The 2012 National Football League season is just a few weeks away now, so over the next few weeks, we will look ahead to each division and see how each team projects. First up: the AFC East.
Very few teams made as many waves as the Buffalo Bills did this offseason. The team signed the top free agent on the market, defensive end Mario Williams, to a $100 million contract, the largest in franchise history. They then went out and further bolstered the defensive line by signing DE Mark Anderson, who had 12.5 sacks last season for the Patriots. It is widely believed that the Bills made these moves in order to put pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has owned the Bills for the past decade.
Projection: After finishing 6-10 in 2011, the Bills hope the improved defense will have them competing for a Wild Card spot in 2012.
Top Dolphins Games of 2012
After another disappointing season in South Beach, the Dolphins have made plenty of changes to their team in order to improve their chances in 2012. The team has tried to change the culture of the franchise, starting with hiring new head coach Joe Philbin, who brings a winning attitude from his years as the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator. They dumped troublesome wide receiver Brandon Marshall early in the offseason and more recently cut fellow receiver Chad Johnson following his arrest.
Projection: The team didn't add any big free agents and will be lucky to compete for a playoff spot.
New England Patriots
Top Patriots Games of 2012
No franchise has been as consistent as the New England Patriots over the last decade, winning the AFC East crown eight of the last nine seasons (the year they didn't, Tom Brady was out due to injury). Not much should change in 2012. The team brought more firepower to the offense with receivers Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney, adding to an already potent attack that led the AFC in yards and points last season. The team's major weakness is on defense, where they finished next-to-last in total defense in 2011.
Projection: As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are in New England, the Patriots will be favorites in the AFC East. They are definitely a top contender to be crowned champions at the end of the season.
New York Jets
The team in the AFC East that is the most difficult to get a read on is the New York Jets. The Jets imploded in 2011, finishing the year at 8-8 in a season filled with locker room turmoil. So what did the Jets do? They went out and traded for the most polarizing figure in sports: Tim Tebow. No one can really tell what the Jets are planning for Tebow, but most people see his arrival as trouble for incumbent QB Mark Sanchez. One thing is for sure, though: there won't be a lack of headlines in New York this season.
Projection: The Jets will once again have a great defense thanks to Rex Ryan, but it will be up to the offense to decide how well the team does. They should be in the hunt for a playoff spot but will not threaten the Patriots for the top of the division.