For the Buffalo Bills, the AFC East Looms Large

Garrett HirschmanContributor IMay 13, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Kris Jenkins #77 of the New York Jets gets up after sacking Trent Edwards #5 of the Buffalo Bills  on November 2, 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. New York won 26-17.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

The Buffalo Bills have done their best to upgrade the roster for the upcoming season. 

They added some flash in Terrell Owens and Aaron Maybin, and some grit in Geoff Hangartner and Eric Wood.  All of those additions do not change the fact that the Bills are in one of the toughest divisions in football.

The AFC East was strong last year and has the potential to be even stronger this year.  Tom Brady is back, and the Jets and Dolphins have done little, if anything, to diminish their teams from last year.

The Bills are well aware of how good their Eastern rivals are.  The Bills went an astonishing 0-6 last season against their division.  This feat was even more remarkable considering that in 2007 the team was 4-2 in the AFC East, while posting the same 7-9 record that last year's team had.

New England PatriotsNew England's biggest addition is the return of QB Tom Brady from a knee injury.  Brady will return with many of the same weapons that propelled him to record-breaking numbers and an MVP award in 2007.  The Patriots bolstered their secondary in the offseason with the signing of CB Shawn Springs and the drafting of SS Patrick Chung and CB Darius Butler.  New England will be a Super Bowl contender in 2009 and will take the East with a 12-4 record.

Buffalo Bills—The Bills have shifted their roster around significantly from a year ago, but much of the shifting is a result of the draft.  So many young players being expected to step in and contribute could be disastrous, but Trent Edwards will cover a multitude of sins and get this team into playoff contention.  Edwards is a year wiser and will have more weapons at his disposal.  Look for Josh Reed to have a big year as the Bills go 9-7.

Miami Dolphins—Last year's division winner will have no place to hide in 2009.  Chad Pennington and Joey Porter will find it hard to duplicate their success from 2008. Pennington will not have the motivation he had last year, and Porter is not getting any younger.  The Dolphins will split with the Bills and Jets, while getting swept by the Patriots.  Miami will finish a disappointing 8-8 and third in the East.

New York Jets—The Jets are a hard team to pinpoint.  Rex Ryan will put a stingy defense on the field, but there are still some questions on offense.  The Jets' running back depth should make things easier on either Kellen Clemens or Mark Sanchez, but will the starting QB be able to make enough plays to get the Jets to the postseason?  It is not likely, which will lead to an ugly 8-8 record. 

Buffalo could have its work cut out.  The Patriots are guaranteed to be strong.  The Dolphins could be a good team, but will most likely fade from last year's success.  The Jets are the wild card; they get the title of "boom or bust".  They have talent, but will the QB play hinder the Jets? It is hard to say, but history is not in favor of inexperienced QBs. 

The Bills will have a hard time getting into the playoffs without winning the division.  What seems likely is that the East will produce a division winner and the mad scramble for a Wild Card will result in the other three teams taking each other out of contention, which is what happened last season.

The AFC East will be the biggest obstacle to the Bills' postseason aspirations.  Without going at least 3-3 in the division, the Bills will not make the playoffs.  Trent Edwards is going to be key.  The rest of the team will not matter much if Edwards does not play well and most importantly, consistently.