lives; everyone looks like they are going to break out, and everyone is feeling good about the upcoming season. It’s when the pads come on and the real hitting begins where we start to see the real situations of each player.

I’ve got questions this season; things I will be looking for during preseason games and when I read training camp reports. This will help me on draft day and in my quest for a 2009 Championship in the many leagues in which I will participate. Last season was a good season for me, but the playoffs were not as kind. I had my best drafts in most of my leagues and I played well, but despite the championships I’ve won in the past, I have yet to win a championship in my three money leagues. I will work harder this season to capture that championship.


OBSERVATIONS 2009:


Every year you enter a new draft season you need to look at what is different from the previous year because you have to make an adjustment to what has changed. Some things I’ve notice that can affect fantasy football in 2009:

1) Offensive Pass Interference – Referees are instructed to call this penalty more this season so receivers such as Randy Moss that like to push off defenders will get called more for the infraction. That could cost you a big-yardage play or a TD or two this season. I’m not saying you need to downgrade any receivers, but keep in mind that it could cost you sometime in the season.

2) No Wedge Block on Kickoffs – This rule can impact two areas: field position and kick return TDs. If you have players on teams that struggle to move the ball or have weak special teams, they will be affected the most. Also if you play in leagues that use returners you might find a decrease in stats.

3) Shaky First Round – So far in the mocks, rankings and forums I’ve noticed a lot of variations to who’s drafted in the first or second round. I’ve seen Larry Fitzgerald go as high as third overall and I’ve seen players like Brian Westbrook go at the end of the second round. It will be interesting to see how the first round looks like after the first few weeks of the season.

4) Value – I think more than any other season, you can get great value through the first seven rounds of a draft. I’ve seen some good serviceable players fall in drafts which makes me smile.

So let us begin with the questions and thoughts for the AFC teams. When looking at the ranking, TEAM rankings are for the opponents’ win-loss record, RB SOS is against run defense average and QB SOS is against pass defense average. For more detailed analysis you can check the off-season articles for all three SOS.

Rankings go from 1-32 where 1 is the easiest and 32 is the hardest.


AFC EAST





Buffalo


Bills


TEAM strength of schedule rank for 2009: 27th
RB strength of schedule rank for 2009: 14th
QB strength of schedule rank for 2009: 6th

The Bills spent their offseason working on tier defense as they drafted five defensive players in the draft. TE Shawn Nelson was the only skill player added. They added Terrell Owens and will have Marshawn Lynch suspended for three games. The Bills will look to contend for the division as they did at the start of last season.


Question:

Now that Trent Edwards has another playmaker in the mix, can he step up to the next level? Last year Lee Evans finished as the 28th WR. T.O. finished as the 12th WR.


Question:

With three games not played and the cold weather at the end of the season, what value does Lynch have? Last year he ran for just 1,047 yards and eight TDs. During Weeks 14-17 he averaged just 75 yards and had one TD while missing the final game of the season.




Miami


Dolphins


TEAM strength of schedule rank for 2009: 32nd
RB strength of schedule rank for 2009: 26th
QB strength of schedule rank for 2009: 20th

Last season the Dolphins bounced back and were a much improved team. This season they face the hardest strength of schedule in the league. Now just because you have the hardest schedule, it doesn’t mean you will be the worst team. After all, the Steelers faced the worst schedule last year and still won the Super Bowl. However, most of the Steelers games were dog fights and limited the fantasy players in scoring big games most weeks. No Steelers ranked in the Top 10 of their group.


Question:

Is there a fantasy stud on the Dolphins? Last season Chad Pennington finished 11th among QBs. Ronnie Brown finished as the 18th RB while Ted Ginn Jr. finished just 34th at WR


Question:

The Wildcat formation lost its effect towards the end of the season and now that a lot of teams will look to run it, will the Dolphins use it again? You either had to be lucky or thin at the RB position last season to start Ronnie Brown in Week 3 when he put up 113 yards and four TDs.



New England


Patriots


TEAM strength of schedule rank for 2009: 30th
RB strength of schedule rank for 2009: 22nd
QB strength of schedule rank for 2009: 10th

Last season with Tom Brady gone for the season, it was a different Patriots team. This offseason they used 12 draft picks to add youth to the team. Brady seems to be back healthy and we will see if they can get back to their 2007 form. Unlike in previous seasons, the strength of schedule is not the most favorable one for the Patriots.


Question:

How Healthy is Brady? With knee surgery, you never know until the hitting starts, so owners will have to roll the dice and hope they hit it big by taking Brady early in drafts. You always have to look at both spectrums of his return. Will it be like Carson Palmer or Daunte Culpepper?


Question:

The running back situation this season is a mystery. How will Fred Taylor fit into this offense? Many are hoping that he can be like Corey Dillon when he came to the Patriots, but I have not heard much about this situation so I hope to see more in camp. This situation will be one of the bigger RBBC in the league with Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk all in the mix with

Taylor
. Unless there is an injury, these RBs will kill any fantasy value as a starter. Keep in mind, Faulk has played 43.5 percent of the snaps the last two seasons and he goes undrafted every year.




New York


Jets


TEAM strength of schedule rank for 2009: 26th
RB strength of schedule rank for 2009: 3rd
QB strength of schedule rank for 2009: 23rd

The Jets’ Brett Favre gamble almost paid off last season, but an arm injury killed the second half. Thomas Jones did finish as the sixth-best RB. This offseason they drafted Mark Sanchez and are young at the WR position. Judging by their strength of schedule, they will have a good opportunity on the ground but the passing game will struggle.


Question:

Other than Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, are there any other players worth drafting? Jerricho Cotchery has been a top pick for breakout sleeper for the past few seasons but hasn’t become the player we hoped yet. Last year he finished as the 26th WR just seven FTP (fantasy points) behind Laveranues Coles who is now in

Cincinnati
. The rest of the WR group is very young and it may not keep teams from double-teaming Cotchery all season.


Question:

Can Dustin Keller be an elite TE? He finished as the 14th TE last season and the Jets have a good run game that will open up the pass for Keller. With a rookie QB or even Kellen Clemens and thin at WR, this could be a great opportunity for Keller to move into the top tier of TEs.

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