Who will the Drama swallow up? (2013 AFC East Preview)

afc_east

The AFC East has had one ruling body in the past decade as the New England Patriots have been the dominant team in the East. The division is going through changes this year though as the team that was always perfect has joined the dysfunction of the AFC East. The East is a strange place in the AFC as it is full of teams that can seem to figure it out while the controversy continues to surround the entire division. It is a division that seems to always be in the news with formerly great teams continuing to falter and drama continuing to unfold. The news comes out of this division as every team has been a part of some headlines although mostly bad. The Miami Dolphins have gone from a franchise with the only undefeated record in NFL history to being a joke in the league. They have consistently underperformed and have made plenty of changes to try and change their fate with no luck. The Buffalo Bills have gone from appearing in the Super Bowl for four years in a row to finishing near the bottom of the league every year. They have continued to look for a QB to replace Jim Kelly and have yet to find one that can help them win. The New York Jets are the epitome of drama with QB controversy and a loud coach that keeps them as a constant source for debate. The Jets used to be a franchise that others looked up to but now are clearly a mess from the top to the bottom. The Patriots had stayed out of it as the lone bright spot in the division but this year that all changed with the floodgates opening. With the injury to Rob Gronkowski thanks to a clubbing incident and the arrest of their other star tight end Aaron Hernandez for murder the Patriots are in on the controversy game. The East will still be the place to see headlines this year but someone needs to win and whoever that is will overcome a lot to achieve that.

 

Buffalo Bills

buffalo_bills

The Buffalo Bills were once a team that dominated the AFC winning four straight AFC titles in the 1990s but that era is long gone. Jim Kelly would help the Bills to these four straight Super Bowl appearances but since then there has been nobody good enough to bring the Bills even close to where they once were. 2012 was not a great year for the Bills though as they would finish with a 6-10 record ending up last in the division. The finish would force the hand of ownership as changes had to be made if they hoped to make the playoffs in 2013. The first move for the Bills would be to fire head coach Chan Gailey and bring in Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone. The Bills were not done there though as they would sign Kevin Kolb in the offseason to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick who would not be resigned for 2013. The Bills would continue to add talent though as they would surprisingly pass on Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib and instead add Florida State QB EJ Manuel to the mix. Kolb and Manuel have fought through the preseason to earn the starting job but injuries to both QBs have put the plan in risk for opening week leaving Jeff Tuel as the defacto starter for the time being. If Kolb cannot lead the team to wins this year Manuel will likely take over and try to use his athletic ability to make plays. The debate will rage on throughout the year about the QB no matter who ends up starting more games but around them will not be a lot of help. The running game is always strong with CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson but the receiving corps still needs work. Led by Stevie Johnson the Bills receivers are a young group as they will rely on mainly rookies to help them win. The defence will be under new coordinator Mike Pettine this year who will bring his experience running a 3-4 defence to Buffalo. The defence will all look to Mario Williams who needs to bring up his game and lead this defence with no other big standout stars. The Bills are a changed team this year and are looking to take that change and translate it to winning. That doesn’t happen easily though as this much change may see the Bills remain out of the playoffs for another year.

 

Strengths:
Rushing Offence
– Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller are a bright spot for this team as they provide a great one-two punch in the backfield for the Bills and with a QB situation that might not be solved too quickly the running game may be their saviour this year

Weakness:
Inexperience
– With the departure of some of the most experienced players the Bills are going in to the 2013 season with a very young team and one with a lack of experience that could mean a struggle to get anything going this year

Biggest Addition:
EJ Manuel, QB (Draft)
– The Florida State product is the man that many think could be the future replacement for Jim Kelly but there is a lot work to do for Manuel and he needs some time to work out but the talent and natural ability is there if he is allowed to develop

Biggest Loss:
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB (Free Agent, Ten)
– The drafting of Manuel was good but Fitzpatrick was a good solid veteran QB that could have been good to help develop Manuel and the person you know may be better than the person you don’t

