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Monday, February 4, 2013

Wrapping Up the 2012-13 NFL Season - AFC

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Wrapping Up the 2012-13 NFL Season - AFC

Sunday night's exciting Super Bowl puts the wraps on the 2012-13 NFL season. Lets take a look at how things finished for each team and what to expect moving forward.

AFC East

New England Patriots
2012 - 12-4 Won Division, 1st Round Bye, Loss to Baltimore in AFC Championship Game
It was another strong season for the Patriots overall with yet another division crown and trip to the AFC Championship game. Belichick, Brady and company are probably less than thrilled that their season ended at home instead of in New Orleans, but you can't win it all every year. Key injuries to Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Aqib Talib, among others hurt them in the end. Expect them to be back and as good as ever in 2013.
Looking forward - The big decision for the Patriots will come this off-season with WR Wes Welker, a free agent to be. They have the ability to franchise him one last time - a move that neither party particularly wants at this point. Welker will be looking for a long term deal, the team 2, maybe at most 3 seasons. The uncertainty of Julian Edelman, once thought to be the heir apparent at the position, is an impending free agent in his own right. His health will ultimately be the deciding factor as to whether he and/or Welker comes back. Keep an eye on the Patriots WR situation this off-season.

Miami Dolphins
2012 - 7-9 2nd Place, Missed Playoffs
It was a promising first season for Coach Joe Philbin in Miami. Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill showed glimpses of being the franchise quarterback the Dolphins thought they were getting in the first round. He is the future in Miami and Dolphins fans have every right to be excited about seasons to come. In 2012 the team was in the playoff chase at the season's mid-point. A few bad breaks cost them games late and inevitably ended their season.
Looking forward - The key for the Dolphins is going to be building that offense around Tannehill. RB Reggie Bush and All-Pro lineman Jake Long are both potential free agents. Long is going to command big money to come back. It is doubtful the Dolphins will pay it. Instead expect them to beef up the offensive line via the draft while handing over the RB reins to Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.

New York Jets
2012 - 6-10 3rd Place, Missed Playoffs
What a mess in New York this season. The Jets lost their one true superstar early as Darrelle Revis went down with a major knee injury. The wheels went flying off from there. Marc Sanchez was terrible. The Tim Tebow circus was never given a chance to fail. The team was a mess.
Looking forward - The Jets have quite a problem on their hands at QB. Sanchez is owed big, guaranteed money handicapping what they can do for a replacement. Tebow will be gone. Who will take his place? Stay tuned as the chaos unfolds.

Buffalo Bills
2012 - 6-10 4th Place, Missed Playoffs
The big name off-season signings on defense did not pan out the way the Bills had hoped. Neither side of the ball produced consistently enough to make them factors int he division. C.J. Spiller was the lone bright spot this season. Injuries to Fred Jackson gave Spiller the opportunity to get #1 back carries for a large chunk of the season. When he did, he didn't disappoint.
Looking forward - It is time for the Bills to decide if Ryan Fitzpatrick is the QB of the future in Buffalo or if they need to go another direction. If they do decide he is the guy, as his contract indicates, he is going to need another threat to take some pressure off Stevie Johnson on the outside (Wes Welker anyone?). Add that with a little more beef on each line and you may have a team that can surprise some people next season.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens
2012 - 10-6 Won Division, 2012 Superbowl Champions
No team was hotter down the stretch than the Baltimore Ravens who rode the emotions of their leader Ray Lewis back from injury all the way to the Lombardi Trophy. What a run it was. Wins over Indy, Denver, New England and San Francisco, arguably 3 of the 4 best teams going into the playoffs, was a hard a path as you could ask for but certainly validates them as Champions.
Looking forward - It will be a major off-season in Baltimore. Ray Lewis is retiring. Ed Reed is a free agent and may follow Lewis out the door. Joe Flacco asserted himself as a big time NFL QB and will be looking for big bucks as a FA in his own right. GM Ozzie Newsome has said they will do everything possible to bring him back. What money that leaves to fill the holes left on the defense remains to be seen.

Cincinnati Bengals
2012 - 10-6 2nd Place, Wild Card Team, Lost in RD1 to Houston
WR AJ Green had a monster season and showed why he is now considered among the elite WR's in the NFL. QB Andy Dalton has a bit of a sophomore slump but has shown enough in two years to keep the reins as the franchise quarterback. Marvin Lewis put together a nice little defense. They are just a couple pieces away from being in the mix as Superbowl contenders.
Looking forward - As mentioned above, they really once a piece or two away from being really good. They will be an interesting team to watch in 2013.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2012 - 8-8 3rd Place, Missed Playoffs
A very disappointing season for the Steelers. Rothlesburger was banged up and not always himself when in the line-up. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown failed to even sniff the career years they had a season ago.
Looking forward - Changes are a coming in Pittsburgh. There will likely be an injection of young on defense and they will surely look to solidify the RB position that was a revolving door in 2012. Mike Tomlin coached teams will always be tough to play against. Expect them to bounce back in 2013.

