1st August 04:12
Esiason's AFCE ramblings
AFC East: In a division that is notorious for its balance,
the AFC East race will go deep into December as it has
the past three years. With the additions of Takeo Spikes
in Buffalo, Rosevelt Colvin in New England, Junior Seau
in Miami and Dewayne Robertson in New York, the
defenses should be vastly improved. Throw in two young
signal-callers in Tom Brady and Chad Pennington to go
along with Drew Bledsoe and the two-headed monster of
Brian Griese and Jay Fiedler, and the quarterback position
also is well-stocked.
With these teams so close in talent and experience, it leads
me to believe the slightest of mistakes will cost one or two
of them a playoff berth. All you have to do is think back to
last year's Miami-New England finale. One of the best kickers
in football, Miami's Olindo Mare, kicked the ball out of bounds
to start the overtime period, which gave the Patriots possession
at their 40-yard line. Seven plays later, the game was over.
This was the slightest of mistakes and it kept Miami out of the
playoffs. Special teams and field position, as always, will play a
significant role in determining the eventual division champion.
With that in mind, New England and New York have a slight edge
in this department due to their special teams' coaches, Brad Seely
and Mike Westhoff, respectively. They're both highly regarded
coaches. When you watch an AFC tilt, look for the team that wins
the hidden-yardage battle to win the game. What is hidden yardage
you ask? Just compare punting net yards, kickoff-return yards and
starting field position.
Another characteristic of this division is that it possesses three terrific
running backs, outstanding wide receivers, emotional head coaches,
great pass rushers and rabid fans. It seems to me that it is absolutely
impossible to predict the eventual winner. It reminds me a lot of my
former days in the AFC Central with Houston, Pittsburgh and
Cleveland. This should be a wild ride.