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Randy Cross on D&C: Jets are team to beat in East, Steelers are AFC favorite

08.10.11 at 9:07 am ET
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CBS football analyst Randy Cross joined the Dennis & Callahan show with Dale Arnold and Rob Bradford filling in Wednesday morning to discuss the Patriots and their recent acquisitions as well as the upcoming season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Cross was asked what he thinks of the AFC East heading into the first preseason game for the Patriots Thursday night. With the Jets winning last season’s playoff game vs. the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, he said the Jets are the team to beat in the AFC East ‘€” adding it may not be a bad thing for the Patriots.

“If I were going to handicap the AFC East right now, I think you have to start with the Jets in the 1 spot,” Cross said. “That is based only on what happened in this stadium last January and the way they played against the Patriots and the sort of a bad match at times they can be for this team, which makes them right now going in kind of the team to beat in the AFC East, which is a perfect position for the Patriots to be in, especially coming off of a 14-2 season.”

Asked for an early Super Bowl prediction, Cross went with the Steelers vs. the Packers in a rematch of last season’s title game. “I’m going to go with the Pittsburgh Steelers ’til proven otherwise,” he said of the defending AFC champions. “They’re doing nothing but getting better. They’re a tough, physical defense, and that’s always been the key.”

The Patriots currently have 20 players who play on the defensive line. Cross said this is unusual for the Patriots as they are usually a team that has extra linebackers on their roster. He notes that it could have an impact on special teams as well.

“It does present a compelling difference philosophically as far as how do you stock a roster when it comes to cutting the last 53 guys,” he said. “This has been a team defensively that has always highlighted the linebackers, and it seems to be a shift of of way and a year linebackers won’t be at the premium that they have been in the past. Down linemen will take up an extra roster spot or two. That also kind of raises an interesting story from a special teams standpoint. You’re light a few bodies on the special teams side that maybe play linebacker.”

The Patriots traded for troubled defensive end Albert Haynesworth last month. Cross said that if he does not put forth a solid effort, he will be let go.

“If he is the guy that people have seen most recently and doesn’t follow directions and talking back, he just won’t be here very long,” Cross said. “If you think you haven’t seen him much on the practice field, if he puts up much of a problem for this organization … he will be down the road trying to make his way with ‘€” well, I would have to say that about 30 other teams, because he sure isn’t going back to Washington.”

The Patriots also traded for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. Cross said he will only add to an offensive that averaged the most points per game last season.

“Lets just say Chad is not here and you’re going into camp and you have the young receivers, you have Deion [Branch], you’ve got [Wes] Welker, and you have the two excellent young tight ends,” Cross said. “You’ve got what amounts to six running backs for four slots with the two young guys now. It’s still offensively the potential to be the same team you were last year with a few tweaks up front on the offensive line. What [Ochochinco] is going to do is possibly add something as far as after the catch and down the field with literally the vertical side of it. He’s got the experience, he knows the defense. Can he build that chemistry with Tom [Brady]? Can he quietly get along? That still very much remains to be seen.”

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Randy Cross, Tom Brady
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