"This is not an exact science." - A wise man or woman
Following Free Agency and the Draft last year I gave my forecast of how the 2013 season would unfold for the four teams of the AFC-East. Let us look back on it as we look ahead to predict how these teams will fare in the 2014 season.
You're still the one, you New England Patriots: Projected Winners of the Division
Let's get this out of the way, the New England Patriots have not gotten weaker. Let's look at my conclusion of the offense last year;
The only part of the O that concerns me is depth at the interior of the OL and..
.. the production we can get from our rookies wide of the numbers.
That was a legit concern in those days before we found out Aaron Hernandez is a mass murderer. All of those guys, Dobson/KT/Boyce now have seasoning on them.
Defensively, we're trying to manage a lot of injury-risk but the potential is mind-boggling. Darrelle Revis followed by three guys that can be a #2 CB on almost any Defense in the league? The linebackers, the ends, the tackles, this D has a lot going for it. I do think NE could have a bit of a rough start. Dominique Easley and Tommy Kelly aren't going to be 100% to start the season and we're going to need both for interior-pressure, Neither will Gronk be 100% for a bit and the Pats don't have any other TEs to threaten the seam.
You're still number two, Miami.
I think protecting Tannehill is going to be the story for their O and their team overall.
That story hasn't changed at all. I of course had no foresight at all into just how epically the OL would fall apart or that the one single returning starter in Pouncey would tear his hip. It's amazing how much things can stay the same despite dramatic change.
They might potentially challenge the Patriots but they need a lot to come together for that.
This is also still true. They did in fact challenge New England with that win at home but a lot had come together including in the form of New England suffering a number of injuries to key players. Miami finished just ahead of the New York Jets and many of the same problems still remain. If anything they have gotten worse. The OL is going to be a complete mess and they don't seem to have a clue at LB. They'll be tough but I don't think they've done anything at all to pull ahead of NE in the arms race.
The New York Jets remain the third in the division.
I thought they would tie the Bills for worst in the division. They were on their way to doing just that until that last stretch of games when Rex Ryan's job was on the line and the team stepped up. Maybe they'll challenge Miami for second in the division but Darrelle Revis is not going to let himself lose to the Jets like he did last year. Neither is Belichick going to lose in New York like he did last year, a manner strikingly similar to how Revis's new team lost; a penalty late in the game.
The OL was once a strength of the line(team) and they have some unproven commodities there to make up for the loss of proven commodities.
Their proven commodities in LT D'Brickshaw Ferguson and OC Nick Mangold appeared to regress last year.
Safety is still going to be a massive liability for them that Brady will happily continue to exploit.
Probably the most important play for them of the season was S Antonio Allen picking off Tom Brady for a touchdown in New York. The Jets would win that game, and the play came after Geno threw a pick-6 to fellow-then-rook Logan Ryan. Now they add Calvin Pryor which seemed strange like the Sheldon Richardson pick did at first but really this is just how Rex rolls. Two Strong-Safeties to deliver hits over the middle rather than a SS and a more rangy FS. However a LBer group of Quinton Coples, David Harris, Demario Davis, and Calvin Pace may be one of the worst if not the worst starting LBer group in the league.
Richardson, Coples, and Wilkerson may make for some mean 3-man fronts on passing downs but they did absolutely nothing to improve the talent at OLB.
That is still frightfully true. Last year I lamented that DTs, CBs, and a running game don't make a D. This year I'd say that DTs, CBs, SSs, and a running game don't make a D. However on paper this is without a doubt a more talented group than it was last year. They shouldn't have finished right behind Miami last year, that was the players coming alive to protect THEIR coach. We'll see what they do this year but like last year..
It all depends on Geno.
It's amazing that they finished where they did when he finished 32nd of 32. Can Rex keep it going another season?
The Buffalo Bills, because every division needs a kid brother to pick on.
But their offensive line may just not be the same with the loss of LG Andy Levitre, which can effect the overall offense for them.
The drop in talent from Andy Levitre to Colin Brown was quite intense. It really made you wonder what Buffalo was thinking. This year I think the story could end up being about the drop in production. I like Sammy Watkins a whole lot, but I can't for the life of me understand why the Bills think they will be better off leaning on a rookie to make up for the unnecessary loss of Stevie Johnson. Bills fans should be rightly concerned about reports that the Manuel-to-Watkins connection isn't there, rookie receivers should only be counted on for so much production. It doesn't bode well for this season.
Then they let Jairus Byrd fly away. As if they weren't already weakened in the middle of the field, where Brady makes his bread and butter, they lose Kiko Alonso as well. Speaking of the interior, Marcell Dareus needs to get a clue and quick or the Kyle/Mario Williams Brothers From Another Mother duo are going to see their talents waste away in either Buffalo or Toronto. I think Buffalo will take a step back defensively and their fans will cry when they remember that they traded next year's 1st rounder.