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Fearless Rick's NFL Preview - AFC East

Rick Gagliano | July 22, 2013

AFC East

New England Patriots

2012 Record: 12-4

2013 Expected Finish: 12-4

Even though Tom Brady is getting older, he's probably getting better, which makes the Patriots the odds-on pick to win the AFC East yet again. New England had a potent offensive attack last season, ranking 4th overall in passing yards (291.4 per game) and seventh in rushing yards. The threat of Brady uncorkng a bomb at any time and the unpredictability of New England's offense opens up holes for running backs, especially Steven Ridley, who scampered for 1263 yards last season.

Defensively, the Patriots should be even better than they were last season, when they were dismal against opponent passing, ranked 29th, allowing 271.4 passing yards per game. With Vince Wolfork returning to plug the middle, teams would be ill-advised to run against the stout front presented by the Pats, a concept that probably skewed the passing yardage against New england somewhat in 2012.

Brady and coach Belichick are itching for another Super Bowl appearance, having missed out on that opportunity last season and having been beaten by the Giants in the 2012 SB. There are plenty of new faces in training camp, but that's nothing new for the Patriots and their head coach, a master at fitting together the right pieces in the right places to produce a winner.

New England will have a great opportunity or a good start in the division, playing the Bills and Jets the first two weeks. As usual, they'll be in the running for the best record in the conference, but their new, main rival appears to be the champion Ravens.

Buffalo Bills

2012 Record: 6-10

2013 Expected Finish: 9-7

Buffalo made wholesale changes in the off-season, from top to bottom, sheddding their GM, head coach and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who fizzled once he was signed to a multi-year, over-indulgent contract.

Fitzpatrick simply was not of the caliber to lead the Bills back to the playoffs, so they opted to draft E.J. Manuel out of Florida State, in hopes that he will emulate the playing style of Robert Griffin III and lead the Bills back to post-season glory.

One mainstay - and a good move two seasons back - is running back C.J. Spiller, who rushed for a team-high 1244 yards in his second season. Look for Spiller to become more versatile out of the backfield, possibly catching middle screens or dump-offs from Manuel, or helping out in what should be more of an option offense this season.

A big question mark for Buffalo is the defense, which was 10th against passing last year, but a dismal 31st in yardage allowed on the ground. The Bills will try their hand at a more flexible front, which may help contain the run, but otherwise, there's plenty of talent in both offensive and defensive backfields to produce a winning record and maybe a wild card.

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Miami Dolphins

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Expected Finish: 8-8

2012 was an up-and-down season for the Miami Dolphins, and this season figures to be more of the same. The team did well in a rebuilding campaign to finish nearly at .500, and could possibly challenge for a wild card spot this year if Ryan Tannehill continues to make progress at QB in his second full season.

Miami didn't turn any heads statistically, finishing with some awful rankings - 26th in passing yards, 17th in rushing yards, and 27th and 13th in passing and rushing yards allowed, respectively. A light schedule may have played a part in the Dolphins turning poor stats into a near-winning season, but this year's 17pweeks will be tougher.

If Reggie Bush produces as he did in 2012 (986 rushing yards) and Brian Hartline comes back after a breakout season on the receiving end, the Dolphins could win some games they're expected to lose, especially on the road, where they are sneaky good. The defense, however, still needs a major overhaul on the line and in the secondary. One could easily chalk up a pair of losses to the Patriots and Bills in the division looking ahead, and losing four of six division games does not generally equate to post-season play.

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New York Jets

2012 Record: 6-10

2013 Expected Finish: 6-10

A playoff team two years ago, the Jets fell apart in numerous ways last season, but most of their issues had to do with head coach Rex Ryan's insistence that QB Mark Sanchez was an NFL-caliber thrower and heady playmaker, which, as it turned out, he is neither.

Ryan had multiple opportunities to turn the ball over to Tim Tebow, who the Jets picked up from Denver between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, but Ryan chose to use the talented backfield player as more of a gimmick than give him an actual shot at running the offense.

With the Jets turning the ball over with more frequency than NYC Mayor Bloomberg issues ridiculous decrees, the defense suffered badly, being on the field too long, too often to be effective, especially against the run, yielding 133.6 yards per game, good for a 26th ranking in the league.

What opportunity the Jets had seems to have been squandered. After 2011, they had the makings of a potential dynasty, but the disaster of 2012, between injuries, poor draft picks and a stubborn head coach, nixed any hope. They could be even worse than they were last season, which means Ryan may not return in 2014, or may not even make it through the regular season.

Copyright 2013, 2014, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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