The AFC East should give the AFC West a good run for worst bottom-half in football this season. After you get past ostensible second-place squads Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs, you completely fall off a cliff down to the Buffalo Bills-New York Jets AFC East basement or their counterpart San Diego Chargers-Oakland Raiders in the AFC West.
Or at least that’s how my projections see it.
Of this quartet I would give Buffalo the best chance of shocking everyone to snag a wild-card or emerge as the division runner-up. If EJ Manuel can develop at an incredibly fast pace for a so-called project quarterback and stay healthy — following his recovery from a meniscus procedure — then Buffalo would not be the first formerly terrible team to ride rookie QB upside to a 9-7 record. Just ask Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, which is setting unfair standards but also showing how quickly things can turn around for a franchise by fixing the quarterback position.
Speaking of Luck’s team, Manuel was able to remain efficient in Coach Doug Marrone‘s conservative gameplan, during an encouraging preseason performance at Indy prior to the surgery. Marrone has also talked about feeding the ball to the league’s most electric back, CJ Spiller, to the point of vomiting. This should only continue to take the pressure off of their athletic young quarterback. Good vet WR1 like Stevie Johnson could be the Reggie Wayne to Manuel’s Luck.
Even if this offense does mark off every best-case scenario — which is unlikely — then the Bills still must summon their defensive unit’s first stingy season in about a decade.
Buffalo consistently fields excellent individual components like Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd yet doesn’t translate this to one good 16-game stretch. Injuries hitting Gilmore and Byrd only increase skepticism that this unit will finally put it all together for consistent success in 2013.
Predicted Regular Season Record: 4-12 (3rd in AFC East)
Predicted Finish: Miss postseason