My 2013 AFC East & Super Bowl Predictions
Who Will win the AFC East?
The New England Patriots have been the standard of the AFC East for the past decade, winning the division in each of the last four seasons as well as nine times over the last 10 seasons. The team that has given them the biggest run for their money over that time has been the New York Jets. The Jets have made it four times in that 10 year stretch including a berth in the 2009 & 2010 AFC Championship games. The Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills haven't put up too much competition over the last decade. They have combined for one playoff appearance over that time, and it was the Dolphins in 2008, the year that Tom Brady was injured.
Will things be any different in the AFC East this year? While the Pats have their flaws they still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Which team is ready to step up? The Dolphins are in year two of the Ryan Tannehill/Joe Philbin era, and the jury is still out on whether Tannehill has what it takes to become a franchise QB. It's year one of the E.J. Manuel/Doug Marrone era for the Bills, and they've still got a lot of growing to do. As for the Jets, let's just say it's hard to envision the Rex Ryan/John Idzik partnership ending well. Like the Bills, the Jets will be starting a rookie in Geno Smith at quarterback on opening day.
It seems like smooth sailing for the Pats again this year, right? Will one of the other teams surprise us and give New England a run for their money or, even more surprisingly, take them out? Here is how I see the AFC East playing out for the 2013 season.
4. New York Jets (4-12)
The Jets enter the season looking like a team in turmoil. Their QB competition ended when one of the guys got injured against third string players late in a preseason game. HC Ryan and GM Idzik have been at each others throats since Idzik's hiring. It's hard to see Idzik wanting to keep Ryan around long-term so Ryan is for all intents and purposes a lame duck head coach. Their defense will take a step back and Geno will be thrown to the fire. Maybe things will turn around for the Jets with a new head coach, but until that time things look bleak.
3. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
I'll admit that I am not a Tannehill guy. He looked sluggish in games in cold weather late last year, and that's not a good thing when you're playing in the AFC East. They signed Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson to help out the receiving corps, but is either of those guys a true No. 1? They lost Reggie Bush and Jake Long on offense. Defensively they need to improve their secondary and bolstered it with Brent Grimes at CB, but will his knee hold up coming off of ACL surgery? There are too many questions for me to see the Dolphins making that leap this season. I'll admit that I could be wrong about Tannehill because I didn't see it in Joe Flacco either and he proved me wrong. Not this year though.
2. Buffalo Bills (8-8)
The Bills are a team at the crossroads. They had a talented defense that gave up way too many yards last season. They are turning the page at QB again, going from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Manuel. They've overhauled their coaching staff and hope that former Jets DC Mike Pettine will bring an edge to their underachieving defense. On offense there will be growing pains for Manuel, but you can't discount how good C.J. Spiller actually is. He may carry the Bills to wins by himself this year and should take a lot of pressure off of Manuel as he learns to be an NFL QB. I think that when this team gets their feet under them they may go on a run, but it will likely be too late to contend for a playoff spot.
1. New England Patriots (13-3)
It will be status quo for the Pats this year in New England. Despite what happened with Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, etc. there is just not enough competition for the Pats in this division. Brady will be Brady, Belichick will be Belichick, and they'll win a lot of games. With the division the way it is the Pats will likely sweep or win five out of six inside the division which will get them to 12-4 or 13-3 easy. They'll set themselves up to go deep into the playoffs with a home game or two. This is the way it will be until one of the other teams steps up or Brady retires. At this point it's a valid question to ask which one will actually come first.
Super Bowl - Seattle Seahawks over New England Patriots
For the Super Bowl I am picking the Seahawks over the Patriots. In the AFC the Pats are the team to beat with the Ravens losing so much on defense in the offseason. The two other best teams in the AFC will be the Broncos and the Texans, but I don't see either as being able to win the big one. The Seahawks will ultimately win the arms war with their division rivals the 49ers and go on to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In the Super Bowl I think Seattle offense will be too much for the Pats to contain and their defense will do just enough to stop Brady and co. The Seahawks will hoist the Lombardi trophy for the first time in franchise history.
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