We previewed the AFC East on Wednesday's "Around The League Podcast," complete with record predictions that you can see below. A few takeaways from the group:
Not buying the Dolphins hype
No one has the Miami Dolphins topping 8-8. Offseason spending champions don't often parlay that success into the regular season. Miami has issues on the offensive line, and it could take time for Mike Wallace to make much of an impact at receiver. General manager Jeff Ireland will need more than 8-8 to keep fans happy and keep his job.
Defense the key
The New England Patriots have benefitted from playing in the AFC East over the past decade, with few other great teams in the division. That should help keep them atop the division once again this season. Tom Brady already has shown signs of making it work with his rookie receivers -- Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce -- and tight end Zach Sudfeld.
The real key in New England is the underrated defense. Bill Belichick's crew has finished in the top 10 in points allowed for six of the past seven years, but this could be his most talented group since 2004. The front seven has continuity and youth with Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo, Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower alongside veterans like Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich. The defense could make up for any decline in the Patriots' offense.
Bills should at least be fun to watch
I was more down on the Buffalo Bills' chances than my cohorts, but this is a team that should be fascinating to watch if nothing else. No one knows exactly what kind of offense coach Doug Marrone will run, but we expect it to be very fast. C.J. Spiller, Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham all can fly, while Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods make tough catches. It's just tough to expect a rookie quarterback (or Kevin Kolb) to spearhead a successful rebuilding project. (The defense is trying out yet another big scheme change.) This entire season in Buffalo will be measured on EJ Manuel's development.
Rex Ryan's defense gives him a chance
The New York Jets landed in second place in my standings because they have something the Dolphins and Bills lack: One side of the ball to rely on. Rex can be more aggressive with his play-calling on defense if Sheldon Richardson, Quinton Coples, DeMario Davis and Muhammad Wilkerson live up to their potential.
Unfortunately, Ryan also can rely on his offense to hold the team down. Look for the Jets to win just enough games to make owner Woody Johnson's decision about Ryan's future difficult.