New England Patriots: Which AFC Opponent Will Threaten Pats Most in 2012?

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New England Patriots: Which AFC Opponent Will Threaten Pats Most in 2012?
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Steelers are always a threat to beat out the Pats for the conference crown.

The AFC title is the New England Patriots' to lose.

Forgive the controversial overstatement (one that's particularly egregious in a league so full of parity as the NFL), but it seems to be conventional wisdom in football circles.

They're the defending conference champs, and that alone should make them favorites. They also addressed their biggest offensive weakness (no deep threat) by signing WR Brandon Lloyd.

Most importantly, their strong offseason acquisitions should prevent the 2012 Patriots defense from giving significant snaps to tweeners like LB Rob Ninkovich and subpar performers like safety Josh Barrett. Moves like the signings of safety Steve Gregory and DE Trevor Scott, and the drafting of DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont'a Hightower should prevent the defense from asking too much of role players. 

In other words, the Pats shouldn't have to use WR Julian Edelman in their secondary next year. 

These developments make the Pats the best team in the conference. Of course, the best team in August doesn't always win in January (just ask the Philadelphia Eagles).

Let's take a look at some teams that could sneak up behind the Pats and steal the AFC title this year.

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