One of the most watched divisions in football for the last decade or so has been the AFC East. Along with the New England Patriots, who have created a legacy in their own right, you have the Jets, who live and play in front of the worlds busiest city, Buffalo, who is trying to live up to the attention the Jets and Giants get, and Miami, a city where the football is never as good as the weather. Thus far, the 2013 preseason has shaped up to give plenty of interest to the AFC East and those that play in it. Here is a rundown of how the teams have faired thus far in the preseason, and what to expect with the upcoming year.
Surprisingly, the Buffalo Bills have started the preseason with a 2-1 record, including winning their first two games against Indianapolis and Minnesota. However a 30-7 loss to Washington in week 3 is a bit concerning, especially considering the offense was only able to put 7 points on the board (yes, even more scary considering third-string defenses were in the game towards the end). This offseason was an interesting one of Buffalo, picking up quarterback Kevin Kolb from Arizona, as well as drafting Florida State standout, E.J. Manuel. Both Manuel and Kolb have gotten repetitions during the preseason, but neither seems to be ready to lead their team once the regular season comes. Even with a 2-1 record in the preseason, fans will have to see how this caries over once the regular season starts and the weather in Buffalo drastically changes. Keep an eye out for C.J. Spiller to make an impact this year, as it is his third in the league and he seems primed for a breakout year.
If last years Tim Tebow vs. Mark Sanchez debate wasn’t hot enough, things haven’t cooled down much for the New York Jets. The ‘San-chise’ may have thought that this would be a year where he could relax and play quarterback without having to fear for his job; but after drafting Geno Smith this offseason, the Jets have made it apparent that Sanchez will never be able to get comfortable as his roll under center for the Jets. The preseason hasn’t looked bad for the Jets, who have garnished a 2-1 record with wins over Jacksonville and the Giants, with their sole loss coming to Detroit. However, Sanchez did hurt his shoulder on a play during the fourth quarter where many questioned why he was still in the game. While how the Jets do this year is yet to be seen, you can guarantee that they will be under the national spotlight all year with their quarterback controversy. The question is, is this the year where Sanchez finally claims the Jets as his team, or does this represent the changing of the guard where he moves on to his next destination?
As much as you can expect football season to start in August, you can also expect the New England Patriots to be a competitive team as long as Tom Brady is leading them. So far the preseason has been kind to the Patriots, with wins over Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, and their only lose coming to Detroit. Some may have wondered how the Aaron Hernandez controversy or the Tim Tebow arrival would impact the Patriots, but in reality they have kept calm as they usually do. If any team is prepared to handle Tebow-mania, it’s New England because no one will be replacing Brady anytime soon. And as frustrating as it may have been to lose Hernandez, it seems like Belichick is the right coach to figure things out and make it work even without the Pro-Bowl tight end. Even with such a publicized offseason, many expect the Patriots to meet the Broncos in the playoffs, in a game that could determine who goes to the Super Bowl. And if Brady stays healthy, it doesn’t matter who else the Patriots have, this prediction could come true.
The Miami Dolphins may be one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL, even with a 1-3 preseason record. Not only do they play in a tropical climate where weather is rarely an issue, but they also have a decently talented roster that should outperform their competition more often than not. Ryan Tannehill enters his second year at quarterback for the Dolphins, and he may have been one of the most impressive rookies last year not named Luck, Griffin or Wilson. This could be a big year for Tannehill, especially considering he has had the entire offseason to know that he’s number one on the depth chart. The Dolphins did lose Reggie Bush this offseason, but they have a legit back in Lamar Miller, who also enters his second year and is expected to get majority of the reps for the Dolphins. The Dolphins are always a team to keep an eye on, but considering they have to play the Patriots twice and go to Buffalo in late December when the weather can be insanely cold, they can be as unpredictable as the Jets or Bills. Either way, their worth keeping an eye out for this year, as Tannehill could potentially make huge strides in his progress at quarterback.
The AFC East will always be relevant as long as Tom Brady is around. That said, there is enough drama and storylines going on to make it an interesting division no matter how the teams do. Even with majority of the teams doing well in the offseason, we could just as easily be looking at yet another season where the Patriots are the only team above .500 and relevant when December comes rolling around.