Clint's Corner Archive
Clint's Corner Archive
The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.
Back to the grind...
Beginning next week following the Denver game, Clint’s Corner will be back on a weekly basis. Until then, here’s my guess (yes guess) as to how AFC will shape up this year.
New England. Sure, I’m biased, but no one else in this division jumps out at me as being poised to prevent the Pats from three-peating as division champs. Yes the Pats have big questions about their running game, but so does Miami. Sure the right corner position is raw, but the Jets have Otis Smith. Across the board, the Patriots still have better talent than their two closest competitors in New York and Miami, and talent wins ballgames, despite what Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson may think. The Pats were 7-1 in the East last year, and are 13-3 over the last two seasons. If they keep up that pace in their own playground, it won’t matter much if Denver or San Fran lay a hurtin’ on ‘em.
Miami. Word is this year that the Dolphins will be committed to running the football. Didn’t we hear the same thing from Jimmy Johnson when he was hired to replace Don Shula? Didn’t we hear that last year from Lord Johnson as well? Seeing is believing, and until the Dolphins can run the ball in the regular season, they have as many question marks there as the Pats. Would you trade Robert Edwards for Karim Abdul-Jabbar? Exactly. The Dolphins do have a sound defense, but it does not have the potential to be as dominating as New England’s. Marino may still be the best QB in the East, but double cover McDuffie and there is no one to throw to. If history repeats itself once again, and the Dolphins still cannot run the ball, their season may look like a 16-week replay of their wild card loss to the Patriots.
New York. The Jets now have the best running back in the division, but do they have the best running game? Remember that the Pats were 26th in the league rushing last year with Martin running the ball, and were 6-10 in 1995, Martin’s best year as a pro. On paper and in the pre-season, it appears as though the Jets have upgraded their very porous offensive line. It remains to be seen how they will fare in the regular season. Remember, the Jets had a very good running back last year as well who went over 1,000 yards. Going from a "B" running back to an "A" may not make much difference, and it certainly won’t help the defense. Yeah yeah, the Jets defense did not give up many points last year, but when teams can sustain ground games and 9 minute possessions, you are still getting killed even though the point totals are not high. The Jets defensive front 7 are a big question mark as a unit, and outside of Aaron Glenn, the secondary is marginal at best. Preseason is not always a good barometer, but the Jets have shown no ability whatsoever to get to the passer. In the pass happy AFC East, that is not good news for Bill Parcells. To make matters worse, there is little question that the Jets have the poorest QB situation in the division. With Foley and Interceptaverde at the helm, the games will be won or lost on the legs of Curtis Martin. With many publications picking the Jets to make the playoffs, opponents will not be caught napping this year either. I for one will be surprised if the Jets can equal their 9 wins of last season.
Buffalo. This team scares me, but until they prove they have an offense this year, I can’t pick them any higher than 4th place. Bruce Smith and Ted Washington still anchor a strong defense, but the Bills offense has to show during the regular season that it has improved on last year’s bunch which could only be described as anemic. Are Rob Johnson, Sam Gash, and a reduced role for Thurman Thomas the answer? The answer to that question is the difference between a 5-win season and challenging for a wild card birth.
Indianapolis. Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning. OK, but who’s going to make sure he doesn’t get sacked around like Harbaugh was, and can Marshall Faulk regain his Pro Bowl form to help take the heat off? Even so, the defense has to keep the other team from scoring. Sure they had a big win against the Packers last year, but how many times can you give up 38 points and still win? Peyton Manning cannot play defense for you.
Pittsburgh. Many publications are sighting the annual offseason departure of key free agents as the reason why the Steelers will finally succumb to Jacksonville this year. Is this deja vu? Same old song? Pittsburgh has more than proven that they can sustain their high level of play without overpaying for the likes of Neil O’Donnell, Chad Brown, Kevin Green, Yancy Thigpen, etc. The Steelers have drafted well, and somehow always manage to replace the departed veteran with a talented new comer. This may be the year that free agency catches up with them, but there is no reason to believe that, yet. With Levon Kirkland and Joel Steed anchoring one of the top AFC Defenses, and Kordell "heart attack" Stewart at the controls, this team should be fine, although the Steelers are still in search of that ever elusive victory in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville. Sports Illustrated has the Jaguars going to the Super Bowl. Why isn’t their running game a question mark? Stewart has not shown much of anything since coming into the league, and Tavian Banks and Fred Taylor are just as green as Robert Edwards in New England. The defense is also not up to snuff with the Steelers, or perhaps even the Oilers. Mark Brunell will have to have an MVP season to overtake the Steelers. I expect to see the Jags in the playoffs, but via their familiar wild card ticket.
