Turn On The Jets Roundtable – AFC East Edition

The Turn On The Jets Roundtable debates how the AFC East will shake out in 2013

How do you see the AFC East playing out in 2013?

Joe Caporoso – While New England is providing us plenty of easy jokes this off-season and will have that inevitable stretch early in the year when everybody doubts them…we’ve seen this movie before. They are going to win 10-12 games and the AFC East…again.

After that? Miami spent plenty of money and has plenty of hype surrounding them AKA the 2012 Buffalo Bills. We remember how that went, right?

The reality is that the division is wide open after New England. I don’t think there is a second playoff team in the AFC East this season. As of now, I see the Jets as a 6-10 to 8-8 team that mildly exceeds expectations, Buffalo as probably doing the same and the Dolphins failing to meet their league wide expectations and turning in yet another 7-9 type season.

Mike Donnelly – I wish I could sit here and say the Jets are going to shock the world and win the division, or that the Patriots are going to free fall into mediocrity, but neither of those is going to happen. Sure, Aaron Hernandez may be in prison to start the season and Rob Gronkowski is starting to look like the guy on the game Operation with all of his various ailments, but the Patriots still have Tom Brady and that makes them the clear cut favorite in the division. They will come in first and leave the Bill, Dolphins, and our Jets battling it out for possibly a wildcard spot.

This year, the hot team everyone is going to be pushing is the Miami Dolphins after they spent a ton of money in free agency. Unfortunately for them, I don’t believe that money to be well spent, and I expect them to disappoint a great deal in 2013 much like last year’s preseason darlings, the Buffalo Bills did in 2012. Ah yes, the Bills.. another season with more high hopes destined for failure. I find it curious so many people are expecting them to compete thanks to hiring the coach of a mediocre college team (Doug Marrone) and Rex Ryan’s former defensive coordinator (Mike Pettine). Expect the BIlls to also disappoint, yet again. That leaves Gang Green, who I legitimately expect to be better than everyone is giving them credit for and come in 2nd place in the division with their new and improved run game and a young, fast defense. Pats, Jets, Dolphins, Bills and only one playoff team in 2013.

Connor Rogers – The NFL is a quarterback driven league and the AFC East has one proven commodity at the position in Tom Brady. While the Patriots offense has taken an ugly renovation in the loss of Wes Welker and the constant injuries to Rob Gronkowski, Brady is a top three gun slinger that finds ways to win no matter who’s catching the ball.

The Dolphins went on a wild spending spree, throwing ridiculous amounts of money to wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. Two problems with these contracts outside of overpaying: 1) Neither are true number one targets. 2) The loss of Jake Long (due to not being able to afford him) will significantly effect the pass protection for young quarterback Ryan  Tannenhill. Protecting a young quarterback is vital, especially a promising one such as Tannenhill. Letting your franchise left tackle walk in free agency and unproven players handling the workload in the running game is not exactly setting up Tannenhill for success. While the defense should be rock solid, Miami spent like a team a few pieces away from a Superbowl, not the team that’s still rebuilding, which they are.

While the Bills experiment with Ryan Fitzpatrick failed terribly, former first round pick C.J. Spiller displayed premier playmaking ability. 2013 first round pick E.J. Manuel has through the roof potential, but will take at least two years to develop, and that’s if he even pans out. Talk about a boom or bust pick. Kevin Kolb will most likely start at quarterback for Buffalo, as he attempts to reignite a career that no one in the league is really sure what direction it’s heading in. It seems like we say this every year, but the Bills are in full rebuild mode, much like…

Our New York Jets have shown success under Rex Ryan, even with a putrid offense in 2012. The defense has been and always will be great under Ryan, but the real question is where the playmakers will come from. Geno Smith needs time to develop, giving Mark Sanchez one more shot at resurrecting a once promising career. With youngsters starting at a majority of premier positions, the Jets will certainly have their ups and downs this upcoming season.

Standings Projection: 1st: Patriots, 2nd: Dolphins, 3rd: Jets, 4th: Bills.

