Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 6/25/13
Will this be the first year in Tom Brady's career where the Pats don't win the division?Well, no, because no other team is as good.However, New England will look like a completely different team in 2013.New England (10-6)Worst-case scenario: Hernandez is arrested, out for the year. Gronk and Danny Amendola can't stay healthy and Brady struggles to make the rest of his mediocre receiving corps look...any better than mediocre.Stevan Ridley goes through a sophomore slump. All the while, the Pats' secondary stays near the league's bottom.Best-case scenario: The opposite of above.I'm going to split the difference because Foxborough never truly battles with bad luck; however there's no help in terms of schedule. Three losses are going to come (at the least) with road games in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston and Baltimore.There's also tough home games against the Steelers and Broncos, plus a split with Miami seems inevitable. It's taking a lot not to give this division to Miami, it's probably the sexiest prediction this year. Any who, let's brake these Pats down.With the emergence of TEs Gronk and Hernandez, New England reinvented itself. Less three WR sets and more six/seven man fronts, which also adds to the successes of RB Stevan Ridley (and the fact that defenses focus on Brady, which goes without saying).When Gronkowski runs a seam route, everything opens up like Welker burning his man or Woodhead leaking our of the backfield. If everyone stays healthy, the same will occur this season (Amendola/Vereen will easily match Welker/Woodhead's production).Adding LeGarrette Blount also completes a backfield that can do it all from power to quickness. But this all hinges on the tight ends; one of which is neck-deep in a murder case while the other has had six surgeries since the 2011 postseason.Like last year, the Pats' front seven will be dominant. As for the secondary, much is to be seen. The talent is there. But the production is not. Aqib Talib can be a shutdown corner for one game and non-existant the next.Signing Adrian Wilson helps, but this corp of d-backs will still be in the bottom-half of the league (although far from 29th).I'm not even going to discuss Tebow, everyone else has down enough of that.Miami (9-6)Has any team made more bizarre offseason moves this year than the Dolphins? After their franchise offensive tackle walked and starting linebackers were waived, Miami retooled.They signed the two best overall free agents (personally, in terms of upside/price/skill) Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbee to fill their holes at linebacker, then traded up in the draft to select...a LB/DE hybrid (Dion Jordan)?Why didn't they get OT Lane Johnson from Oklahoma? Well, sending a second-rounder for Chiefs tackle Brandon Albert is still an option.Nope, they selected CB Jamar Taylor with that pick. So the Dolphins ended up with OL Tyson Clabo. After opening up the checkbook for two WRs, the Dolphins didn't make protecting their quarterback top priority. Now, QB Ryan Tannehill has an elite receiver to throw to, a good possession who can now assume the No. 2 role, and a more athletic TE. However, there's no answer at runningback and the offensive line is a sub-par group of pieces other than Pouncey at center.But on defense, I expect this group to be scary good. On the line, the Wake/Starks/Odrick combined for 24.5 sacks last year (Wake had 15 himself). Linebackers Wheeler and Ellerbee are coming off shadowed-yet-all-star-caliber years; not to mention Koa Misi is solid himself.As for the secondary, its oozing with talent. Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones, Brent Grimes, and Richard Marshall look to be one of the better secondaries in the AFC...however Grimes and Marshall both struggle with health. Now back to enigma that is Dion Jordan. He has a wonderful set of skills, but what about his weight? Will that result to him being pushed around or will he blow by defenders with ease? A productive season by him could push this defense into one of the best in the league. So good, it may cover up the mistakes on the offensive line.If none of this works, Jeff Ireland needs to be shown the door.Buffalo Bills (7-9)This prediction is based off of EJ Manuel being the day one starter. Regardless of the money, you don't release Ryan Fitzpatrick to start Kevin Kolb. Period.Offensively, the Bills are deeper with talent that you'd expect. C.J. Spiller and a healthy Fred Jackson is a great RB tandem. Behind Steve Johnson, is tons of talented youth from the pro-ready Robert Woods, the speedy Marquise Goodwin, and the undrafted Da'Rick Rogers.Rogers, who will be this year's undrafted due to attitude issues breakout player this year (2012 was Cincy LB Vontaze Burficit), is the most intriguing of the bunch. If he can continue passing drug tests, the former SEC leader in receptions and yards will be a huge asset.Last year, the Bills' D was actually pretty good. Well, minus the fact that they were next-to-last stopping the run. Buffalo is hoping a healthy Mark Anderson, sophomore Nigel Bradham and second-round pick Kiko Alonso will cure this ailment. On offense, the team has too many young parts with a first-year head coach; I don't see the team meshing quick enough to be a threat. Yet, this team has the right pieces in place to move forward in the future.New York Jets (3-13)Geno Smith is no threat to Mark Sanchez to the starting QB position. Unless Geno is leaps and bounds ahead of Sanchez, the risk is too high.Just because he starts doesn't mean Sanchez is effective. Chris Ivory has upside as a downhill runner, but after Mike Goodson's troubles, the Jets don't have much of a run game. Santonio Holmes has two screws permanently in his foot. Stephen Hill isn't a #1 option. Neither are any other WRs on the roster. This offense is doomed for complete failure.Defensively, other than Antonio Cromartie, their best players are going to be rookies (DT Sheldon Richardson and CB Dee Milliner).Expect Rex Ryan to be fired, Mark Sanchez to be shipped out, and the Jets to have a top-five pick next year. It's a shame David Garrard retired.AFC West up next.
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