Tennessee. Tennessee is ready to join the upper echelon in the AFC. If they played in the AFC East, you would have to consider them a divisional favorite. They have all the horses to compete, but McNair may not yet be ready to lead them to the post season. Eddie George is the best back in the division. Bus riders may not agree, but I’d take George over Bettis all day long, and I’m sure most scouts would agree. Yancy Thigpen was a big help to young Kordell Stewart’s development in Pittsburgh. If he can have the same spring board effect on the very talented McNair, this squad will make some noise. Head coach Fisher, a former defensive coordinator, has that defense playing very very well.
Baltimore. Many people are saying the Ravens could be a big surprise in the AFC this year, but I for one will be surprised to see them finish any better than 4th. Baltimore is a talented team, and certainly has upgraded their team by dumping Vinny Testaverde, but unfortunately, they play in what may be the most talented overall division in the AFC. It would not surprise me to see the Ravens will 9 games and still finish in 4th place.
Cincinnati. Boomer Esiason came on at the end of last season and rallied the Bengals to 5 wins in their last 6 games. Boomer is now working for ABC, Neil O’Donnell now has the reins, and Big Daddy has taken his million-dollar sideshow to Washington. The Bengals will knock off a few heavy favorites this year, but not enough to contend in this talent-laden division.
Kansas City. Denver may be the defending World Champions, but the Chiefs are defending champions of the Western Division. While the Broncos have lost a few key players since January, the Chiefs have added Chester McGlockton and Leslie O’Neil to an already scary defense. On paper, this has got to be the best defense in the entire league. As if scoring points in Arrowhead Stadium wasn’t tough enough. The Chiefs may fall yet again in Mile High Stadium, but if they take care of business at home and in the rest of the West, the Chiefs will prove more than worthy of defending their divisional title. Offense? Who cares. See above.
Denver. Two or three offensive lineman will not start opening day. It was the outstanding play of the line that helped Davis grab all those yards last season, and beat up the Green Bay defense en route to the Championship in the seasons final game. The Denver defense, however, relied too heavily on stunts and blitzes to get it done, and they were vulnerable to the big play. The best thing for the Denver defense is to be on the bench watching Davis and Elway scoring tons of points and chewing up the clock. With only 40% of the offensive line coming back, that may be asking too much. Don’t get me wrong. Yes I’m picking Denver in second place here, but that doesn’t mean they won’t win 12 games.
Oakland. This had to be the best losing football team of last season. They didn’t have the wins to show for it, but no one wants to play the Raiders. Jon Gruden will be a big help. He’s young and no nonsense and just what the doctor ordered for Jeff George, Tim Brown, and Napoleon McCallum. The offense will be well balanced and should have no trouble scoring. By default, the defense will improve. Rod Woodson will immediately sure up what last year was perhaps the most suspect secondary in the league.
Seattle. Chris Warren has been replaced by Ricky "Me" Watters, and Warren Moon is a year older. The Seahawks finished in the top 10 in offense last season, but they seemed to rack up all those yards against lesser opponents, and in coming back from way behind. The defense is OK with ‘Tez Kennedy and Chad Brown, but if moon goes down, the defense will be on the field all day. Dennis Erickson may be on the hot seat this season, likely his last in Seattle.
San Diego. Ryan Leaf appears to be the real deal this preseason, but who’s going to run the ball? Ask the ’94 Pats what’s it’s like to rely a formerly successful San Diego running back. Natrone Means has Marion Butts disease in a big way, and it gets worse after him. There is no defense outside of Seau. The Chargers had better get use to the cellar in the West. If they win more than 2 games within the division, they will have surpassed my expectations.
I expect the three above division winners to be joined by Denver, Jacksonville, and Tennessee in the post season as part of the wild card circuit.
I’ll see you next as I resume my weekly format following the Monday Night game at Denver. I’m sure as hell not going to make any predictions there. ENJOY THE SEASON!