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NEW ENGLAND: You would have to find a very compelling reason to wager against these Patriots to re-take the AFC East this year after losing QB Tom Brady to a knee injury in week one last season and STILL finishing with a mark of 11-5. In Tom Brady’s place, backup QB Matt Cassel who was drafted by the Patriots in 2005 in the 7th round and who had never started a college or pro football game previously stepped, and boy did he step in with regard to completing 63.37% of his tosses and throwing for 3693 yards with a TD to INT ratio of 21 to 11.

Thusly, the age old question rises once again of whether it’s the QB under center or the system? Is Tom Brady really that good or was it HC Bill Belichick’s system all along? Keeping in mind that these Patriots, under HC Belichicks guidance and direction, have won a phenomenal 75% of all regular and post season games in which they have played over the past four seasons (54-18), I am banking on the fact that its Belichick’s system that drives this bus. The point of the matter is that there is some concern amongst odds makers and some handicappers with regard to the “what if’s” surrounding Tom Brady’s return this season after experiencing such a terrible knee injury last year and why would the Patriots trade Matt Cassel away when they might need him again?

I am of the opinion that Brady will be fine, let’s not forget that Bengal QB Carson Palmer, who has nowhere near the team surrounding him that Brady has, suffered a very similar injury in a playoff game and returned in much less time for the following season. Thinking ahead, Belichick drafted Kevin O’Connell with his third pick of the third round in the 2008 draft, with Cassel now a Chief O’Connell is the heir apparent to be Brady’s backup, if Brady goes down again we will have another opportunity to see if it is indeed the man or the system. Projected record 11-5.

***Look to play ON New England when they travel to Jet-land on September 20th, I mentioned above that these Patriots have posted a mark of 54-18 straight up over the past four years, however, during this same span they are only 39-32-1 ATS which is a cover rate of only 54.9%, meaning that those wagering on the Patriots needed to pick their spots carefully.

A peek at past historical results reveals that New England over the past four years is a really shoddy 15-19-1 ATS as a home favorite, however, when the Patriots have taken their show on the road over this same span they have posted a mark of 17-7 ATS which is a cover rate of 70.83%, inside that number is this little tidbit…the Patriots are an eye opening 8-0 ATS as a divisional road favorite of 4 or more points and are a perfect 10-0 ATS in their last 10 roadies at the Jets.

MIAMI: The fish posted a regular season mark of 11-5 straight up and 8-8 ATS last year after barely escaping the stigma of going winless the previous season in posting a record of 1-15 straight up and 5-8-3 ATS, however, these fish will be swimming up-stream with regard to having a hard time replicating last seasons’ success as they will be playing the NFL’s toughest schedule this year.

The Dolphins they will be facing a slate of opponents this year that won a combined 59.4% of their games last season and that includes out of division road affairs against four playoff teams from a year ago (at Atlanta, at San Diego, at Carolina, and at Tennessee) and out of division home games against the Colts and the Steelers, you can bet your bottom dollar that each and every team on the fish’s schedule has studied HC Tony Sparano’s “wildcat” variations, meaning that the Dolphin “wildcat” will in all probability morph into a Dolphin “mildcat” this year as Miami will be facing some of the NFL’s better defenses this season. Projected record 9-7.

***Look to play AGAINST Miami on October 4th when the Bills come to town, a simple review of Miami’s schedule reveals that the fish have a home MNF game against the Colts on 9/21/09 and then on a short week must travel coast to coast to take on the Bolts in San Diego followed by a home game against the Bills, meaning that it’s awful tough to get it up emotionally three weeks in a row and that is in addition to the fact that the fish should be one tired unit. A peek into the ole history book reveals that the Bills have covered 3 of their last 4 trips to fish-land.

BUFFALO: For the third straight year these Bills recorded a mark of 7-9 straight up last season and in turn made it nine straight years without a playoff appearance, which is quite surprising given the fact that they started last season with 5 wins in their first 6 games, but hey when you only win 2 of your final 10 games to close out the season that’s what happens. The Bills major malfunction last year was the play of their offensive line along with having a severe case of “fumble-i-tis” through out the season with regard to allowing 38 sacks which ranked them 22nd in the league in sacks allowed and fumbling the football a total of 31 times (losing 30 of them!).

