There may be better teams. There certainly are teams with better quarterbacks, which may prove to be their downfall. But with Darrelle Revis back in the fold on the NFL's best defense and with coach Rex Ryan flapping his gums, there will be no team more fun to watch in 2010 than the New York Jets.
You probably either love or hate Ryan - there's very little middle ground - but you have to admit he's a breath of fresh air in a clich-driven profession. And you should love the team he has put together in a short period of time. With the late Sunday announcement that Revis, one of the league's true lockdown cornerbacks, ended his month-long holdout and received the type of contract he deserved, the Jets might find themselves over the top in a tough division that includes New England and Miami.
The questions revolve around second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez, who had ups and downs as a rookie but did enough to steer New York to a surprise playoff ride that extended all the way to the AFC championship game.
The Jets did their part to help him out by locking up premier center Nick Mangold to a long-term deal, adding receivers Santonio Holmes this year and Braylon Edwards last year, and giving him a sure-handed target out of the backfield in LaDainian Tomlinson, the five-time Pro Bowl selection with San Diego. L.T. will be more of a role player on passing downs with Shonn Greene handling the heavy lifting on the ground.
But this is still a defense-first team with Revis and Antonio Cromartie at the corners, Kris Jenkins anchoring the line, and David Harris the very best of a solid linebacking corps.
The Jets, despite a rough early schedule while Holmes serves a suspension, won't surprise anybody by making the playoffs this season.
Closer to home, the Ohio franchises figure to again finish at opposite ends of the AFC North spectrum. Cincinnati, where Carson Palmer has more targets than ever and is backed by a strong running attack, will be at or near the top with Cleveland at the bottom.
There is renewed optimism on the lakefront with a competent administration headed by Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert running the Browns. But Rome wasn't built in a day, or in a season for that matter, and no team comes to mind that has faced more quarterbacking issues over the past decade.
Will newcomer Jake Delhomme change that? He had a very solid preseason and seems to have established a rapport with a receiving corps that could be better than average. Meanwhile, John Clayton, the fine pro football writer for espn.com, recently ranked the league's QBs and had Delhomme at No. 33. There are only 32 teams.
The Browns should be better - coach Eric Mangini had better hope so - but a defense that finished 31st in yards allowed a year ago is already dinged up. And defense is king in the AFC North.
Cleveland had best grab a 2-0 start in games against Tampa Bay and Kansas City because when divisional play starts the wins could be few and far between.
AFC North: Should have three winning teams for the second straight year. 1. Cincinnati, 11-5; 2. Baltimore, 10-6; 3. Pittsburgh, 9-7; 4. Cleveland, 5-11.
AFC East: Dandy division; and Dolphins may be close to a great run. 1. NY Jets, 11-5; 2. Miami, 10-6; 3. New England, 9-7; 4. Buffalo, 2-14.
AFC South: Titans' Jeff Fisher is NFL's best coach without a ring. 1. Indianapolis, 12-4; 2. Tennessee, 11-5; 3. Houston, 7-9; 4. Jacksonville, 5-11.
AFC West: Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel together again with Chiefs. 1. San Diego, 13-3; 2. Denver, 8-8; 3. Oakland, 7-9; 4. Kansas City, 4-12.
AFC Wild-Card Round:
Tennessee d. Cincinnati; Baltimore d. NY Jets.
AFC Divisional Round: Indianapolis d. Baltimore; Tennessee
d. San Diego.
AFC Championship: Indianapolis d. Tennessee.
Super Bowl: Green Bay d.
Contact Blade sports columnist
Dave Hackenberg at:
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