Once heralded as the most powerful division in the YFFL, the AFC West hasn't had a Super Bowl champion in 5 years. The Thugs and Eaters came close last year, the Buddies are healthy and reloaded, and the Merry Men boast the #1 overall pick in Matthew Stafford. Who will outlast the others to be crowned division champs in 2009? Read on to find out.
It seemed so innocuous. After a great preseason, it looked like Kurt Warner (yes, THAT Kurt Warner) was going to beat out Matt Leinart for the Cardinals starting QB job. With an early 3rd round pick, the Thugs took a flyer on the aged quarterback. Coupled with a breakout season from embattled RB DeAngelo Williams, that draft pick vaulted the Thugs from doormats to AFC Champions in 2008. 2009 will again hinge on the arm of Warner and legs of Williams. Loaded with talent around them in the form of Ryan Grant, Dwayne Bowe, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Tony Gonzalez, the Thugs are poised to get back to the Super Bowl. After not breaking the 100 point barrier in 6 years, can Warner do it again? Was 2008 a fluke for Williams? Only time will tell. Right now, the Thugs are the favorites in the AFC West.
Projected Record: 9-4
Not a lot went right for the Burger Buddies a year ago. A year removed from a record-setting season, Randy Moss was limited to 70 points after losing Tom Brady during Week 1. Matt Hasselbeck was plagued by injuries and posted only 30 points. Roy Williams was traded to Dallas and languished behind T.O. in a muddled Cowboys offense. However, hope springs eternal in 2009 and the Buddies are ready for a major bounce-back season. Moss and Brady are reunited, Hasselbeck may be in the best shape of his career and has weapons all over the field, and Williams has become the top WR option for the 'Boys. Coupled with #1 draft pick Beanie Wells and emerging RB Kevin Smith, the Buddies will challenge not just for the wild card, but also the division crown.
Projected Record: 8-5
If not for a 12 point performance from David Akers, it could have very easily been the Apple Eaters representing the AFC in the Super Bowl a year ago, a fact that might surprise some people. The 2009 Eaters come with a lot of IF's. IF Tony Romo thrives without the presence of T.O., and IF Brian Westbrook stays healthy, and IF the talent of Reggie Bush can finally match up with his on-field performance, and IF Vincent Jackson emerges, and IF Torry Holt is invigorated by a new team, and IF John Carlson takes a leap forward, the Eaters could easily be right there again in 2009. However, that's a lot of IF's. Despite a solid draft, the Eaters fall back a game and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Projected Record: 6-7
As Bob Sansone Sr. said this weekend, "I'm good, but I have a problem. I have Pierre Thomas on two of my fantasy teams." Thomas may be a microcosm of the Merry Men's roster in 2009 - a player with a bunch of potential stuck in a bad situation. You have to look no further than the QB position for evidence. Tarvaris Jackson took the Vikings to the playoffs last year, but now the Brett Favre saga has derailed his progression. Brady Quinn could be the face of the Browns franchise, but he's still battling Derek Anderson for playing time. Vince Young has all the physical tools to be a great NFL player but none of the mental toughness. Even #1 pick Matthew Stafford is taking over a team that didn't win a single game last season. The list continues with Ray Rice, Thomas, Vernon Davis and Sidney Rice. The Merry Men will be better this year, but not by much.
Projected Record: 4-9
Tony Romo, Eaters
Romo took a serious step back last season, scoring 68 fewer points than his breakout season in 2007. However, his 150 points was still good for 3rd among quarterbacks and he did it after missing 3 games. With the T.O. circus out of town, Romo can focus on throwing to his favorite target, Jason Witten, and benefiting from a power running game. If he can approach his 2007 numbers, he may even single-handedly get the Eaters back to the playoffs.
Tony Gonzalez, Thugs
How can you be underrated when you were the top scorer and also the all-time scoring leader at your position? When the Thugs acquired Gonzalez for Heath Miller and a 1st round pick last season, many were wondering why owner Bobby Sansone was giving away so much for a player so old. Gonzalez proved everyone wrong by topping the TE leaderboards again and is on track for another solid year serving as Matt Ryan's new safety valve in Atlanta.
Vernon Davis, Merry Men
Davis has all the tools to be a menace in the red-zone, but three seasons have resulted in just 5 TDs. After fighting with his head coach and showing a propensity for the "dropsies", this could be his last chance. Steve was talking up the tight end position throughout the draft and ended up taking two of them, but both with the Mallards. He may be wishing he had a second option for the Merry Men this season.
Kevin Smith, Buddies
Garnering nothing but raves coming out of camp, Smith is poised to be yet another of Mike's mid-round home runs. With Larry Johnson's star fading at startling speed, the Buddies could use a new back to hitch their wagon to. Thanks to his ball-catching and blocking ability, it will be tough to get Smith off the field for the Lions this season.
|K||Robbie Gould||Merry Men|
|UT||Pierre Thomas||Merry Men|