Miami Dolphins

miami_dolphins

The Miami Dolphins are a long way from their undefeated season in 1972 undefeated season as they have made the playoffs once in the last 11 years. Last year they did it once again as they would finish in 2nd place but miss the playoffs. The Dolphins have been cursed like many teams with the shadow of a great QB as they have yet to find a decent replacement for Dan Marino. The team may be on their way to doing it though as Ryan Tannehill impressed last season with the Dolphins but must step it up if he wants to be the heir apparent to the best QB in franchise history. The performance of Tannehill has caused a bit of a stir in Miami as his impressive first year under centre has made a lot of people wonder what could be next for the team. With a number of additions in the offseason the Dolphins are thinking the same way as they have loaded up this year trying to finally get back to the postseason. On offence the Dolphins will go with Ryan Tannehill once again under centre but they have tried to give him more weapons to work with. The addition of Mike Wallace will give Tannehill a deep threat to go along with Brian Hartline in the passing game. The running game will suffer without Reggie Bush but he never really took over the rushing offence anyway. The offence has made some key additions but when you really look at it the team has lost more than they gained. Without Reggie Bush, Anthony Fasano, and Jake Long the offence is worse off and will not be the potent power that many believe they will be. On defence the Dolphins show their biggest strength with a group that seems much like the no name defence from the 1970s. Led by Cameron Wake the defensive line is the strength of this group. At linebacker the Dolphins will miss Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett and in the secondary Brent Grimes will force the defence to change their coverage. The Dolphins are coming in to the 2013 season with plenty of hype surrounding them with some major additions but the losses outweigh these additions. There is a lot of hype surrounding the team but making the playoffs is not in the cards this year.

 

Strengths:
Young Talent
– There is a lot of young talent on this team including Ryan Tannehill, Mike Wallace, Lamar Miller, and Daniel Thomas as the future is promising if all of these players can play to their full potential

Weakness:
Passing Offence
– Ryan Tannehill cannot do it alone and as promising as he is and as good as Mike Wallace could be there is still a lot left to be done to make this passing offence a good one as they need to start to play through the air

Biggest Addition:
Mike Wallace, WR (Free Agent, Pit)
– He is a big addition as he marks the deep threat that the Dolphins need as he can easily score on passes over 25 yards which will be a welcome sight to a passing offence that has struggled and to their sophomore QB

Biggest Loss:
Reggie Bush, RB (Free Agent, Det)
– He may not have had a 1,000 yard rushing season but he came close and losing the 986 yards plus the versatility that he brought will hurt an offence that needs to have a strong rushing game to help their passing game develop

New England Patriots

new_england_patriots

The New England Patriots have made their mark in the AFC East as they have dominated the division for years. They have done this through the “Patriot Way” that is known for making sure that the players on the Patriots stay out of the news and put the team before themselves. It has worked for years now as the Patriots have been the model franchise in the NFL but this year it seemed to slowly fall apart. This offseason Rob Gronkowski would undergo a number of surgeries starting with one on his elbow that he injured during a night out. Then came the Wes Welker saga where the Patriots offered the star receiver a 2-year $10 million offer and reportedly would not budge even after Welker gave them the opportunity to match Denver’s 2-year $12 million offer. Then the biggest blow of the offseason when Aaron Hernandez was arrested under suspicion of murder. The “Patriot Way” has seen a lot of controversy this offseason but that is not necessarily a bad thing as the last time the Patriots faced a scandal known as Spygate they won every game except the Super Bowl having the best season in franchise history. This year they look to do the same with the same key pieces and some new ones that will make them another team to watch. The offence will once again be led by Tom Brady who will look to use Danny Amendola, a younger version of Wes Welker, to continue their dominant pass attack. The rushing attack will be led by Stevan Ridley once again who have a great year last year earning over 1,000 yards in his first year as the starter. On defence the Pats will be looking to the number of veterans that have led the team before including Vince Wilfork, Aqib Talib, Jerod Mayo, and Devin McCourty. These veterans have held steady for years now and there is no reason to say they will not do the same this year. The last time the Pats faced controversy was a great year and with such a mess throughout the division there is little reason to doubt that they will not come out on top again. The Patriots are the team to beat in this division this year like every other year as there needs to be a big upset for them to not end up first.

