New England 12-4 (2nd seed: AFC championship game)
Buffalo 10-6 (6th seed; second round)
NY Jets 8-8
The New England Patriots are the story of the AFC East pretty much every year, but this season I’m predicting the Buffalo Bills to be a fairly big story in their own right, making the playoffs for the first time in ages and even advancing a round.
Add in the turmoil-ridden New York Jets and even a Dolphins team that will be interesting to watch with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, and you have a division that should provide plenty of intrigue in 2012.
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The New England Patriots had a flat-out GREAT offense in 2011, and it got better in the offseason. I think the addition of Joseph Addai is a terrific move, and just watch the numbers Brandon Lloyd puts up now that he has Tom Brady throwing to him. The Patriots, already borderline unstoppable in 2011, will be even better in 2012. Of course, New England didn’t really need to improve the offense, but absolutely had to give its terrible defense a major face lift. The D-line will continue to be anchored by Vince Wilfork, who’s one of the best in the game, and the linebackers are above average. The New England secondary got torched repeatedly in 2011 and may not be all that much better in 2012, so expect New England to win games by either blowing opposing teams doors off early or winning high scoring “horse race” type games by scoring just once more than the other guys.
The Buffalo Bills were an up and coming team in 2011, until injuries decimated their offensive line and killed their offense. That exposed a defense that wasn’t really all that good anyway, and the Bills season went in the tank. With a health line coming back, the Bills offense should be good like it was in the first half of 2011.
As for the defense, perhaps no team made a bigger splash than the Bills this offseason on that side of the ball, signing superstar end Mario Williams and solid pass rusher Mark Anderson. The Bills also used a first round pick on highly touted corner Stephon Gillmore, and if the moves pan out, the Bills will not only have an improved defense in 2012, they will have a pretty damn good unit to run out there.
I expect Buffalo to be one of the stories of the league all year in 2012, to the delight of long suffering fans up north.
Everyone has spent the offseason speculating about Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.
But honestly, does it matter who plays? Neither of them has anyone to throw to, and the Jets running game with Shonn Greene really wasn’t that good in 2011. That might improve if Tebow winds up playing, the way Denver saw a sudden uptake for Willis McGahee.
Honestly, however, the Jets have one of the weakest collection of skill players I’ve ever seen.
Good thing, then, that the Jets still have a pretty good defense, although it is not the unit it was back when Rex Ryan first took over as head coach.
The Jets struggle to pressure the quarterback, and despite having arguably the best cornerbacks in football, the secondary overall has some question marks at the safety position.
The bottom line here is that the Jets defense isn’t good enough to make up for their pedestrian offense – far from it – and I don’t expect New York to be a contender this season.
Two quarterbacks, no offense. The Jets’ Tebow & Sanchez
I’m not sure how I have the Dolphins winning even six games this year. If I had to bet, I’d take the under on that in a heartbeat. I don’t think Ryan Tannehill is going to be any good at all, and the Dolphins drafted him way too high. It won’t help that Brandon Marshall is gone, and Reggie Bush may wind up being Tannehill’s favorite target.
A receiver-less offense with a bad rookie QB that is built mostly around the running back? Sounds like Jacksonville circa 2011, and Bush, while very good, is not Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Miami offense was pretty bad last year and it’s hard to see how it won’t be worse in 2012. The Dolphins has some talent on the defensive side of the ball, but again, offseason departures have left them worse off for the coming season, not better.
And the Dolphins’ defense certainly won’t be good enough to offset an offense that is certain to struggle. Expect Miami to be bottom-five in the NFL for most of the season.
Games to Watch:
Week 1 – Buffalo @NY Jets: When you’re traditionally a losing team looking to emerge, it’s always crucial to start strong AND to beat a divisional opponent that has been better than you in past years. Week 1 offers that formula for the Bills, who could easily start 3-0 IF they can win this road game.
Week 3 – New England @Baltimore: Marquis games in the NFL are hard to come by, and there won’t be many on the 2012 schedule as good as this one. Two legitimate Super Bowl contenders go at it. Sit back and enjoy.
Week 9 – Miami @Indianapolis: I don’t expect this to happen, but how funny would it be if Tannehill lights it up in this game while Luck sucks. Ha ha ha.
Week 12 New England @NY Jets: This has become one of those rivalries, like Redskins-Cowboys, where it doesn’t even matter if both teams are in the playoff hunt. Both squads will treat this like a big game, and the players and coaches truly, honestly, LOATHE one another. Football at its best!