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AFC East Looking Up at Pats....Again

Robert LekhwaniContributor IMay 26, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 7:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots passes the ball up the middle during their NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs on September 7, 2008 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Chiefs 17-10. (Photo by Elsa Garrison/Getty Images)

Before the NY Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills take a single snap this season, they are already facing an uphill climb in the AFC East. This is all made possible by one man—Tom Brady. The future Hall of Famer's return from a season-ending knee injury last September immediately catapults the New England Patriots into the role of division favorite.

While Matt Cassel was terrific in relief of Brady, the reunion of Bill Belichick's masterful coaching and the NFL's most prolific quarterback in Brady threatens to leave the Pats' divisional foes at a huge disadvantage.

In Buffalo, Trent Edwards may have the top receiving tandem with Lee Evans and Terrell Owens. Chad Pennington and the Dolphins hope to build on their "wildcat" success a year ago and new Jets' head man Rex Ryan will rely on his defense to help insulate rookie QB Mark Sanchez. Promising, yes, but not in the same stratosphere of one Mr. Brady.

The Patriots are by no means a perfect team. An aging linebacking core, revamped secondary, and depth issues on the offensive line bear watching. Still, this team went 11-5 without their best player.

Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Indy's Peyton Manning should have plenty to say about who represents the AFC in the Super Bowl next February, but with Brady back at the helm in New England, the rest of the AFC East may have no choice but to think about a wild card berth at best.     

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