NFL Division Preview: AFC East
Note: This is the first of nine NFL previews, with each division being spotlighted, followed by playoff predicitons.
Every team in this division has some pretty burning questions heading into the season, but one thing is for sure - this is New England's division.
The Patriots have won the AFC East six of the last seven seasons, and the year they didn't (2002) was because they lost a tiebreaker to the Jets (both teams finished 9-7).
There is no doubt that the Patriots have one of the most explosive offenses the NFL has seen in a long time. There is also no reason to believe that their record-setting offense will slow down.
Their defense, however, is a big unknown. The Pats let Asante Samuel, who had 16 regular season interceptions the past two seasons plus a handful of playoff takeways, go to Philadelphia. Randall Gay and Eugene Wilson are also gone. Their linebackers are aging, and who knows if Jerod Mayo can step up in time to help the team immediately.
2. Buffalo Bills (2007: 7-9)
Losman or Edwards aside, the Bills should make a run at the playoffs. If their two one-point losses came out as wins last year, the Bills would have finished a respectable 9-7.
Look out for Marshawn Lynch this year. If Edwards can establish the pass early in a game, this could leave defenses vulnerable to Lynch, who rushed for 1,115 yards last season as a rookie. Don't expect the Bills to excel at anything, but they should be solid at just about everything, which could spell out success in January.
3. New York Jets (2007: 4-12)
The Jets have overpaid a lot of players this offseason in an attempt to address huge problems they had in 2007. For example, Alan Faneca was signed to a five-year, $40 million deal to help improve one of the league's worst offensive lines. If Faneca makes $8 million this year, he will make more than NFL MVP Tom Brady.
The Jets failed to find an effective QB in either Chad Pennington or Kellen Clemens. While Pennington is more talented, he showed a supreme lack of ability in making smart decisions last season. It is possible that Erik Ainge, a fifth-round pick by the Jets, is the future of the team.
Many moves made by the Jets were designed to help them become a contender this year, but I just don't see it happening, unless Clemens or Pennington can mature into a solid QB. If the team wins six games or less, look for Eric Mangini to lose his job.
4. Miami Dolphins (2007: 1-15)
Don't think that having Bill Parcells "buy the groceries" means Tony Sparano will know the right way to "cook". Their three QBs - John Beck, Josh McCown, and Chad Henne - have never proved themselves on the NFL stage. The Miami defense is suspect at best.
The only bright spot for this organization could be the potential running combo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. But if they fail to stay healthy, games will be decided by the defense and whoever is under center.
It also remains unknown if Ted Ginn can handle being the go-to receiver in Miami. While he did this very well at Ohio State, he was playing on one of the best offensive units in college football. Look for Miami to win a few games, but they are still a couple seasons away from returning to success.
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