Cleveland Browns
2012 - 5-11 4th place, Missed Playoffs
Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson were both very good in their rookie seasons. Unfortunately for Browns fans, they didn't get a whole lot of help. The defense showed signs of promise but were overall inconsistent. They will need to find a couple play makers if they want to be relevant moving forward.
Looking forward - A new Owner, GM and Coach will hopefully mean a change of fortunes in Cleveland. They have some nice pieces in place but just can't seem to put it all together. It will be interesting to see if the new management decides to blow it up or build upon the core already in place.


AFC South

Houston Texans
2012 - 12-4 Won Division, Lost in Divisional Round to New England
The Texans were the undisputed best team in football until a late season trip to New England sent them in a tail spin that cost them a first round bye and ultimately led to a return trip north which ended their season. On the bright side, JJ Watt emerged as one of the best defensive players in football dominating every opponent throughout and causing fans to forget all about the off-season loss of all-pro DE Mario Williams.
Looking forward - Matt Schaub was not the answer this season. He, as much as anyone, really lost a lot of confidence following the first New England game. That will have to change going forward. There is plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball to be one of the most explosive teams in football. Expect them to focus on bolstering the defensive secondary this off-season.

Indianapolis Colts
2012 - 11-5 2nd Place, Wild Card Team, Lost RD1 to Baltimore
Andrew Luck was everything he was advertised to be. He is a cornerstone player moving forward. Amazing for a team to go from having the worst record in the league one season to an 11 win playoff team the next with really only one major change - at QB.
Looking forward - the Colts will look to build upon what Luck and company started this season. They could use a little help on the defensive side. Dwight Freeney showed he could still get to the QB but he is aging quickly and could use a little help.

Tennessee Titans
2012 - 6-10 3rd Place, Missed Playoffs
Chris Johnson showed once again that he is capable of being an elite back. Outside of that, nothing note worthy here. They need help is multiple areas and will continue to be a work in progress for the foreseeable future.
Looking forward - As mentioned, the holes are numerous. Jake Locker showed infrequent flashes and may not be the player of the future that Tennessee hoped when they took him in the first round a few seasons ago. What is the answer? A strong draft would go a long way. All and all, still a team in disarray and likely several years from contending.

Jacksonville Jaguars
2012 - 2-14 4th Place, Missed Playoffs
Blackmon and Shorts proved to be a nice little tandem on the outside this season for newcomer Chad Henne & Co. They proved they could move the ball through the air but really missed star runningback Maurice Jones-Drew who was forced to miss the season due to injury. The defense failed to keep them in most games although improved greatly later in the season.
Looking forward - After firing GM and Coach and announcing that they have no interest in QB Tim Tebow who many believe would be a perfect fit back in his home neck of the woods; it will be interesting to see how the off-season unfolds. Getting Drew back would be a great first step. They are a few solid picks on defense away from be a .500 ball club.


AFC West

Denver Broncos
2012 - 13-3 Won Division, Lost in Divisional Round to Baltimore
Peyton Manning stepped right in a showed that he still has it. He developed a nice relationship with receivers Thomas and Decker. They entered the playoffs as the #1 seed having reeled off 11 straight wins going into the second season. In the end, the season finished at the same point it did in 2011 under Tim Tebow. A disappointment to many.
Looking forward - They have about a two year window at this point to win with Manning still in his prime. They really have a lot of the pieces in place to get the job done in 2013. A tweak here and a tweak there could be all the difference between the 2012 version and a potential Superbowl title.

San Diego Chargers
2012 - 7-9 2nd Place, Missed Playoffs
Another missed playoff season cost Norv Turner his job. Ryan Matthews started the season banged up and failed to find his 2011 form. Overall a very sub-par season for the Chargers who should be a perenial playoff team with the talent they have on that roster.
Looking forward - How will Philip Rivers co-exist with a new head coach? Will Matthews bounce back? Those are the biggest questions moving forward. This will be a team very much off the radar next season. That could play to their advantage if they can get their acts together.

Oakland Raiders
2012 - 4-12 3rd Place, Missed Playoffs
The Raiders are just an all around bad team. Carson Palmer was not the answer they had hoped. Darren McFadden was banged up for a good portion of the season further hurting the offensive output. On defense they gave up the 3rd most points in the league. That is just not a winning combination. 
Looking forward - The Raiders need to look to the future at QB. There will be options available to them in the draft, although recent history drafting 1st round QB's in Oakland may steer them in a different direction. There are a lot of missing pieces here. They are a strong candidate to have the #1 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Kansas City Chiefs
2012 - 2-14 4th Place, Missed Playoffs
How does a 2-win team put 5 players into the Pro Bowl? Why by underachieving of course! Jammal Charles is the real deal. As are a number of players in the defensive side of the ball. The quarterback position is a mess. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn are not the answer.
Looking forward - With the #1 overall pick new head coach Andy Reid will have an opportunity to get his QB of the future to groom into the next Donavan McNabb if he chooses to. With all the talent already in place, KC will be the top bounce back team in 2013, a la 2012 Indianapolis Colts.

     

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