NFL AFC East Preview: Who'll Be the Toast of the East Coast in 2011-12?
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers will square off in Dallas this upcoming Super Bowl Sunday. But there are 30 other teams that are already getting ready for the following season.
The AFC East was home to two of the NFL's top teams. The New England Patriots finished the season with the league's best record, and the New York Jets were within one game of the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season.
You can never begin preparing for the next season too soon, so here's a preview for what's in store for the AFC East next season.
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The Buffalo Bills weren't very good in 2010. The Bills finished last in the AFC East with a 4-12 record. On a brighter note, the Bills went 4-4 in their last eight games after beginning the year 0-8.
Offensively, the Bills have some young talent that they can build on. Ryan Fitzpatrick (Chris Berman voice, "from," Tom Jackson voice, "Harvard") looked like a legitimate NFL quarterback when he was out on the field. He finished the season with 3,000 yards, 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Fred Jackson had a solid season (927 yards), and C.J. Spiller should get more action next year. In the passing game Buffalo found that it had a big-time receiver in Stevie Johnson. The Bills were 24th in passing and 18th on the ground.
The Bills bolstered one of the league's top pass defenses. Buffalo was third in the NFL, only allowing 192 yards through the air per game. On the flip side of that, the Bills ranked last in stopping the run.
Paul Posluszny was one of the few bright spots for the Bills last year, and he should be getting a new deal in the near future. Other than Posluszny, the Bills don't have any big names that they are looking to retain.
The Bills have a handful of picks early in the draft, and they will rely on those picks to try to improve their team.
Sorry Buffalo—your Bills will still be at the bottom of the AFC East in 2011.
Prediction: 5-11, last in the AFC East
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2010 was a disappointment for the Miami Dolphins. Miami came into the season with playoff expectations but would finish the season at 7-9.
The Dolphins have a lot of questions to answer on the offensive side of the ball before they begin the 2011 season.
The team thought it had its quarterback of the future in Chad Henne, but he doesn't appear to be the answer. Henne finished the year with 3,301 yards, 15 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He was even benched for Chad Pennington late in the year.
Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are also free agents, and it has yet to be determined if Miami will re-sign either of its backs. Brown had the least productive year of his career, rushing for 734 yards with five touchdowns on only 3.7 yards per carry, so Miami may be parting ways with him. Ricky Williams has been a solid No. 2 and has stated that he would like to finish his career in Miami.
The Dolphins were 16th in passing offense and 21st in rushing.
Miami had one of the NFL's top defenses in 2010. The Dolphins ranked eighth in passing defense and seventh against the run. Miami's core defensive players will be back for the 2011 season, and the Dolphins defense should continue to build on the success its had this past season.
Prediction: 8-8, third in the AFC East
New York Jets
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HBO specials, trash talking, excessive celebration, sideline trippings, arrests and foot fetishes: The New York Jets were the most entertaining team of 2011.
For the second straight season Rex Ryan had the Jets within one game of playing in the Super Bowl.
Darrelle Revis said, “More than likely, it’s not going to be the same team,” following the Jets loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.
Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie and Shaun Ellis all played major roles in the Jets' success this past season, and they are all unrestricted free agents. The Jets would love to bring them all back, but we'll see if the money is there when the time comes.
Offensively the Jets were fourth in rushing and 22nd in passing. Mark Sanchez established himself as a big-time quarterback this postseason, throwing for five touchdowns and just one interception.
Once again Ryan's defense was one of the league's top attacks. The Jets were sixth against the pass and third against the run.
The Jets may not be able to bring everyone back that they'd like too, but they'll still be a force to reckon with.
Prediction: 10-6, second in the AFC East
New England Patriots
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. That's all you need to know. It doesn't matter what names are on the backs of the jerseys—the Pats will contend as long as they have their current head coach and quarterback.
The Patriots had the NFL's best record, going 14-2. Brady torched the league, throwing for 3,900 yards, 36 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
Little-known BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead both stood out for the NFL's ninth best ground attack. The Patriots receiving corps is solid with Wes Welker and Deion Branch, but they could still use a home run threat at wideout.
The Patriots' left side of the offensive line will be on the free agent market. Left guard Logan Mankins and left tackle Matt Light are both unrestricted free agents. Mankins is the top guard available, and the Patriots should do their best to retain him. Light, on the other hand, has been in the league 10 years, and New England won't be looking to sign him to anything long-term.
Like every other season, the Patriots will be a top contender to play for the Super Bowl.
Prediction: 12-4, first in the AFC East