AFC East Predictions
New England Patriots (11-5)
The Patriots have a very tough schedule in 2010, facing playoff teams eight times. Their young players will have a steep learning curve if they are to have an impact during the first six weeks of the season. New tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez should help turn around the Patriots poor performance in the red-zone last year. Devin McCourty and Brandon Spikes should make immediate impacts, while Jermaine Cunningham could become an option at OLB during the season. While there may be some growing pains initially due to injuries and youth, look for a battle-tested team to be ready for a deep playoff-run by January.
New York Jets (9-7)
This isn’t just typical Patriots hate for the Jets placing them second in the division. They were a 7-9 team last year that were given two wins at the end of the season by two teams (Cinci and Indy) that had already clinched their respective division titles. They had a great run in the playoffs though, and added lots of intriguing players to the mix for 2010, including Kyle Wilson and Vlad Ducasse through the draft. One of the problems for the Jets is that Rex Ryan doesn’t have a Ph. D in chemistry. With all of the egos (Ladanian, Cromartie, Holmes, Edwards…) on the Jets team, it will be a balanced equation to keep everyone happy. The Jets’ depth is also quite questionable. On paper they might have the best 22-man team in the NFL, but it takes 53 guys to win a championship. Mark Sanchez will have to be a better QB than 31st in the league if he is going to complement the #1 defense and #1 rushing attack in the league.
Miami Dolphins (8-8)
Head coach Tony Sparano is counting on an additional year of experience for Chad Henne, along with a dynamic receiver in Brandon Marshall to turn around a 7-win season from 2009. Their flirtation with the “Wildcat” might be coming to an end if that duo can get things going. On defense, the Dolphins added three young defenders that will be expected to contribute right away. Jared Odrick and Koa Misi will get after the opposing quarterback, while NEPD favorite AJ Edds will need to use his coverage skills to neutralize some potent AFC East offenses. The Dolphins have certainly improved, but they may be one year away from really threatening the Jets and Patriots for division dominance.
Buffalo Bills (3-13)
The Bills don’t do many things well. Their pass defense is pretty decent, but other than that they ranked in the bottom half of the league. The best part of their offense, the RB position, is what they chose to address in the off-season, adding CJ Spiller. Meanwhile, they have no quarterback, a poor offensive line, and a receiving corps that borders on destitute. The bright side? The Bills should have a chance to rectify those problems with a very high pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.