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Fearless Rick's NFL Preview - AFC East

Rick Gagliano | July 27, 2012

AFC East

New England Patriots

2011 record: 13-3

Predicted finish: 12-4

Head Coach: Bill Belichick

Departed: QB Mike Hartline, WR Anthony Gonzalez, OL Matt Light, WR Tiquan Underwood, WR Chad Ochocinco, DL Markell Carter, TE Nick Melillo, OL Jon Opperud, TE Bo Scaife and OL Mike Ingersoll

Incoming: RB Brandon Bolden, DL Marcus Forston, DL Justin Francis, TE Brad Herman, WR Matt Roark, OL Jeremiah Warren, OL Markus Zusevics, LB Bobby Carpenter, DB Tavon Wilson, DE Chandler Jones, OL Jon Opperud, WR Jeremy Ebert, WR Brandon Lloyd, TE Jake Ballard, LB Dont'a Hightower, OL Darrion Weems

Strengths: Tom Brady. Breezy, easy schedule. The AFC East gets the NFC West this season, meaning at least three wins for the Patriots, plus, they play the 'Niners at Foxboro.

Weaknesses: Overall defense. The Patriots ranked 17th against the run and a dismal 31st against teams passing the ball, but, as usual, the stats are skewed because New England usually had big leads in many of their games. Still, the D-line and secondary are not what they were three or four years ago. Still, opponents face the daunting task of outscoring the Brady bunch every game.

Key Games: Sun, Sep 23 at Baltimore; Sun Sep 30 at Buffalo; Sun, Oct 21 vs. NY Jets; Thu, Nov 22 at NY Jets; Mon, Dec 10 vs Houston; Sun, Dec 16 vs. San Francisco

What if?: Belichick doesn't get the defensive players to jell into a cohesive unit?

Not to worry. Belichick is a master craftsman at filling perceived and often unperceived gaps in the defense and last season's performance down the stretch and in the playoffs proved that he gets the most out of his players, again.

New York Jets

2011 record: 8-8

Predicted finish: 10-6

Head Coach: Rex Ryan

Departed: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, QB Drew Stanton, G Trevor Canfield, DL Ropati Pitoitua, WR Logan Payne, OL Kris O'Dowd, LB Donovan Robinson, OT Ray Willis, QB G.J. Kinne, LB Matthias Berning

Incoming: QB Tim Tebow, WR Chaz Schilens, WR Stephen Hill, K Josh Brown, S Yeremiah Bell, WR Raymond Webber, T Jeff Otah, OT Stephon Heyer, OT Ray Willis, FB Fui Vakapuna

Strengths: Defense. One of the best in the league against the pass and will be improved against the run - 13t last year. Schedule. Like New England, the Jets play NFC west foes and get the 49ers in New York.

Weaknesses: Offense. Ranked 21st in passing yardage and 22nd in rushing, though the addition of wideouts Chaz Schilens and Stephen Hill should provide positive benefits. Shonn Green will have to pick it up in the backfield now that LaDainian Tomlinson has retired.

Key Games: Sun, Sep 16 at Pittsburgh; Sun, Sep 30 vs. San Francisco; Sun, Oct 21 at New England; Sun, Dec 23 vs San Diego

What if?: The Jets integrate Tim Tebow into the offense, especially in the wildcat scheme?

Changing things up with Tebow could be a huge lift for the Jets, who struggled at times last season sustaining drives. Like him or loathe him, Tebow has a unique character and a willingness to do whatever it takes to win. The Jets should return to the playoffs in 2012.

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Buffalo Bills

2011 record: 6-10

Predicted finish: 8-8

Head Coach: Chan Gailey

Departed: WR Roscoe Parrish, DE Lionel Dotson, CB Drayton Florence, OL Paul Madsen, LB Garrick Williams, FB Dorin Dickerson, OT James Carmon, S Nick Saenz

Incoming: QB Vince Young; WR David Clowney, WR T.J. Graham, LB Robert Eddins, LB Scott McKillop, DB Prince Miller, DE Jay Ross, G Jake Vermiglio and G Keith Williams, S Bryan Scott, LB Kirk Morrison, OT Cordy Glenn, WR Derek Session, DB Isaiah Green

Strengths: New faces on defense. The Bills, after finishing 19th in pass dafense and 28th against the run, made wholesale changes on defense which should prove worthwhile, though they need to get new players up and running in a hurry to avoid a poor start to the 2012 campaign. Running game. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson comprise one of the best 1-2 tandems in the league.

Weaknesses: Run defense. Allowing 139 yards per game is a recipe for a losing season. The Bills hope that their free agent and rookie signings pan out.

Key Games: Sun, Sep 9 at NY Jets; Sun, Sep 30 vs. New England; Sun, Oct 7 at San Francisco, Sun, Nov 11 at New England; Sun, Dec 30 vs. NY Jets

What if?: Ryan Fitzpatrick fizzles or sizzles?

The quarterback position is one area the Bills are confident. No matter what Fitzpatrick does - and he was solid last season - they signed Vince Young to back him up or take over as the starter. Young has the talent. He just needs to keep his head on straight.

The Bills have an outside shot at the playoffs this season.

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Miami Dolphins

2011 record: 6-10

Predicted finish: 6-10

Head Coach: Joe Philbin

Departed: QB Chad Henne, WR Brandon Marshall, RB Richard Medlin, DE Phillip Merling, S Yeremiah Bell

Incoming: QB David Garrard, QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Lamar Miller, WR Legedu Naanee, WR Chad Johnson (Ochocinco), TE Michael Egnew, DT Chas Alecxih, C Terence Brown, LB Cameron Collins, G Derek Dennis, WR Jeff Fuller, RB Jonas Gray, DB Trenton Hughes, LB Shelly Lyons, S Kelcie McCray

Strengths: Run defense. Ranked 3rd in the league last season.

Weaknesses: Quarterback. David Garrard or Matt Moore over Chad Henne? What were they thinking? Secondary. 249 yards allowed pr game, ranked 25th in the NFL. Changes needed, and quickly. Coaching staff. Joe Philbin is raw. The Dolphins might have done better with Regis Philbin.

Key Games: Sun, Sp 9 at Houston, Sun, Sep 23 vs. NY Jets; Sun, Oct 28 at NY Jets

What if?: The Dolphins offense doesn't click?

There are no dumb questions, but this one is close. Miami has assembled one of the worst collections of veterans on offense ever seen in South Florida. There's a very good chance the Dolphins will institute a brand new offense called the run-and-hide or operate out of the wildcat 90% of the time.

Copyright 2012, 2013, 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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