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2012 AFC East Preview

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

2011 Common Opponents: AFC West, NFC East
2012 Common Opponents: AFC South, NFC West
The AFC East will face a bit easier common opponents in 2012, meaning all 4 teams based on the 2011 ratings would be expected to win more games than they deserved last season. In fact, they face probably the weakest 2 divisions in the league in 2012. That combined with easy division games cements the New England Patriots as early favorites to repeat as the #1 seed in the AFC. While the 2012 AFC East should end similarly to 2011, it should remain intriguing as every team really does have a shot at the playoffs. While most teams will look similar to last season, new players of note to watch include 1st round pick QB Ryan Tannehill for the Dolphins and free agent acquisition DE Mario Williams for the Bills.

Buffalo Bills
2011 Record: 6-10
2011 Rating: -0.8 (19th of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 7.3
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 8.2
The Bills got off to a hot 5-2 start in 2011 on the heels of what looked to perhaps be a breakthrough season from Ryan Fitzpatrick, a strong running game, and the defense picking the ball off ruitinely. While the interceptions predictably slowed, the real death blow was the passing game reverting back to its previous mediocrity. Ironically, the Bills finished the season worst in the league in EPA for interceptions thrown. The bright side for Buffalo is that the running game kept strong, finishing 7th in EPA, despite the loss of Fred Jackson for the final 6 games. They will carry some hope (and a lot of media hype) into the 2012 season on defense following the signings of DE's Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the drafting of 10th overall pick CB Stephon Gilmore, and the return to health of DT Kyle Williams and CB Terrence McGee. However, if there is one lesson to be learned from the advanced analysis at ProFootballLogic, it's that it is much harder to build a good team around running and defense than simply with a solid passing game. Until the Bills can get more from Ryan Fitzpatrick, or at least get him a second real option behind Steve Johnson, they will have to hope for a bit of good fortune to make a playoff run.

Miami Dolphins
2011 Record: 6-10
2011 Rating: -0.3 (15th of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 7.6
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 8.2
After starting the 2011 season early candidates for the #1 overall draft pick, the Dolphins managed to finish the season 6-3 and salvage some hope for next year. Unlike the Bills, Miami's season of two halves had more to do with a change of luck. They started to win the close games they had been losing, while maintaining mediocre performance throughout. The Dolphins did finish 8th in our defensive ratings, but were a classic example of a good defense not being able to offset a less than average offense. Trading Brandon Marshall to the Bears certainly won't help with that dilemma. This leaves the Dolphins hoping in 2012 either for a little bit of luck, or at least the development of Ryan Tannehill into a solid NFL quarterback.

New England Patriots
2011 Record: 13-3
2011 Rating: 7.0 (3rd of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 11.9
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 12.4
Coming off a Super Bowl loss following a dominant regular season, the Patriots are a safe bet to win the AFC East yet again. Their 3rd rated offense more than compensated for their 4th worst defense in 2011, and even was better than their #1 rated offense in 2010. As such, New England must join the two other great offenses of 2011 (the Saints and Packers) as the three favorites to win the Super Bowl this season. The only hiccup is the retirement of long time left tackle Matt Light, but young tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder have proven themselves capable enough to keep the Pats rolling. The addition of WR Brandon Lloyd at a bargain price just reinforces New England's ability to stay ahead of the competition, and he should experience another great season back in a Josh McDaniels offense, giving the Patriots an unheard of four quality receiving threats.

New York Jets
2011 Record: 8-8
2011 Rating: -1.1 (20th of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 7.1
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 7.4
The Jets did take a little step back last season, but the stats show the truth is that they were very lucky to reach the conference championship as a wild card both of the previous seasons. They still sported a top 5 defense in 2011, and even if they do again in 2012, it shouldn't be enough to get them back to making playoff runs. The Jets' running game has fallen off a lot recently as a result of having to rely heavily on Shonn Green and losing a couple of key lineman. The passing game under Mark Sanchez has failed to escape from the bottom part of the pack. Barring a big impact early by rookie WR Stephen Hill stretching defenses deep, the boo birds and "Tebow" chants could come out early in New York. Denver's stats from last season show no reason to think Tebow will have any more success than Sanchez. But interestingly, the Jets do have a much easier schedule after their week 9 bye, meaning we could be in for a little more "Tebowmania", even if yet again due to schedule and defense rather than Tebow himself.

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

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