Dalbin Osorio–  Ah, the AFC East, the best division in football, and the home of the greatest rivalry in the sport. Wait…that’s not it. The AFC East, at least for the first two years of the Rex Reign, was competitive at the top with the Patriots and the Jets earning two playoff spots and leading everyone to believe that that’s the way it would be for the next decade, especially with the ineptitude of Jeff Ireland in Miami and Buddy Nix in Buffalo. Then, a funny thing happened; both Miami and Buffalo became better.

Miami drafted Ryan Tannehill, who played well during his rookie season,and signed Reggie Bush, who proved that he could be a feature back in the NFL. Buffalo signed Mario Williams and finally unleashed CJ Spiller. The Jets, meanwhile, imploded in South Beach (similar to the Spurs last night, so at least the Jets can take solace in that) in 2012 and then had Mark Sanchez turnover their entire season last year amidst Tebow Time and a overwhelming lack of offensive talent. The Patriots have looked vulnerable the last two years as well, although having Thomas Brady does cover up alot, and go into this season without Wes Welker, and possibly without Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (pending his legal situation). Miami went on a shopping spree this offseason signing Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller, Brent Grimes, Tyson Clabo, and Phillip Wheeler, but losing Jake Long, Reggie Bush, and Karlos Dansby (arguably three of their best players from a team that struggled to win 7 games last year) will hurt.

The Bills drafted EJ Manuel (the player I think will be the best QB in this draft in 5 seasons), signed Manny Lawson, and traded for Jerry Hughes, but lost Chris Kelsay, Andy Levitre, and George Wilson. The Jets made the move of the division by trading for Chris Ivory, a potential 1400 yard back, but didn’t improve their WR depth and are banking on ALOT of “what ifs” on their roster. Meanwhile, New England replaced Welker with the oft-injured Danny Amendola, let Brandon Lloyd walk, and signed some guy named Tebow to play 3rd string QB.

With ALL of that said, teams that win the offseason generally don’t win during the regular season, and the Dolphins didn’t address the offensive line or running back positions. The Bills have question marks at QB and losing Levitre will hurt the run game. The Jets have too many question marks on offense, and will be kept competitive by the defense in alot of games.  For the first time in a long time, New England’s only real advantage in the division is under center as Tom Brady is still head and shoulders above all 5 potential starting QBs (Manuel, Kolb, Tannehill, Sanchez, Geno) combined. While the gap may be narrowing slightly, the road to the AFC East Division Title still runs through Foxborough.

Projected Standings: 1. Patriots (11-5), 2., Jets (9-7), 3. Dolphins (8-8), 4. Bills (5-11)

Cole Patterson – The 2013 AFC East does not project as one of the better divisions in football. In fact, considering the question marks around all four teams it may be one of the worst.

The Patriots, perennial favorites to win the division, still have the best shot with Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck holding the reins. However, their offense hasn’t been this questionable in a long time. With the departure of stalwart Wes Welker, the injury concerns around Gronkowski, and the legal concerns around Hernandez, the Patriots offense may very well rely on Danny Amendola and a host of career back ups and rookies. The defense on the other hand has a chance to be better than it has in awhile with an improved front seven, but the back end still leaves much to be desired.

The Dolphins are using the tried and true method of obscene spending in Free Agency to build a quick contender. Oh wait. As the 2011 Eagles proved, these new acquisitions don’t always mesh. As the 2009-present Jets proved, this strategy may not be the best to grow your young franchise quarterback. Many have crowned the Dolphins the champions of the offseason, but as we all know, this hardly ever translates to a Lombardi Trophy. This patchwork roster the Dolphins have put together still leaves much to be desired.

The Bills and Jets are at similar points. They have had turn over both at coaching and management, look to be fielding a rookie quarterback at some point in the season, and have a host of young and unproven talent at many positions. Both seasons could very well rely on the play of the rookie quarterbacks and respective running games.

I think the Patriots will once again win the division as a symptom of Tom Brady, a disease that has been plaguing the division for years. I think that the other three positions are almost entirely interchangable and will rely on the play of rookie quarterbacks, the running offenses, and team cohesion. For what its worth, I think the free agent spending of the Dolphins will back fire as they dolled large quantities of money out to what I see as career role-players in Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe and the one-dimensional Mike Wallace.

