Some NFL teams are easy to size-up and analyze. The New England Patriots, for example, are a safe bet to win the AFC East. After all, they’ve done that in 13 of the last 14 seasons.
Not every team, however, is as predictable. Need an example? The Raiders. Need two examples? The Raiders and Dolphins, who last year made the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and 2008, respectively.
We’ll start with Oakland, as Derek Carr returns from a broken leg and Marshawn Lynch returns from, well, retirement. How good can this duo be this year, especially now that Lynch is 31?
“You look at the way Beast Mode has always destroyed defenses, and it’s been pretty much with Russell Wilson,” Super Bowl champion and NFL analyst Heath Evans said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Obviously in 2011, when Beast Mode was created, Russell Wilson wasn’t there, so I’m not saying it’s always been that way. But for the last couple of years, it’s been these zone, quarterback-read, cut-back runs that he’s kind of crushed people with. Well, Derek Carr is a very different quarterback, so I’m excited to see how they use his skill set and how he blends in with that big, nasty offensive line without a backside of a defense always being soft because they’re scared of Russell Wilson running.”
Miami, meanwhile, is seeking back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2000-01. Unfortunately, the Dolphins will have to do so without Ryan Tannehill, who tore his ACL this offseason. Enter Jay Cutler, who, like Lynch, is back in the NFL after a brief retirement.
“The Miami Dolphins are intriguing,” Evans said. “I was very excited about them with a healthy Ryan Tannehill. I believe Jay is going to give us high highs and low lows, which is no super analysis.”
Cutler has 146 interceptions in 139 career games. No active quarterback has thrown more interceptions since 2006, when Cutler entered the league as a first-round pick out of Vanderbilt.
In other words, Cutler could put the Miami defense in tough spots. Miami, by the way, ranked 29th in yards allowed (382.6) and 18th in scoring defense (23.8) last season.
“I’m interested to see that defense,” Evans said. “The defense is going to need to be better than what it was last year.”