- New England Patriots (13-3) - Tom Brady. Bill Belichick. Rinse. Repeat. As long as Brady is a top-3 quarterback (and the guy that I'd have #1 btw) and Belichick is still an elite coach, they will be a playoff mainstay. They have the most loaded offense in the league with the addition of Brandon Lloyd on the outside to go with Welker in the slot and the Gronkowski/Hernandez duo on the seams. Factor in Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen in a new, younger backfield, and they'll be a monster unit. On defense, they can't possibly be worse than last year, but with 2 first-round picks in Chandler Jones (who I've read rave reviews about) and Dont'a Hightower and newly-healthy Patrick Chung and Jerod Mayo, they'll be at least a little better. Easily the best team, and this could be the most lopsided division in the league this season.
- Buffalo Bills (9-7) - This record is all about defensive improvement. Mario Williams and Mark Anderson both had double-digit sacks last year and were acquired to man the D-End spots. Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams will lock down the middle, and this defense could be a top-10 unit. This would be a far cry from last year's team, and that alone will give them a boost. The jury is out on Ryan Fitzpatrick but I think he's at least average, and with Fred Jackson/CJ Spiller in the backfield and Steve Johnson on the outside, the offense should be solid barring injury. I like the Bills.
- New York Jets (8-8) - On the other side, I hate the Jets. This offense is an absolute mess. Between the QB controversy of Tebow and Sanchez, the lack of explosion anywhere, Shonn Greene never having proven anything, and the Santonio Holmes sideshow at receiver. I don't see how they're going to score even with Jesus in shoulder pads as the backup QB. The only reason I'm granting them 8 wins is because they still have defensive talent. Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson form the best cornerback trio in the league and they've upgraded at safety with Laron Landry and Yeremiah Bell. It's the best secondary in football on paper. I do know one thing, however, and that is that we'll all be sick of the Jets by mid-September if we're not already.
- Miami Dolphins (4-12) - Miami is probably better than 4-12.... until you realize that they are (voluntarily!) choosing to start Ryan Tannehill from game #1. This is not a good decision for this year and there's no way around that. Matt Moore isn't good, but he's unquestionably more effective at this moment than Tannehill, who is a project who wasn't even an elite college quarterback this time last season. Reggie Bush was their best offensive player last year and seems to have made the leap, but there's still injury/durability concerns and we don't know whether Daniel Thomas can take the load off of him in between the tackles. Brandon Marshall is gone as well, and the receiver situation is dire. They do stop the run and that will help them against the likes of Buffalo and the Jets, but the secondary is porous and in the division with Tom Brady... best of luck.
Enjoy! Stay tuned for Part 4 wrapping up the AFC with the AFC West....