Can the Bills Tackle the AFC East and Return to Glory?

Eric HomaCorrespondent IMay 19, 2009

The Miami Dolphins shocked the football world when they won the AFC East in 2008.  The Dolphins return to prominence came after a 2007 year where they won only one game.

The Matt Cassel led New England Patriots finished with a very respectable 11-5 record, but fell short of the playoffs due to the upstart Dolphins.

Brett Favre re-energized a Jets franchise that was looking for more production from the quarterback.  Favre threw as many interceptions as touchdowns and wasn't able to lead the Jets to the playoffs.

After a blistering 5-1 start the Buffalo Bills only managed to win two more games the rest of the way to extend their streak of futility.

The 2009 version of the AFC East should be even more competitive with the addition of Terrell Owens and the return of Tom Brady.

This year's battle for the AFC East title should be arguably the best in football.


Miami Dolphins (11-5)

Miami pulled off one of the biggest turnarounds in history in 2008.  They improved by ten wins in only one year.  

Led by the always efficient Chad Pennington, the Dolphins used a variety of ways to come out on top.

The most notable difference in the 2008 Dolphins was solid quarterback play.  Chad Pennington was brought over from the division rival Jets and was able to bring some consistency to the Miami offense.  

Pennington has always been known as a quarterback that will manage the game and not turn the ball over.

In 2008, he finished second in the NFL with a quarterback rating of 97.4.  Pennington threw for 12 more touchdown than interceptions and racked up over 3,500 passing yards.

Miami also gets credit for starting a league wide phenomenon called the Wildcat. 

The formation that saw Ronnie Brown under center and Chad Pennington lined up as a wide receiver was deadly for Dolphins' opponents in 2008.

Brown rushed for 10 touchdowns and threw for one more.  Teams never knew what to expect from the Miami version of the Wildcat.

The Dolphins strengthened their Wildcat attack in this year's draft by picking former West Virginia quarterback Pat White in the second round.

White should be a perfect fit for the Wildcat.  He has the ability to throw the ball as well as the athleticism to create plays with his feet.

The Dolphins welcome back one of their all-time greats in Jason Taylor.  After a year with the Redskins, Taylor returns to Miami to try and boost an already strong pass rush.

Miami wasn't able to bring in an impact receiver to put opposite the speedy Ted Ginn, but they hope that third round pick Patrick Turner and fourth round pick Brian Hartline can develop quickly and provide some steady production.

They did a nice job addressing some defensive backfield issues by taking Illinios corner Vontae Davis in the first round of the draft.  With their second pick in the second round, they selected the 6'4" corner Sean Smith from Utah. 

Smith should help with defending against the height that the Buffalo Bills will be able to put on the field in the red zone.

Expect more of the same from the Dolphins in 2009.  Chad Pennington will manage games and the wildcat will give teams fits with newly added Pat White.

Jason Taylor's return should also be a good moral boost for Miami as a whole.

Miami should have another successful season under Tony Sparano.


New England Patriots (11-5)

When Tom Brady suffered a severe knee injury in the opening week of the 2008 season, fans of the other three teams in the AFC East saw an opportunity.  Little did they know it would be the Dolphins that took advantage.

Patriots fans saw the face of their franchise, and possibly the NFL, go down in a heap after his leg was hit against the Chiefs.

Anyone that says they had any idea that Matt Cassel would make people forget about Brady's injury is blowing smoke.  Cassel played like a veteran, throwing for 21 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards.

An aging corps of linebackers welcomed some youth in the form of Jerod Mayo.  Mayo was a surprise selection at the top of the draft a year ago, but he proved his worth.  Mayo recorded 128 tackles as a rookie, and recovered one fumble. The Patriots will be looking for more impact plays this year from Mayo.

The Patriots were able to upgrade the secondary through the draft, picking Oregon safety Patrick Chung and Connecticut corner Darius Butler in the second round. 

Teams in the AFC East seem to be preparing to defend the pass in 2009.

Tom Brady's return will be a welcome one.  Brady has proved himself to be a hall of fame type of quarterback.  His offense returns with a couple of new weapons at his disposal.

The Patriots signed Joey Galloway from the Bucs, and drafted North Carolina receiver Brandon Tate in the third round of the draft.  Tate probably would have gone higher if not for some injury and character concerns.

