Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Brief Preview: The AFC East in 2013

There's no denying that the AFC East has been dominated by the New England Patriots for quite a few decades now. With injuries, trades and off-the-field issues shaking up the Pats, could the division finally be up for grabs again? Here’s a quick look at each team, listed in order of predicted finish.

Miami Dolphins

QB Ryan Tannehill
Biased? Perhaps slightly. But the Dolphins appear to be poised for a breakthrough season that could end in their third division crown in 20 years. The Fins showed signs of future contention in 2012 with an injection of talented, youthful players. Top that by bolstering their lineup with some key pickups in free agency and via the draft.

Most notably, WR Mike Wallace was the marquee free agent pickup that was coupled with acquisitions like LB Danell Ellerbe, LB Phillip Wheeler and WR Brandon Gibson. Offensively, Miami seems ready to take the next step behind QB Ryan Tannehill. Defensively, they'll look to apply pressure to opposing QBs and force more turnovers. They still need to prove themselves on the field but the Fins are in a good position to contend for that division title.

New England Patriots

TE Rob Gronkowski
We can expect the division race to go down to the wire with the Patriots clear playoff contenders. Tom Brady might be aging, but he's still Tom Brady. The team also has a formidable running game with Stevan Ridley coming off a breakout year. And let's not forget about fantasy football stud TE Rob Gronkowski and his likely return in the second half of the season.

Add to that an underrated defense that ranked 8th overall last season. Simply put, you cant count out the Patriots as long as Bill Belichick is calling the shots and Brady is running the plays. Nevertheless, this could be the most vulnerable New England's grasp of the division has been in some time.

Buffalo Bills

QB EJ Manuel
Buffalo has been in a state of instability and lacking direction for the past decade or so. No one is predicting that EJ Manuel will step in right away and turn around this team. In fact, many are predicting that he won’t even start on Week 1 as Kevin Kolb appears to be the front-runner. Not to mention, Mario Williams still has to play up to his hefty contract with the Bills.

The team will be improved, and they do have a solid running game, but they won’t have enough to compete with Miami and New England. Essentially, there are more questions than answers for this team to succeed.

New York Jets

QB Mark Sanchez
With a quarterback controversy, a depleted receiving corps and a lack of star power on defense, the Jets are brewing a recipe for disaster. Darrelle Revis, New York's undisputed defensive superstar, is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Their only certainty on defense is now a void that will take time to fill.

All signs point to the Jets entering a rebuilding phase with their franchise. They have some nice pieces, and possibly a future QB in Geno Smith, but that won’t mean much in 2013. With a lackluster season looming, Head Coach Rex Ryan could be seeing his final days with Gang Green.

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