Before the NFL Draft, I will break down all eight divisions. Each preview will include brief team previews, On the Hot Seat, X-Factors, players to watch, Fantasy Breakout Star, and a projected order of finish.
The AFC East had a major shakeup in 2008, as the Miami Dolphins rebounded from an embarrassing 1-15 season to capture their first division title since 2000, unseating the New England Patriots after a six-year run.
New England's season seemed to be doomed after 2007 MVP Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, but career backup Matt Cassel stepped in admirably and nearly guided the Patriots to another division title, falling short due to tiebreakers.
Both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills will look to get back on track after disappointing finishes to their seasons, especially for the Jets, who are bringing in a completely new staff for 2009.
New England Patriots (11-5; Missed Postseason)
Tom Brady appeared to be headed for another MVP caliber season but that all changed when Bernard Pollard accidentally tore two ligaments in his knee, ending his 2008 campaign.
New England has also lost both offensive and defensive coordinators, as well as longtime general manager Scott Pioli, but few teams plug gaps better.
Following their first postseason miss since 2002, the Patriots will look to get back to their winning ways and claim their fourth world championship this decade.
Miami Dolphins (11-5; Division Winner)
The Dolphins came from out of nowhere to steal the division on the final day of the regular season. Returning with two-time Comeback Player of the Year Chad Pennington at quarterback, Miami will learn what it is like to be the hunted rather than the hunter.
With Chad Henne waiting in the wings behind Pennington, look for Miami to potentially go after a big receiver to add another dimension to a dynamic offense.
New York Jets (9-7; Missed Postseason)
Another season ended for tortured Jets fans, as they lost the final game of the season to dumped QB Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins which completed a late collapse after an 8-3 start.
Once again, they spent a lot of money in free agency, hitting the jackpot with linebacker Bart Scott to improve a struggling pass rush and cornerback Lito Sheppard to upgrade a poor secondary.
The Jets brass finally grew some, well, brass, and named Rex Ryan head coach getting a smart leader with some attitude.
Fans of Gang Green believe they are a franchise quarterback away from contending for a Super Bowl.
Buffalo Bills (7-9; Missed Postseason)
The Bills have not made the postseason since 1999 and this may be their year to be a dark horse in the division.
Signing Terrell Owens gives their offense a huge jolt and gives the team a spotlight they have not had since the early 1990s.
Head coach Dick Jauron, criticized for late-game strategy, was given a surprise contract extension by owner Ralph Wilson.
1. Tom Brady's knee: How will he look after over almost a year of not throwing the football?
2. T.O.'s impact: If Buffalo is not playing well or he is not being given the ball more in the offense, how will QB Trent Edwards handle him?
3. Wildcat! Get 'ya head in the game!: I know, bad High School Musical pun. What will the Wildcat offense look like in year two in the NFL and how will defenses gameplan for it?
4. Gone green: Will the Jets' new crop of free agents result in the Lombardi Trophy?
On the Hot Seat
Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum: Since being embarrassed in the 2007 season, the Jets have spent a truckload of money in free agency in hopes of winning the AFC and being a perennial Super Bowl contender.
For the second year in a row, he has been very aggressive in bringing in big names. Fans are once again expecting a big year from the Jets and will hold him responsible if they do not reach the postseason.
Bills head coach Dick Jauron: After his gaffe against the Jets in Week 16, most expected him to be fired after the end of the 2008 season, but everyone was shocked when Jauron was given an extension.
He was somewhat rewarded with the signing of WR Terrell Owens during the offseason but if he cannot get Owens to play within his system and be a positive locker room influence, Jauron could be in trouble.
Player To Watch
Tom Brady, Patriots QB
Fantasy Breakout Star
Trent Edwards, Bills QB
Order of Finish
1. Patriots—Too many weapons, too much talent; expect 13 wins minimum.
2. Jets—Great free agency; the Rex Ryan hire gives them AFC title hopes.
3. Dolphins—Offense must be more explosive in year two; defense will be on notice.
4. Bills—Buffalo on T.O. watch; Edwards must be Pro Bowl caliber in year three.
Up next: AFC North