AFC East 2009: Much Stronger Than Previous Years

Sean MartinContributor IMay 11, 2009

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 07:  Will Allen #25 of the Miami Dolphins looks for the reception against Lee Evans #83 of the Buffalo Bills on December 7, 2008 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Dolphins won 16-3. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Before the 08'-09' season, the AFC was the most predictable division in the league, with the Patriots winning every year and the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins fighting for nothing more than a position in the divisional standing.

Last year, however, a few weird things happened, changing the league for the season.

First, and most importantly, Tom Brady was taken out early in the first game of the season with a year-ending knee injury. And just like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, they were not a machine! The Patriots struggled to keep up with the rest of the division, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Second, Brett Favre came out of retirement to join the New York Jets. This acted as a booster shot for a team that struggled the previous year, and almost propelled them to win the division. However, a skid at the end of the season dashed that hope, and ended Eric Mangini's tenure.

The Dolphins, managed by Bill Parcells made some key offseason acquisitions, including importing Chad Pennington from the Jets, and took an old trick from college football playbooks—the Wildcat formation—and used it to keep opponents on their toes the whole season. The Fins ended up going from worst to first in the course of one season, giving them a playoff spot for the first time since 2001.

The Bills were the only team that made no big offseason moves last year. However, they started the season better than the rest of the division, with a 5-1 record near the half-way point of the season.

All of a sudden, the AFC East was relevant again.

The race was heated right 'til the last week of the season, when the Dolphins secured the top spot in the division. They were the only team from the East to make the postseason.

Despite the late-season shortcomings of these rivals, the East's contenders left much to anticipate for this coming season.

The four-way battle, however, seems to have been whittled down to three already, as Jets fans began to cast their doubts about their young team this season. 

The Bills made some great off season moves thus far, making the biggest splash by signing Terrell Owens for a year. The Patriots look to revitalize their image with the return of Tom Brady, and the Dolphins are hoping to continue their success from last season.

Once again, it can be predicted that like last season, AFC east teams can expect a heated battle until the end of the season.

Predictions, you say?

If you insist, I will provide.

I do not see the Dolphins repeating last season, because the element of surprise with the Wildcat formation is lost. Teams know what to expect this season in preparation for any trick that may show up on the field.

As for Brady, most quarterbacks usually take time before they can return to form after a devastating knee injury like he experienced—if they ever truly do return. So I believe he will flinch at every low tackle that comes his way, leading to more mistakes.

The Bills honestly have to be the top pick in this division, because not only do they have Terrell Owens on the field for them, but they also have beefed up the line on both sides of the ball. If Trent Edwards gets more time to throw the ball, between Owens and Evans, someone will come up with the ball.

Regardless to if I am correct or not, this will turn out to be an interesting year for the AFC East.