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All-time XI, AFC East: Tom Brady is ruler of dynastic Patriots

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With the 2018 World Cup upon us, Jeremy Bergman and Adam Rank are divvying up the NFL and selecting the top 11 -- or in, yes, FOOTBALL parlance, all-time XI -- players from each of the 32 teams' history. Today, Bergman presents the top XI for each team in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills

1) Bruce Smith, DE (1985-1999)
2) Jim Kelly, QB (1986-1996)
3) O.J. Simpson, RB (1969-1977)
4) Thurman Thomas, RB (1988-1999)
5) Andre Reed, WR (1985-1999)
6) Kent Hull, C (1986-1996)
7) Joe DeLamielleure, OG (1973-79)
8) Cornelius Bennett, OLB (1987-1995)
9) Mike Stratton, LB (1962-1972)
10) Butch Byrd, DB (1964-1970)
11) Fred Smerlas, NT (1979-1989)
Coach: Marv Levy (1986-1997)

Forget Don Beebe and Leon Lett, Thurman Thomas' missing helmet and Wide Right. This is a list of Bills celebration, after all. So instead of dwelling on the consecutive Super Bowl defeats, let's honor Buffalo's remarkable run of running up in the early 1990s, which produced franchise icons at nearly every position. Smith is the league's all-time leader in sacks and made eight All-Pro teams; in his 15 seasons in Buffalo, he compiled single-digit sacks in only three of those years. The gunslinger in Levy's "K-Gun" offense, Kelly is the first of Buffalo's triplets to grace this list. Buffalo gambled on the (future) Houston Gambler when they drafted him in 1983, but the move paid off with four Super Bowl appearances and a historic run of play. Buffalo's top skill players of the era, Thomas and Reed, follow their quarterback, but not before Simpson, who carried the Bills in the 1970s and was their first major star. The first running back to record a 2,000-yard season -- doing so in just 14 games -- Simpson was Buffalo's offense for some time, less a beneficiary of the system than being the entire system. Blocking for Simpson and Thomas were DeLamielleure and Hull, respectively, who rode their six combined All-Pros into the top seven. Stratton and Byrd led the Bills to the franchise's only two titles ... in the AFL, but still.

Miami Dolphins

1) Dan Marino, QB (1983-1999)
2) Larry Csonka, RB (1968-1974, 1979)
3) Jason Taylor, OLB (1997-2007, 2009, 2011)
4) Bob Griese, QB (1967-1980)
5) Larry Little, OG (1969-1980)
6) Zach Thomas, ILB (1996-2007)
7) Jim Langer, C (1970-79)
8) Dwight Stephenson, C (1980-87)
9) Bob Kuechenberg, OG (1970-1983)
10) Manny Fernandez, DT (1968-1975)
11) Paul Warfield, WR (1970-77)
Coach: Don Shula (1970-1995)

If you think you have an argument to replace Marino with someone else at No. 1, save your thumbs. He might not have won a Super Bowl with the Dolphins, but there's no debating Marino's influence on the franchise and an entire era of football. Marino's record-breaking 1984 season immediately launched Miami into the Super Bowl, but also set a high-yardage standard for future gunslingers, one that wasn't matched for nearly 30 years. Csonka was the heartbeat on offense behind Shula's Super Bowl champions in the '70s, pacing Miami's run-heavy offense behind a legendary offensive line that boasted Little, Langer and Kuechenberg. Taylor edges out Griese on this list just barely. No slight to Griese, who is a two-time champion and quarterbacked the perfect season Super Bowl, but the Hall of Famer had, let's say, less to do under center than Marino. Taylor, meanwhile, is Miami's all-time sack leader and was the face of the Dolphins' defense, and the franchise, during their middling aughts seasons. Instead of the Marks Brothers, I slotted two perfect season alumni at the back of the list: Warfield, Griese's game-breaking wideout (23.1 yards per reception from 1970-72), and Fernandez, whose 17 tackles in Super Bowl VII could have earned him MVP honors.

