2011 AFC East Preview

Eddie LockhartContributor IIJune 18, 2011

2011 AFC East Preview

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots and Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets walk off the field after the Jets defeated the Patriots 28 to 21 their 2011 AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2011 i
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Featuring one of the premiere rivalries in the league today, 2011 should be an exciting and competitive race for the AFC East crown. 

    The long-time powerhouse Patriots will look to defend their crown against the brash Jets, a more competitive Bills team, and rebuilding Dolphins squad.  

    How will it all turn out? Read on to find out...

Miami Dolphins

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    MIAMI - DECEMBER 26: Fans calling for the removal of Quarterback Chad Henne #7 as the Miami Dolphins play against the Detroit Lions at Sun Life Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Lions defeated the Dolphins 34-27. (Photo by Marc Serota/Ge
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins won the AFC East in 2008, but that is in the distant past. The mystique of the wildcat is gone and Chad Henne, the preseason break out darling of many prognosticators in 2010, proved he is not an NFL quarterback. 

    Assuming Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams return, they will have a tough running game, but defenses will be able to key on and shut them down. Brandon Marshall is always a threat, but without a legitimate passer, he will have a minimal impact over the course of the season. 

    Defensively, their best player is Cameron Wake. Wake is a pass-rushing freak who can take over a game and will be enough to get them a win or two. 

    Tony Sparano will be out the door at least by seasons end, and the Dolphins will have to start over again to try to get to the top of the division. 

    Prediction: 4-12

Buffalo Bills

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 26:  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills readies to pass against the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The Bills are no longer the laughing stock of the division as they proved with competitive games against the Patriots, Steelers and Jets, but they are not the class of the division either. 

    It does not seem that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the type of quarterback that will take them to the next level, though he can keep them in games. With talented wide outs in Lee Evans and Stevie Johnson, the offense will make plays.

    Their ultimate success, though, will come down to the progression of CJ Spiller. If he can make strides and improve alongside Fred Jackson, they could prove to be too much to handle for many defenses. 

    On defense, the Bills need Paul Posluszny to stay healthy. He has been a tackle machine when he has been able to play, and he's the heart and soul of their defense. 

    The Bills have turned themselves into a team that can compete week in and week out, but they are still not a good team.

    Prediction: 6-10

New York Jets

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Head coach Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets talk on the field during warm ups against the Indianapolis Colts during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapo
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The loudest team in the NFL will take a step back next season and narrowly miss the playoffs. 

    They have as much talent as any team, but they have a quarterback who has already reached his potential and is simply overmatched. He has good games, for sure, but he can be easily stymied. 

    There are going to be more and more games like the ones he played against the Packers, Dolphins, and Patriots coming from Sanchez.

    The defense is as good as any, however. With Darelle Revis, Bart Scott and the return of Jim Leonhard, they will be tough to score against.

    Unfortunately, their offense will have a tough time scoring and they will lose several close, low scoring games. 

    Rex Ryan is not leaving New York anytime soon, but after 2011, people may start to think that Sanchez should.

    Prediction: 9-7

New England Patriots

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with head coach Bill Belichick before playing against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  The Patriots won the g
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Perhaps no team in the NFL suffered a more disappointing end to 2010 than the Patriots falling to the division rival Jets at home as the top-seeded AFC team. 

    The Patriots will look to bounce back this season behind the trusty arm of Tom Brady. The offense will continue to churn out points utilizing his precision passing and the talents of receivers like Wes Welker and Deion Branch and their young, stellar tight ends. 

    Defensively, they should see great improvement as their young players will have another year of experience under their belts. Also, the return of both Leigh Bodden and Ty Warren from preseason injuries last year will add instant, veteran help. 

    Look for Patrick Chung to emerge as a star on the defense, finally getting the credit he deserves as the team's top safety.

    For the ever-contending Patriots, 2011 should be another good year with a postseason that will likely go more according to Bill Belichick's plans.

    Prediction: 12-4