New England Patriots in a Three Horse AFC East Race

Joe GillCorrespondent IIApril 14, 2010

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Head coach Bill Belichick (C) and defensive backs coach Josh Boyer (R) of the New England Patriots talk with Leigh Bodden #23 against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It looks like the Patriots will be in a dog fight this year in the AFC East, the division that New England has dominated over the last decade.  The Pats have captured the AFC Crown seven of the last 10 seasons, but a changing of the guard is looming on the horizon.

The Patriots are looking more like the least than the beast of the AFC East.

The New York Jets are getting better every day it seems. The team that went to the AFC Championship last year on the shoulders of rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez is loading up their arsenal.

On the offensive side of the ball they acquired disgruntled Cleveland Browns wideout, Braylon Edwards last season. A talent for sure, but has consistency issues and a chronic case of the drops. However, he showed sparks of what he is capable of when he is focused. In 12 games with New York, Edwards caught 35 catches for 541 yards with 4 TDs.

This offseason the Jets have been very busy signing former San Diego and fantasy football stud LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson replaces the productive Thomas Jones, who was unsigned before landing with the Kansas City Chiefs. A puzzling signing, considering Jones was more productive than LT. Jones had 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in comparison to Tomlinson’s 730 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Jets also traded for Santonio Holmes, who was being unloaded by Pittsburgh due to behavior issues. The former Super Bowl MVP will help the Jets' passing game after serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance policy. Holmes had 79 catches and 1,248 yards for the Steelers.

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New York also bolstered their secondary with the acquisition of Antonio Cromartie from the Chargers. He will compliment Darrelle Revis nicely. All of a sudden, the Jets have the best secondary in the division.

The Miami Dolphins also made a big splash this offseason by acquiring troubled wide receiver, Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos. It is rumored that the Phins gave up a second rounder this year and a second round pick next year as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter . Not a bad price for an incredible talent and Pro Bowl wide receiver.

They also improved their defense with the signing of former Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby recorded 109 tackles last year for Arizona. This has been a major upgrade on a decent defensive squad.

Miami and the Jets have got considerably better and the Buffalo Bills are the Buffalo Bills.

What about New England?

The Patriots no longer have the best wide receiving corps in the division.

Actually, far from it.

With the injury to Wes Welker and the disastrous signing of Joey Galloway last year, New England has been put in a major hole. All they have is Randy Moss, Julian Edelman, and newly-signed David Patten.  Arguably, this crew may be only better than Buffalo.

They also lost both Ben Watson and Chris Baker in the passing game. Granted, Ben Watson was an underachiever and Baker was seldom used, but is Alge Crumpler the answer at the tight end position?

Staple third down running back Kevin Faulk was re-signed.  He is a great signing for a veteran that has performed above and beyond his talent level. He also brings back the veteran leadership the Patriots desperately need.

Nose tackle Vince Wilfork was also taken care of finally. The centerpiece to the Patriots defensive line will be in New England for the foreseeable future. Sack leader, Tully Banta Cain was also re-signed. The defense is not worse than the 2009 edition, but as of right now they are not much better.

All Patriots fans must assume that coaching mastermind, Bill Belichick has everything under control. He will pick impact players in the draft to help the team return to the promised land. However, his work is cut out for him.

The margin for error for New England is very small at this time. They have to hit for the jackpot later this month in New York. As of right now, the AFC East is now a three horse race.

And the Patriots are closer to the glue factory than being a thoroughbred.

In Bill We Trust (fingers crossed).

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