4. Buffalo Bills: 6-10
So they got Terrell Owens. This doesn't really mean all that much.
Owens can't single handedly take a lame Bills team and make them a contender. However a Lee Evans-Terrell Owens tandem could really help quarterback Trent Edwards.
If Marshawn Lynch could get his act together, Buffalo's defense wouldn't be half bad, but his troubles off the field seem to be out-weighing anything he's done on the field. He put together 1,036 yards with eight touchdowns in 2008, and he's capable of doing it again. Here's the catch- Lynch has to be able to play.
Head coach Dick Jauron has yet to find success in Buffalo, going 7-9 in each of his three seasons. As a matter of fact, Jauron has only had one winning season in his eight seasons as a head coach, not counting his 1-4 stint as an interim in Detroit.
Buffalo's defense ranked 14th in 2008, and I think they can be right around there again. Linebacker Paul Posluszny was named the team's Defensive MVP last year, and could be on his way to his first Pro Bowl this year.
There are quite a few returning starters on defense, giving me a feeling that Buffalo's D could have a better year than the offense.
The sixth hardest schedule in football will not make 2009 any easier for the Bills, as they'll struggle and round out the AFC East.
3. Miami Dolphins: 8-8
The Dolphins were beyond a sleeper team in 2008. After winning just one game in '07, Miami won the AFC East and shocked the NFL.
This year Miami will have the toughest schedule in the NFL which should be partially accountable for the Dolphins being just average in 2009.
Who knows if Chad Pennington will stay healthy, but if he does, the Dolphins should be in good shape. Pennington has always been a quarterback who has a high passer rating and isn't really known to throw lots of interceptions.
Ronnie Brown's health is pretty important as well. Miami's running game can really take off due to an offensive line that is only getting better. If Brown is healthy all season, he can probably improve on his 900 yards and 10 touchdowns from last season.
Jason Taylor returns on defense to finish out his career as a Dolphin. It's always good to see players return to where they spent the majority of their careers, but I don't see Taylor averaging anywhere near his standard 10 sacks or more a year that he used to get in Miami. But he can still be an impact player for the Dolphins.
Playing opposite Taylor is Joey Porter. I have a feeling these two linebackers are going to be a handful for some offenses.
The bottom line is that Bill Parcells has been a very positive addition to the Dolphins franchise, and Tony Sparano is just getting his feet wet. I expect great things from Miami in the future, but 2009 might be a bit of a step backwards.
2. New York Jets: 9-7
Eric Mangini is out, and the defensive minded Rex Ryan is in. This is good for the Jets franchise, and I see them winning some games this year.
Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez might not have the easiest transition into the NFL, playing Houston, New England, Tennessee, and New Orleans to start the year. But I think Sanchez is going to have some success.
The Jets have one of the better offensive lines in football, with Alan Faneca, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and one of the best young centers in the game in Nick Mangold.
Last year that same offensive line helped Thomas Jones to one of his more successful years. Behind Jones is Leon Washington, who could also have a big year, giving the Jets a double threat running game.
Consistent with the rest of the AFC East, the Jets have a pretty tough schedule, ranking seventh in the NFL.
I like the Jets' linebackers this year, with Bart Scott and and David Harris (if he doesn't get traded for Brandon Marshall). Also at the linebacker position is Vernon Gholston, who I could really see fitting into Rex Ryan's defense.
New York could have been a 10 or 11 win team last year, and they're probably still capable of this now. But Rex Ryan's entrance could change a few things for the Jets. Give it time and you should be seeing this team at better than 9-7.
1. New England Patriots: 12-4
Let's just say this now and then get on to the rest of the Patriots' analysis: Tom Brady is back, he's the man, and now that he's healthy, New England should be one of the best teams in the NFL.
The Patriots have the best coach in Bill Belichick, and even with Brady out for the whole season last year, he coached the Pats to 11 wins with Matt Cassell at QB. Belichick is the football Jesus with cut-off sleeves on his sweatshirt.
I see no real flaws with the defense or the offense in New England. They recently made a move for the future by dealing Richard Seymour to Oakland for a 2011 first round pick. He'll be missed, but a tough New England defense should be able to bounce back.
New England's offense ranked fifth in the league last season with Cassell at the helm- a quarterback I find overrated. With Brady healthy, I see this offense being quite a bit better.
No need to go much further in depth here- The Pats are the real deal.
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