AFC East Preview: Patriots To Sneak By Jets To Win Division

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This is the second of an eight-part series that breaks down every division in the NFL before the kickoff of the 2011 season on Sept. 8.

Today we preview the AFC East.

Next: AFC South.

Buffalo Bills (4-12 last season)

They haven’t made the playoffs since 1999. And they won’t again this year. Though the defense looks better with additions like ex-Packer Nick Barnett, the Bills are a mediocre squad. They improved tremendously during the second half of last season, finishing 4-4 after starting out 0-8. But they lack game changers on both sides of the ball to really compete in a division with the Jets, Pats and Dolphins.

Prediction: 5-11, 4th place.

Miami Dolphins (7-9 last season).

Offensive line, check. Running game, check. The Fins are sewing up problems at camp. However, there remains one whole: Is quarterback Chad Henne the answer? Henne threw for 3,301 yards in 2010, but tossed 19 interceptions and had only 15 TDs. Those aren’t the numbers head coach Tony Soprano wants, particularly since knowing his young D (ranked No. 6 last year) has the potential to be great.

Prediction: 8-8, 3rd place.

New York Jets (11-5 last season).

Two consecutive losses in the AFC Championship Game haven’t wrecked their plan to win an NFL title. Top free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha chose the Philadelphia Eagles over them, so they brought back cornerback Antonio Cromartie then added 6-foot-5 receiver Plaxico Burress. The Jets have the talent to win the AFC East as well as the Super Bowl this season. But that was the case in 2010, too.

Prediction: 13-3, 2nd place.

New England Patriots (14-2 last season).

If new acquisitions Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth work out like Randy Moss and Cory Dillion did for the Pats, the division and the rest of league could be in trouble. No. 12 is still arguably the best quarterback on the planet, and this club, which had 14 wins last season, looks even better in 2011. Undefeated? If it weren’t for tough road games in Pittsburgh and Philly, these guys could run the table.

Prediction: 14-2, 1st place.

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