4. Miami Dolphins: projected regular season 5-11 (1-5 in division)
Although the Miami Dolphins might be the deepest team in the NFL at QB, they still do not have a definitive starter who will contribute to their poor season. Losing one of the NFL’s premiere wide-outs in Brandon Marshall (and replacing him with Chad Ochocinco) to free agency will not help an offense that finished the 2011 season 23rd in passing yards. One bright spot was the emergence of running back Reggie Bush, who totaled 1,086 rushing yards last season. Bush, for the first time in his career, became a conventional running back in that he was running through the tackles and no longer around them. Unfortunately, Miami plays in potentially the toughest division in the NFL, thus do not expect a much better performance than the 6-10 record they posted last season.
3. Buffalo Bills: projected regular season 7-9 (3-3 in division)
The Buffalo Bills began last season shocking the NFL by going 3-0, which included a victory against the New England Patriots 34-31 in week 3. However, Buffalo did not maintain this success and by week 15, the team was 5-9 and out of the AFC playoff picture. This was due in large part to the Bills inability to stop the run, finishing 28th in the NFL. The Bills addressed this issue in the offseason by signing line backer Mario Williams who, along with Shawne Merriman, should vastly improve the Bills pass rush. Look out for Buffalo’s first two draft picks from the 2012 class at corner back, Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams, who should make immediate impacts.
2. New York Jets: projected regular season 10-6 (3-3 in division)
A team that has entered the last few years clearly voicing their Super Bowl aspirations has come up empty each time, including not even making the playoffs last season. Once again, the Jets are the talk of the NFL media upon acquiring Broncos quarterback and football golden boy Tim Tebow. Immediately sparking a quarterback controversy, Mark Sanchez is currently the starter, though he is definitely on a tighter leash now due to the presence of Tebow. Look for the Jets to make the playoffs this season in large part to the outstanding play of the receiving core, in particular, second round draft pick from Georgia Tech Stephen Hill.
1. New England Patriots: projected regular season 12-4 (5-1 in division)
The New England Patriots were widely considered the best team for most of the 2011 NFL season. It was hard to argue this point with Tom Brady throwing for 5,235 yards and Wes Welker grabbing 122 balls for 1,569 yards, not to mention the devastating tight end tandem of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. However, the Pats lost for the second time in 4 years to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl; with another finish for the ages. This should only fuel the fire in New England as they embark on their journey to capture an elusive 4th title in the Belichick era. The Patriots should not drop off from their phenomenal play last season and can considered the AFC favorite for a return trip to the Super Bowl.