The New England Patriots (No. 2)
The Patriots earned a favorable preseason ranking, garnering the second overall spot and two out of 12 first place votes. Interestingly, they were placed ahead of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. However, this is reasonable considering how much stronger the Patriots were in the 2011 regular season.
The argument could easily be made that the Baltimore Ravens—ranked No. 5—should be given the top AFC spot. The Patriots have had some offseason issues and went 1-3 in the preseason so far. However, Patriots fans should have faith that the issues will be worked out, at least on the offensive side of the ball.
The New York Jets (No. 17)
The Jets were the obvious choice as the next highest ranking team in the AFC East, coming in second place in 2011 and narrowly missing the playoffs in Week 17. However, the AP poll does not rank the Jets as a sure thing to make the playoffs.
Which team will exceed expectations in 2012?
So far in the preseason the Jets are 0-3. Their first two games were ugly losses. Their third game was a turnaround game, with the starters playing well and new right tackle Austin Howard making an impression.
The Buffalo Bills (No. 19)
The AP voters apparently believe that the Bills will contend for the second place spot and the wild card, ranking them only slightly behind the Jets at No. 19. The Bills also rank behind another potential wild card contender in the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Bills have not yet shown encouraging signs in the preseason. After scoring no touchdowns against the Washington Redskins, they lost 36-14 to the Minnesota Vikings and 38-7 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Nevertheless, the Bills have added to their defensive line this offseason and have not lost any key players. They should be a better team than they were last year. This ranking might be slightly on the high side, but not by much.
Miami Dolphins (No. 27)
It is hard to be overrated at No. 27, but after four weeks of preseason play and four ugly losses, that might be just what the Dolphins were. However, losing games has not been their biggest problem so far.
The loss of No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall has recently been compounded with the loss of veteran cornerback Vontae Davis and the injury of star left tackle Jake Long. The Minnesota Vikings could make a strong argument for being the better team, especially if running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Jared Allen can stay healthy.
Furthermore, the Indianapolis Colts—with the potential Offensive Rookie of the Year in quarterback Andrew Luck—do not belong in last place and could easily be a more productive team than the Dolphins.
So far the 2012 offseason has been a long series of bad news for Dolphins fans. Hopefully rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill can exceed expectations out of the gate and give Miami fans something to watch.
Given what we have seen so far, even at No. 27 the Dolphins are a little bit overrated.