2012 AFC East Preview: Can Tim Tebow and the Jets Dethrone the Patriots?
The AFC East features defending AFC Champion New England Patriots and three teams on the outside looking in—the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets, and the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots have won the division every year since 2003, save for 2008 when Tom Brady was injured in Week 1.
Can they be challenged this year?
Miami Dolphins (3rd in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 5-11)
Poor Miami. Peyton Manning didn’t follow in LeBron James footsteps and take his talents to South Beach, and they ended up getting worse at the receiver spot by trading Brandon Marshall for two third-round picks. That’s a good move…right?
Well, if you can’t be a good football team, why not get a little extra TV attention? Miami’s a surprisingly good choice for Hard Knocks. They added the God of Twitterverse in Chad Ochocinco. Reggie Bush is going off about how he wants to lead the league in rushing, and there’s a competition for the starting quarterback spot between Matt Moore, Ryan Tannehill and David Garrard.
I don’t know if Joe Philbin or Pete Carroll in Seattle watched the Washington Redskins last year, but having a quarterback controversy isn’t a good thing, and it’s worse when all the quarterbacks are mediocre to begin with.
New York Jets (2nd in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 8-8)
The Jets have a lot in common with Miami. They’re the last team that was on Hard Knocks, another team who wanted Peyton Manning, have a mediocre QB controversy, and won’t make the playoffs. “What? Tim Tebow doesn’t mean Super Bowl?” Unfortunately, the Jets have a ton of problems everywhere. Beyond being a team cancer, Santonio Holmes isn’t the same player he was when he was the 2008 Super Bowl MVP. They drafted Stephen Hill, a big talented receiver who could develop into a No.1, but doesn’t exactly have the best surrounding him.
A Rob Ryan defense can’t be successful if they only produce 35 sacks (17th in the league), so lots of pressure is on fellow rook Quinton Coples’ shoulders to be the pass-rush answer they Jets need. They were also 22nd in rushing and that isn’t going to get it done if you want to take pressure off your quarterback.
Thank god these guys aren’t on Hard Knocks. There is so much drama in that Jets locker room I wouldn’t be surprised if the players got “#TeamTebow” and “#TeamSanchez” trending on Twitter. Actually, that could happen anyway.
Buffalo Bills (4th in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 9-7)
Buffalo Bill fans have a little something to be excited about. I’m not projecting four straight Super Bowls like the Jim Kelley era. But they made a huge splash in free agency, nabbing Mario Williams for $100 million. With Mario and Kyle Williams, and former No.3 pick, Marcel Dareus, that’s a beast of a defensive line.
They had a great draft, too. Stephon Gilmore has the potential to develop into a legitimate No. 1 corner and perhaps, have the best man-to-man cover skills in the draft. Cordy Glenn and Zebrie Sanders are high-value tackles to help shore up the offensive line to protect their $62 million investment in Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills beat the Patriots once last season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do so again, and at the same time—slip into the AFC Wildcard picture in 2012.
New England Patriots (1st in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 12-4)
The Patriots will have a bit of a tougher schedule this season, but that’s not going to stop the hardest working and best quarterback in the game in Tom Brady. Their biggest issues last season were the defense, and the lack of a deep threat.
They address the deep threat issue by grabbing Brandon Lloyd from the Broncos, and he’s a Josh McDaniels favorite who had over 1,400 receiving yards the last time they worked together. This is the most talented receiving corps Tom Brady has had since his 2007 season. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him break his record for 50 touchdowns.
You heard me, fantasy enthusiasts.
That said, their draft didn’t totally address their needs on defense. They got Alfonzo Dennard in the 7th round, but he was their only decent secondary pick. They did beef up the linebacking and pass rushing corps with Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Does Belichick feel comfortable betting that Devin McCourty can play like the Pro Bowler he was as a rookie, not the pylon he was last year?
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