Today we’re traveling to the AFC East! Here’s the deal with the teams in that division:
The Buffalo Bills
History: Buffalo had a long list of teams with other minor football organizations prior to establishing the Bills with the AFL in 1960. O.J. Simpson was a star running back for the Bills in the 70’s. The Bills are also famous for going to the Super Bowl FOUR TIMES IN A ROW in the 90’s but never winning. That decline has carried over into the present era.
Current Players to Know: Ryan Fitzpatrick is a Harvard-educated quarterback. He was nothing to write home about until last season when he led the Bills on an excellent winning streak early in the season. He did not perform quite as well for the rest of the season. Mario Williams is a star defensive end who signed with Buffalo over the summer (he used to play for the Houston Texans). Fred Jackson is a running back who was having a great season last year before he was injured in Week 11.
Head Coach: Chan Gailey
2011 Regular Season Record: 6-10
What to Watch For in 2012: I don’t want to jinx it because I would love to see Buffalo succeed…but the Bills really could be good this year! While they lack depth in some areas they added a lot of talent in the off-season. Ryan Fitzpatrick received a big contract extension in the middle of last season but didn’t really live up to it, so he might perform on the basis of having something to prove this year. And always keep an eye on wide receiver Stevie Johnson, as he’s prone to drama and can usually be counted on for good press conference material.
The Miami Dolphins
History: Florida’s first professional football team was actually named the “Miami Seahawks,” a team that played for the AAFC. That team only lasted one season. Twenty years later, the AFL established a new team in Miami, and a fan vote decided that the team would be named the Dolphins. The ’72 Dolphins are famous for having the only undefeated season in NFL history (and for fervently clinging to that identity). Legendary QB Dan Marino established his legacy in Miami in the 80’s and 90’s.
Current Players to Know: The quarterback situation is still up in the air. It looks like Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill might beat out veteran David Garrard and incumbent Matt Moore for the starting job. Former New Orleans Saint Reggie Bush can always be counted on for a reliable performance at running back. Centers don’t always get a lot of love, but Mike Pouncey is one of the best.
Head Coach: Joe Philbin (former Packers Offensive Coordinator…we miss you, Coach!)
2011 Regular Season Record: 6-10
What to Watch For in 2012: Oh…Miami! They’ve really been unable to recover since the Dan Marino era ended…in 1999. This season is already off to a tumultuous start for the Dolphins, who have chosen to appear on the HBO series “Hard Knocks.” A team that is already unstable is now under the microscope, and they just garnered even more media coverage with the Chad Johnson debacle over the weekend. Maybe it’ll be a great season, but I think it might be an uphill battle, especially with Buffalo looking better than they have in the recent past.
The New England Patriots
History: The Boston Patriots were established in 1959 and became the New England Patriots soon after the merger in 1970. They had one Super Bowl appearance in the 80’s and one in the 90’s but started dominating the league in the 2000’s. The team has flourished under the leadership of respected owner Robert Kraft and iconic hoodie-wearing coach Bill Belichick, not to mention the notable contributions of their star quarterback, Tom Brady. The Patriots are kind of the Yankees of the NFL – you either love them or you hate them.
Current Players to Know: Tom Brady, of course. Rob Gronkowski burst onto the scene last year as one of the league’s most valuable tight ends. Aaron Hernandez, the other half of a deadly tight end set, is poised to have another great season. (It should also be noted that New England is way ahead of the game as it pertains to the evolution of the tight end position. Which should come as no surprise with living legend Bill Belichick as the head coach.)
Head Coach: Bill Belichick
2011 Regular Season Record: 13-3
What to Watch For in 2012: The Patriots are coming off of a Super Bowl loss to the Giants – the second in 4 years. While the Patriots always have a great regular season, they haven’t won a Super Bowl since they won back to back in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. It’s hard to say that a team which consistently makes the playoffs is hungry for a successful season, but with the recent losses to the Giants they’ll definitely be fired up.
The New York Jets
History: The Jets began in the same fashion they represent today: with a bold statement. They were originally named the Titans because, as per then-owner Harry Wismer, “The Titans are bigger and stronger than the Giants.” They were renamed the Jets after being rescued from bankruptcy in 1962. Joe Namath, famed Jets quarterback, led the team to their only Super Bowl victory in 1969.
Current Players to Know: Mark Sanchez is the Jets’ oft-debated starting quarterback, and Tim Tebow, who led the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory last season, is the league’s most famous backup quarterback. Darelle Revis is one of the league’s best cornerbacks. (And this is completely unsolicited, but after going to the Jets training camp last week I think Stephen Hill, rookie wide receiver, could potentially have a notable season.)
Head Coach: Rex Ryan
2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8
What to Watch For in 2012: The Sanchez-Tebow marriage. There is no controversy, per-se, as Mark Sanchez is the undisputed starter…but so was Kyle Orton in Denver last season, and that season ended with Orton being shipped off to Kansas City and Tebow leading the Broncos to a playoff victory against the Steelers. While it doesn’t appear likely that Tebow will replace Sanchez as QB1, the Jets have a great opportunity to use the unconventional backup in a variety of ways – especially in running situations, since Tebow is basically a human mountain and can run over professional linebackers like they are Pop Warner players. In a perfect world this two-quarterback system would work flawlessly, but in the Jets world, everything is complicated, especially as it pertains to locker room dynamics.