They team with Randy Moss and Wes Welker to form a dynamic set of wide outs that will punish the AFC East all year.

The Patriots will finish with no less than 10 wins in Tom Brady's return, but if the injury lingers there will be no Matt Cassel to fall back on.


New York Jets (9-7)

Expectations were high for the Jets in 2008 after the team traded for hall of fame worthy quarterback Brett Favre.  Favre led the Jets to a disappointing 9-7 record and threw 22 interceptions.

Favre has decided to retire for the second time which prompted the Jets to pull off the biggest move in this year's draft.

The Jets traded up to the fifth pick to select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.  Sanchez will compete to start from day one. 

The Jets had high hopes for former second round pick Kellen Clemens, but Clemens was unimpressive in his opportunity to take over as starting quarterback two years ago.

Sanchez inherits a receiving corps that lost a key pass catcher in Lavernanues Coles.  Coles' departure leaves a hole in the starting spot that the Jets hope can be filled by third-year pro Chansi Stuckey.

With Thomas Jones and Leon Washington both unhappy with their contract situations, New York drafted Iowa running back Shonn Greene in the third round of the draft.  This gives the Jets one of the premier backfields in the league.

On the defensive side of the ball, new head coach Rex Ryan added some new playmakers. 

Bart Scott comes over from Baltimore to become what the jets hope is their version of Ray Lewis.  They also added safety Jim Leonhard who broke out last year in Baltimore's 3-4 defense.

Kris Jenkins provided a huge boost for the Jets in both the run game and pass rush. 

If the Jets can get consistency from the quarterback, they should be in the mix for the playoffs.  The Jets could resemble some of the Ravens teams from the past.  Solid defense, teamed with an offense that doesn't make many mistakes, could be the formula for success in New York.


Buffalo Bills (7-9)

Buffalo comes into 2009 with hopes of building off a promising start last season.  The Bills hope they can get out of the gates quickly and keep it going all season.

The Bills had a solid off-season, adding the play-making receiver they needed opposite Lee Evans in Terrell Owens.  Owens will help the Bills' offense immensely, not only in the passing game, but in freeing up the running game.

In the draft, the Bills addressed their offensive line issues by picking up two possible starters in guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre.  The Bills wanted to bring in players with a mean streak to try and control the outstanding nose tackles all of their division rivals employ for their 3-4 defensive fronts. 

An anemic pass rush gets a boost from former Penn State standout Aaron Maybin.  Maybin's speed off the edge should help the Bills put pressure on the efficient quarterbacks in the AFC East.

The secondary will have a new playmaker in former Oregon corner Jairus Byrd.  Byrd was brought in to play free safety in the Bills cover 2 defense with hopes that he can  create turnovers in the NFL at the pace he did in college.  Byrd teamed with second year pro Leodis McKelvin could be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

Trent Edwards enters his second season as the full time starter with a strong cast of weapons around him. Edwards was off to a hot start last season before a concussion put him on the sidelines for a few games.

Terrell Owens adds to a group of receivers that includes speedsters Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish, as well as possession receiver Josh Reed.

Dominic Rhodes was brought in to give the Bills a three headed running back attack that rivals any in the NFL.  Starting running back Marshawn Lynch is set to serve a three game suspension for off-the-field troubles, but backup Fred Jackson is more than capable of stepping in for Lynch.

Expectations seem to be creeping higher with each passing day this off-season.  If Edwards can stay healthy, look for the Bills to win no less than nine games this season as they try to bring past glory back to Buffalo.


AFC East Overall View

The AFC East could be the toughest division in football if all of the teams live up to their lofty expectations. 

Winning this division will require no less than eleven wins.  The team that stays away from the injury bug could end up being the big winner. 

Miami returns with the same product that won them the division last season.

New England brings back one of the best quarterbacks of all time with some new weapons to attack the East.

The Jets will roll out a dominating defense with hopes that a quarterback will step up and take the starting job.

Buffalo brings a revamped receiving corps along with a young offensive line that has them thinking about running the no huddle to bombard teams through the air.

With Terrell Owens bringing his reputation, and Tom Brady making his return, the AFC East will be a must watch division in 2009.










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