2012 AFC East Preview
The AFC East made some significant changes this offseason,specifically at the quarterback position. The Patriots return totraining camp with the same trio they brought ayear ago, but each of the other three teams has made a significant acquisition at the position.
Despite some change, the pecking order in the AFC East could very well stay nearly the same. Here is an early look at how the four teams may finish the 2012 campaign.
1. New England Patriots
The Patriots walk away with their eleventh division crown in twelve years thanks mostly to their out-of-this-world passing attack. Their offseason acquisitions of Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney paired with the possible emergence of running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will make the 2012 Patriot offense their most impressive since the 2007 edition.
On defense, the addition of key of rookies Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Jake Bequette should bring much needed help to a defense that was at the bottom of the league a year ago. Additionally Steve Gregory may bring a calming presence to the free safety spot that had many horrible performances a year ago from the likes of players such as Matthew Slater and Sergio Brown.
2. Buffalo Bills
The upstart Bills were a bit of a surprise early on last year, mainly due to the great play they were getting out of journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills return the same offense that was potent at times last season and made a big splash on defense signing book-end pass rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
The Bills could be in position to make yet another move towards the top of the AFC East in 2012. Perhaps this could be the year Bills fans have hoping for as their team finally clinches a playoff berth for the first time since the ’99 season.
3. New York Jets
First things first, if the Jets do indeed finish in third or fourth in the division, let the “Should Rex Ryan be fired?” talks commence. This is a talented, but dysfunctional team that added even more fuel to their fire adding the most polarizing figure in the sport, Tebow, behind an already shaky quarterback in Mark Sanchez.
If Sanchez does finally put his best foot forward and holds off Tebow from ever snatching his job away, this team may yet make a play at a playoff berth this season. The addition of deep-threat Stephen Hill in the draft gives Sanchez an added weapon and an upgrade over free-agent Plaxico Burress.
A real problem they also face is the lack of success Shonn Greene has experienced thus far in his career. After a nice run through the playoffs in 2009, he looked to be a rising star. Three years later his window as a starting running back may close if he does not finally breakout in 2012.
4. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins just may be the best fourth place team in football this season, how they and their fans feel about that is probably not great, but the Dolphins should still be a competitive team.
Their pass-defense should return to its competent form after they had some unexpected struggles a year ago. Cornerback Sean Smith was supposed to be able to get the job done along with Vontae Davis, but that never turned out to be the case. They will both need to have much better years for the Dolphins to not get thrown all over.
Instability at quarterback is a problem they will inevitably run into. With Matt Moore currently slated as the starter, free-agent signing Garrard waiting in the wings, and first-rounder Tannehill itching to see the field as a rookie. Moore did experience some success late last season and will look to build on that. Amazingly one of the keys to their offense just may be a wide receiver many of you are familiar with, Chad Ochocinco Johnson.