Projection: 1st-Patriots – 2nd-Bills – 3rd-Jets – 4th-Dolphins

Michael O’Connor –  Unfortunately, another year is bound to pass without a competent competitor to dethrone the Patriots from the top of the division. Buffalo or Miami taking the league by storm to compete with the Pats is just as unlikely as the Jets doing so. Realistically, the only competing that will occur will be between the the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills. The Jets can try and prove people wrong about their sudden perceptions about being one of the worst overall rosters in the league, and the Bills and Fins will both try and live up to their “breakout” expectations (though it feels like they are labeled as one of these teams every year).

In regards to placing specific records, I see the Pats underwhelming the majority of the NFL with a 10-6 record or so, which should (shamefully for us) still be good enough to comfortably win the division. To keep it short, I see the possible brief absence of Gronk and departures of Danny Woodhead, Brandon Lloyd, Kyle Love, and Brandon Deaderick taking their tolls.  The Pats have gotten by with youth and stop-gap players forever, it seems, but they’re undeniable holes going into 2013, with the most glaring one being the interior defensive line.

I was never on the E.J Manuel bandwagon during this draft season, and I couldn’t stop laughing when the Bills actually made the reach for him. System fit or not, Manuel has a lot of growing to do before he makes the spotty Bills roster turn in any relevance. The guard position is still practically bare, as well. I don’t expect much from Buffalo this year, just like each year in the past five that they’ve been expected to take the “big leap.”  Sure, Doug Marrone can bring some spark to the squad, but the year of winning isn’t 2013 in Buffalo. I wouldn’t be shocked if they finish under .500, and a 6-10 season is probably most realistic.

In Miami, Ryan Tannehill is one special dude. I really like his game, and I’m not looking forward to him developing even further. However, the Fins should hardly make any more noise the Bills in 2013. Their off season was very questionable at times to me. I loved signings like Brent Grimes and former Jet Dustin Keller for cheap, but they drastically overpaid for an already overrated player in Mike Wallace. He’s an incomplete receiver that doesn’t bring a good attitude, and it’s as simple as that. They also totally revamped their linebacker core, which of course, cost them the bank. Dannell Ellerbe is a solid young player, but I didn’t see the need for a complete overhaul of the core.  Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are still very solid players who better fit the system than Ellerbe and fellow newcomer Phillip Wheeler. A still average defense with an offense without a proven running back can’t result in a better record than 7-9 or 8-8 (at best).

I can’t dish out all of this negativity around the division without being honest with the Jets. I don’t think they’ll turn out as bad as most have been imagining if Geno Smith starts, but they’re simply too many holes and developmental positions on the team to expect an more than 7 wins. I would say a 6-10 record is a safe bet. However, all three of the AFC East’s bottom-feeders are interchangeable.  The Pats are a given to finish in first, but anything could happen among the Jets, Bills, and Fins (besides 9 wins from any of them, of course.).

Dan Marcus – They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I must be insane because every year, I think somehow the Jets will beat the Pats twice and maybe host a home playoff game. Even in the years the Jets had expectations and were supposed to contend for a Super Bowl, I would have been content with a division crown and a home playoff game. However, each year its the same story, the Jets end up throwing up all over themselves in the division and somehow the Pats win 12 games, even though we all know that they are never as good as their absurd Win/Loss record would indicate.

As for the other two teams, the Dolphins figure to be much improved and will be a tough team but I’m not sold on Tannehill, (although his wife is another story). Miami has the potential to be a 10 win team but I just don’t think that they will be able to do it, I see them being like the 2012 Bills, a lot of expectations borne from spending a bunch of money. The Bills on the other hand seem to be in a constant spiral of mediocrity, throwing good money after bad (See Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mario Williams) and making some pretty questionable draft picks (EJ Manuel). They are likely destined for another 6-10 season and callous and awful as it may sound to say, that fan base is probably counting down the days until new ownership takes over after Ralph Wilson’s inevitable departure.

The AFC East will be the same story, it’s been for the past decade, the Pats win a minimum of 12 games and the other three teams strain their necks from looking up in the standings all season. From the Jets perspective the AFC East in 2013 will be a reunion tour with Dustin Keller now a Dolphin, Mike Pettine taking the reins as the Bills Defensive Coordinator, and of course Tebow and Leon Washington now members of the Patriots. If there is one thing that is certain about the AFC East in 2013, we will not be at a lack for story lines.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports