1. New England Patriots- 2013 was a much different season for the Patriots. They lost Welker to Denver, Gronk missed the start of the season, Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd were both released and Aaron Hernandez was arrested, released and charged with first-degree murder. Those five were Brady’s key targets. The Patriots offense wasn’t as potent as we’ve been accustomed to seeing but they still won football games though nonetheless. They won the AFC East for the twelfth time in fourteen seasons under Bill Belichick and they made their third consecutive trip to the AFC Championship game. This off-season, they resigned Edelman and signed Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to improve that secondary after losing Talib to the Broncos. Vince Wilfork is also coming back from a torn Achilles that ended his season early in 2013.
2. New York Jets- I don’t think anybody knows what to make of the Jets these days. Defensively, they looked great and played “Rex Ball”. They stopped the run and got to the quarterback. It was the offense that was holding this team back. Geno had nobody to throw the ball too. What he needs is a true threat down the field and Eric Decker could be that guy. The Jets also signed Michael Vick to back up Geno for a season. For Gang Green to get back to the playoffs, they need to run the ball and play that style of defense that took them to back to back AFC title games. Who will be the starting quarterback come week one? Will it be Geno Smith or will Michael Vick get a chance to prove himself once again?
3. Miami Dolphins- They got off to a surprising 3-0 start and they won two of those first three games on the road. This Dolphins team is looking for a fresh start after the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito incident from last season. Ryan Tannehill is becoming a leader and the Dolphins showed they can win games. Mike Wallace wasn’t who we thought he’d be. The Dolphins have talent. After all, they did beat the Jets, Steelers and Patriots to put themselves at 8-6 and in position to make the playoffs. The offensive line has to improve and Mike Wallace needs to be that guy that he was in Pittsburgh.
4. Buffalo Bills- The Bills have a lot of nice pieces on their roster. E.J. Manuel was a pleasant surprise after he was the first quarterback selected in last season’s draft. They have two good backs in Spiller and Jackson and a nice trio of receivers with Robert Woods, the Bills first pick in this year’s draft in Sammy Watkins and Scott Chandler over the middle as their tight end. What concerns me with this team is their defense. The front should be fine it’s the back-end that will get many questions out of people. Without Jairus Byrd, how will the back-end of this secondary be? Only time will tell.
1. Patriots (12-4)
2. Dolphins (8-8)
3. Jets (7-9)
4. Bills (6-10)
Until someone really competes with them, the Patriots will win this division for the thirteenth time in the last fifteen seasons under Bill Belichick. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were rookies that were plugged into starting right away last year and as you would expect from rookies, they did struggle. Now with a full season under their belts, they should be fine. For the Patriots to get back to the Super Bowl, they will need a healthy Rob Gronkowski. He makes everyone on that offense better and he’s truly a difference maker. With him in the line-up, New England averaged 432 yards of offense a game. Without him, they averaged 351. In order to get to where you want to be, you need your best player.