The best quarterback in the division, and maybe in the NFL, returns. Last year’s Cinderella looks to compete for a championship. Meanwhile, two other franchises eye a return to the playoffs. This is the 2009 AFC East where each team will beat up on one another. Who will be left standing at the end?
New England Patriots (12-4). The addition of Greg Lewis makes this team an instant Super Bowl favorite. OK, seriously, Tom Brady returns, and Fred Taylor joins him, which will help make the offense one that causes defensive coordinators to sweat at night. The Patriots just missed the playoffs last year despite Matt Cassel playing well in Brady’s place. With Brady back and chucking the ball downfield to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and G-Lew, the Patriots will rise to the top of the AFC East once again. Also, Bill Belichik’s defense will again be among the league’s best as the Patriots fight for another Super Bowl championship.
Miami Dolphins (10-6). The Dolphins rose from the outhouse to the penthouse last season behind Tony Sporano and the Wildcat offense. Ronnie Brown ran wild with Ricky Williams. Chad Pennington stabilized the quarterback position. The defense was solid and adds Jason Taylor back to the unit this year. The Dolphins will be efficient this year, but finish a game short of a return to the playoffs. Adding a legitimate down field quarterback is the difference between a solid Bill Parcells-led team, and a Super Bowl challenger.
New York Jets (8-8). Rex Ryan takes over the Jets and hopes to bring the Baltimore Ravens blueprint for success to the Big Apple. The difference is, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are not the running backs the Ravens have and they will not be able to control the clock. Also, the receiving crops depth was depleted with the loss of Laveranues Coles. The defense will improve with the addition of Bart Scott and Ryan’s version of his father’s 46 defense. However, Lito Sheppard has yet to show the shutdown ability at corner that made him an All-Pro in Philly. Finally, rookie Mark Sanchez will be the team’s starting quarterback. Without a ball-controlled offense, Sanchez will not be this year’s Joe Flacco. The team takes a step back record-wise this year, but builds for a bright future.
Buffalo Bills (8-8). Marshawn Lynch is suspended the first three games of the year, and while Fred Jackson is a nice back-up, the running game will suffer. The team added The Player some guy named Owens, which will help Trent Edwards and the passing game. The defense is still suspect, however, and an 8-8 season in this division is a best-case scenario. Dick Jauron better get his resume updated.