Throughout the month of August The Sports Script have answered 5 key questions regarding each division in the NFL. We have gotten together 3 of our writers — Ricky Valero, Matt Wincherauk and Chad Woodroof — to answer the questions. These will lead up to the ultimate reveal of everyone’s prediction for the NFL season. Today we touch on the AFC West.
1. Which player needs to step up the most this year?
Ricky: Ryan Tannehill. They have put pieces around him to make a run at the playoffs. He needs to step and show that he is worthy of being a starting QB in the NFL.
Matty W.: Mark Sanchez: Sanchez is a bad quarterback. No question about that, but this is a guy who has made two AFC Championship his first two years. If he doesn’t show the “talent” that led the Jets to those AFC Championship games, he’s gone
Chad: Stevan Ridley. He doesn’t have to do much stepping up as last season he scored 12 touchdowns to go along with his 1,263 yards. Ridley also accounted for 82 first downs. If Ridley can have 1,400 yards on the same 290 carries he had in 2012, it’ll be huge for the team
2. Which coach has the most pressure to win this year?
Ricky: Rex Ryan by default. He has put himself in this spot after years of opening his mouth. I don’t think he last the season and expect him fired during or after the season.
Matty W.: Rex Ryan has been running his mouth for too long to not get any results out of this team. Rex Ryan is a good coach, but his team has really suffered from getting old, losing talent and being unable to develop talent. If Rex can’t get this team to the playoffs, he will also be gone.
Chad: Rex Ryan is the obvious answer. Late July 2012, I predicted that he was going to lose his job after the season. I think that anything less than a winning record in 2013 will cost him his job.
3. Who is the Sleeper player to watch in the division?
Ricky: E.J. Manuel. I really think if he was healthy that the Bills would make some noise during the season. He isn’t 100% but when he does he will play good and help the Bills win some games.
Matty W.: Kenbrell Thompkins. He was an undrafted free agent, but the way he has been playing, you’d think he was a heralded draft choice. Thompkins has already gotten a great chemistry going with Tom Brady already, and it looks like he’s already gotten the number two receiver spot locked down.
Chad: Robert Woods. He’ll be a key guy for the Bills offense, especially on 3rd downs. Marquise Goodwin should have a few big plays as well for the team.
4. Which player means the most to their team’s success this year?
Ricky: Tom Brady. Brady is one of the best QB’s of our generation. If he happens to go down, this team will go nowhere fast.
Matty W.: Tom Brady, like Peyton Manning, is one of the best the game has ever seen. With Welker and that other tight end gone, things are going to fall on Brady, and force him to really step up. Brady and Belichick have got their work cut out for them, but we all know they can rise to the occasion
Chad: EJ Manuel/Tom Brady. Neither team is going to go anywhere without these players. With the struggles New England went through during the offseason, the Patriots need Brady now more than ever. Manuel is the difference between Buffalo contending for the division title, and contending for a top 5 pick.
5. How will the division play out?
New England Patriots: 11-5 – The Patriots have plenty of new faces this offseason and could struggle. But I think that they will be just fine with Brady and Belichick at the helm. The Bills not the Dolphins are there biggest threats but they should win this division by a few games.
Buffalo Bills: 8-8
Miami Dolphins: 7-9
New York Jets: 3-13
New England Patriots may have seen some important players depart this offseason, some to other teams and some to prison, but this division is still ripe for the picking. The Dolphins have improved a lot, but it’s not enough to challenge the Patriots grip on the AFC East, they take the crown with an 11-5 record.
Miami Dolphins: 9-7
Buffalo Bills: 5-11
New York Jets: 3-13