NE Patriots (11-5). No reach here. I just think they will refocus this year and bring it. I do think they may struggle more within the division than many folks think, but I think they will be quality in the end.
Buffalo Bills (9-7). This is a reach. I just think the team has the tremendous advantage of anonymity, being out of the spotlight in Buffalo. Nobody talks about them and nobody cares about them (except Buffalo fans). But this team has the tools in place to be solid, not spectacular, but not the afterthought they’ve been in recent years. While I believed Nick Barnett was never at the talent level of Desmond Bishop (and was glad he was let go), I also don’t think he sucks. I expect him to be a bit rejuvenated in Buffalo, along with Shawn Merriman. In fact, while Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson will stun people this year with quality performances, I think the biggest surprise will be Shawn Merriman being in the top 5 this year for sacks.
NY Jets (8-8). I have put them at .500 not just because I can’t stand Rex Ryan and some of the players, but because I genuinely don’t believe they’ll be that good. I think the first few years under Ryan, the team benefited from Ryan’s confidence and style. They really drank the kool-aid. But now, a few years later, I think some of that will start to get old – especially if they start losing a couple games or two (which I expect). Their schedule isn’t terribly difficult, but it’s hard enough.
Miami Dolphins (6-10). After two years in a row at 7-9, I think the Dolphins are the toughest team to pick this year. I finally decided on 6-10 but I don’t feel good about it. If they can get some competent QB play from Chad Henne (a guy who has the talent to be a quality NFL QB), and if they can get into spreading the ball around on offense, this team could be better than 6-10. I’m not scared by the defense though, and ultimately, that’s why I decided to put them at the bottom of the AFC East.