New England Patriots

1) Tom Brady, QB (2000-present)
2) John Hannah, OG (1973-1985)
3) Andre Tippett, OLB (1982-1993)
4) Willie McGinest, OLB (1994-2005)
5) Rob Gronkowski, TE (2010-present)
6) Mike Haynes, DB (1976-1982)
7) Adam Vinatieri, K (1996-2005)
8) Ty Law, CB (1995-2004)
9) Steve Nelson, LB (1974-1987)
10) Tedy Bruschi, ILB (1996-2008)
11) Stanley Morgan, WR (1977-1989)
Coach: Bill Belichick (2000-present)

Patriots history didn't quite begin when Mo Lewis knocked out Drew Bledsoe in 2001, but sometimes it feels that way. In fact, there were 41 whole years of New England-area football before Brady ushered the Pats into relevance with that first miracle Super Bowl run. Years populated by the likes of Hannah, who is considered alongside Anthony Munoz as the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history, and Tippett, whose play was often compared to another No. 56 from the eighties, Lawrence Taylor. Haynes, Nelson and Morgan were also all significant franchise figures in their time.

Of the Belichick Patriots, there are many who deserve credit for contributing to this dynasty, but aren't listed here, like Troy Brown, Richard Seymour, Wes Welker or any of Brady's offensive linemen. (A Box O' Joe from Dunkin' has been delivered to their respective doorsteps as an apology.) Of those who made the cut, McGinest, Law and Bruschi represent the leadership that epitomized New England's defensive transition from the Bill Parcells era, through the Pete Carroll darkness and into the glory years under Belichick. Gronkowski is quite possibly the greatest receiving tight end of all time and has a few more years in him (just maybe not with New England). Vinatieri is a kicker -- yes, I am aware of his profession -- but he's responsible for the most significant plays in Patriots history, west of Malcolm Butler, and when he's finally ready to hang them up, Vinatieri will likely become only the third pure placekicker to be enshrined to Canton. Put some respect on his leg.

New York Jets

1) Joe Namath, QB (1965-1976)
2) Curtis Martin, RB (1998-2006)
3) Don Maynard, WR (1963-1972)
4) Joe Klecko, DE (1977-1987)
5) Darrelle Revis, CB (2007-2012, 2015-16)
6) Mark Gastineau, DE (1979-1988)
7) Winston Hill, OT (1963-1976)
8) Al Toon, WR (1985-1992)
9) Larry Grantham, LB (1960-1972)
10) Kevin Mawae, C (1998-2005)
11) Gerry Philbin, DE (1964-1972)
Coach: Weeb Ewbank (1963-1973)

In the spirit of the greatest Jet of all time, I guarantee that this list is damn near pristine. The Jets' long history of quarterback woes has been over-documented throughout the years and beaten into every offseason narrative since the departure of the great Namath in the early seventies, and that's partially due to the insane standard Broadway Joe set in the sixties. Namath, while wildly flawed, is the paradigm for who any Jets quarterback, or player for that matter, intends to play and act like. (Ahem, Sam Darnold.) Behind Namath are Martin and Maynard, Gang Green's most prolific skill players of all time. Martin gets the upper hand here because of his special consistency, rushing for over 1,000 yards in his first 10 seasons, seven of which were in New York. Maynard was no doubt a game-breaking flanker, but benefited greatly from the era and league he was in. Revis Island is sandwiched in between two members of the New York Sack Exchange. The four-time All-Pro corner would be higher if he had never won a Super Bowl in New England and had not left the Jets organization on ignominious terms -- twice. From the league-altering 1968 team, Hill, Grantham and Philbin make the cut. Toon and Mawae get in over position mates and fan favorites Wayne Chrebet and Nick Mangold, a move that, as a New Jersey native who grew up in the aughts, pains me to make.

Follow Jeremy Bergman on Twitter @JABergman.

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