Buffalo’s shoddy offensive line play along, with their fumbling, greatly contributed to the Bills averaging only 305 yards of offense per game which ranked them 25th in the league in that category and in turn put more pressure on the Bills defense which allowed 20 or more points in 7 of their final 10 games to close out the regular season. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not the Bills defense got frustrated with the offense somewhere along the way or not, or perhaps they were simply an undisciplined bunch.

In any case the Bills defense finished the season ranked a shoddy 31st in both penalties and penalty yards accessed, 28th in the league in QB take downs, 27th in interceptions, and 22nd against the run. To me it’s quite surprising that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell still has a job, this much I do know and that is the fact that owner Ralph Wilson asked HC Dick Jauron to fire his offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, Jauron refused and was then given an ultimatum by Wilson…win this year or you are out.

To aid QB Trent Edwards the Bills acquired WR Terrell Owens who will play opposite WR Lee Evans, Owens might get the “pub” but in the big picture Evans is a much quicker and much shiftier receiver, meaning that it is my belief that it will be Evans who ends up with more TD passes by seasons’ end. To address the offensive line woes the Bills brought in former Panther center Geoff Hangartner and former Dolphin/Brownie OG Seth McKinney via free agency and drafted center Eric Wood and OG Andy Levitre. Projected record 8-8.

***Look to play ON Buffalo October 4th when the Bills travel to Miami, a simple review of Miami’s schedule reveals that the fish have a home MNF game against the Colts on 9/21/09 and then on a short week must travel coast to coast to take on the Bolts in San Diego followed by a home game against the Bills, meaning that it’s awful tough to get it up emotionally three weeks in a row and that is in addition to the fact that the fish should be one tired unit. A peek into the ole history book reveals that the Bills have covered 3 of their last 4 trips to fish-land.

NEW YORK JETS: After losing 4 of their final 5 games to close out the 2008 regular season with a mark of 9-7 straight up and 7-9 ATS (after starting the year 8-3 straight up) and failing to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year the Jet brass…pardon the pun…decided to Jet-ti-son HC Eric Mangini, in his place former Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was hired.

Last season’s QB (Brett Favre) “retired” only to resurface with the Vikings for the upcoming 2009 season which necessitated the need for a new QB to take over, oddly enough the Jets already had Kellen Clemens on their roster whom they had drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft, yet they elected to trade up in the 2009 draft and take Mark Sanchez out of USC with the NFL’s 5th overall pick and signed him to a five year contract worth $50 million which seems like a HUGE leap of faith to me with regard to his having no real track record to speak of having only been a starting QB for a single season at USC…possible QB controversy here.

The Jets offense wasn’t really that bad last year as they finished 5th in the league in points scored, 9th in rushing yards per game with a 4.80 yards per pop average which ranked them 3rd in the NFL in that category and they were 17th in passing yards per game, hence the reason that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was retained, however, Ryan brought Mike Pettine with him from the Ravens to be the new defensive coordinator of the Jets.

To help a struggling Jet defense that was ranked 30th against the pass and allowed opposing QB’s to complete 64% of their passes Ryan brought along with former Ravens DE Marques Douglas to rush the passer, LB Bart Scott to man the middle of the field, and SS Jim Leonhard to roam in the secondary. Under Ryan’s direction these Jets will be a better team this year, however, they own the NFL’s seventh toughest schedule this year based on their opponents’ results from last season and they have two unknowns fighting it out for the starting QB job. Projected record 7-9.

***Look to play AGAINST the Jets on October 25th when they travel to the left coast to take on da’rayduhs in Oakland, the Jets will be caught up in a major “divisional sandwich” as they will have played a MNF affair down in Miami on 10/12/09, came home to face the Bills the following week and now are taking a trip to Oakland…and THEN have a rematch with Miami on deck, it’s also nice to know that the Jets have failed to cover 3 of their last 4 games ATS at Oakland including a 13-16 loss at Oakland last year as a 3 point road favorite.

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