 

Strength:
The Cornerstones
– The Patriots may have lost a few big pieces to their team but the most important pieces stand as the best players on the team are still around including Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, and Jerod Mayo who will all continue that winning tradition

Weakness:
Offseason Issues
– Spygate was a big controversy for the Patriots and they overcame it but this year has been one after the other and it will truly test the Pats like they have never been tested before as it could easily distract the team that is known for keeping their composure

Biggest Addition:
Danny Amendola, WR (Free Agent, Stl)
– With the loss of Wes Welker Tom Brady was without his favorite target that matched perfectly with the offence and so they would go and get a younger version of Welker in Amendola who will fill in perfectly for the offence

Biggest Loss:
Aaron Hernandez, TE (Released)
– The arrest of Aaron Hernandez has a lot of affects on the Pats as it is a major distraction and has removed one of the best and most versatile players on the team but with why he was arrested there was really no choice

New York Jets

new_york_jets

The New York Jets love to represent the New York and they truly do represent one part of the city better than others. Broadway is known for drama and the New York Jets seem to be all about the drama. Ever since Rex Ryan took over the team the Jets have been embroiled in drama and it has sunk them. They had a brief upswing in his first two years but since then the team has been getting buried under the headlines. The majority of these headlines have come from the man behind centre as the constant debate over Mark Sanchez has dominated the headlines since he became the starting QB. The Jets have continued to try and find a replacement for Sanchez no matter how terrible the replacement is. Bringing in Tim Tebow last year was one attempt at finding a replacement for Sanchez that would not work out. Every time the Jets bring someone in Sanchez seems to be able to just get by in the battle and keep his starting spot. The Jets will be at it again this year as they would draft the man many considered to be the best QB in the NFL draft. West Virginia’s Geno Smith has the athletic ability much like Robert Griffin III a year before but he is not nearly as polished as Griffin was coming into the league. Smith and Sanchez will battle it out throughout the season as the decision will likely not be made on the start before the season begins unless Sanchez’s injury keeps him out longer than expected. This QB battle will go on and there could be many changes at QB as one bad game can cause either one to be benched. Around these QBs will be some good young receivers including Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill while their running game will suffer from the loss of Shonn Greene. On defence the Jets will miss some key players including Darelle Revis but there is no doubt that the defence needs to carry this team. Overall the Jets need to cut out the drama as they have shown that they cannot handle the headlines and be successful. As they continue to bring in drama to the East the Jets will continue to suffer and when they miss the playoffs this year expect changes to come fast.

 

Strength:
Defence
– The defence of the Jets has been the strength of this team since Rex Ryan took over and that will continue this year even with the losses of some key players as they will once again lean on the defence to get wins

Weakness:
QB Carousel
– Stability is what makes a team work and the Jets have shown that by doing the opposite and they will do the same this year as they continue to keep the QB carousel going and it will only hurt the team more

Biggest Addition:
Geno Smith, QB (Draft)
– Mark Sanchez is not an NFL QB or at least not in New York and the addition of another QB that may be able to bring something to the team that they have not had as his athleticism may be the difference in the QB battle

Biggest Loss:
Darrelle Revis, CB (Free Agent, TB)
– The Jets’ defence has been based on the hard hitting lock down style of play and Revis was the perfect example of that style of play and now he is gone leaving a big hole on the field for the Jets to fill

Prediction:
1. New England Patriots
2. Miami Dolphins
3. New York Jets
4. Buffalo Bills

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