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2012 AFC East Preview
Odds and Analysis
The New England Patriots recorded an AFC-best 13-3 record last season behind future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who threw for a career-high 5,235 yards. Brady also benefited greatly from All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski until he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Gronkowski put up historic numbers for his position, recording 90 catches for 1,327 yards and set an NFL record for a tight end with 18 touchdowns.
While the Patriots defeated the Ravens 23-20 to advance to the Super Bowl for the second time in five seasons, they ended their season just like the last time they made it that far with a loss to the New York Giants, 21-17. However, they had a productive offseason, shoring up their defense in the NFL draft and adding another offensive weapon for Brady in free agent wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. So it's really no surprise to see the Patriots are huge favorites to win the AFC East at -350, 11/4 to win the conference championship and 13/2 to win Super Bowl XLVII.
The New York Jets finished a disappointing 8-8 last season, losing their final three regular season games and missing the playoffs after making it to the AFC Championship Game two years in a row. On a positive note, Jets QB Mark Sanchez threw for career highs in both yards (3,474) and touchdowns (26). In March, they rewarded him with a three-year contract extension worth more than $40 million. That move raised some big eyebrows when they acquired heavily scrutinized QB Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos less than two weeks later. Trading for Tebow caused a media frenzy nationwide and also turned up the pressure cooker even more on Sanchez. The team's bigger issues include improving on defense and finding a way to balance out the offense with a stronger running game. New York sits at +600 to win the division, 12/1 to win the AFC Championship and 25/1 to win the Super Bowl.
The Buffalo Bills were one of last year's early season surprises thanks to a great 4-2 start. However, the Bills quickly faded away, losing eight of their final 10 games to finish at 6-10. After the hot start, Buffalo may have jumped the gun in awarding starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick -- a Harvard graduate and 2005 seventh-round draft pick -- with a contract extension valued at $59 million over six years. Regardless, the Bills also addressed the defensive side of the ball in the offseason and made the biggest splash in signing the best available player not named Peyton Manning when they inked dominant pass rusher Mario Williams to a six-year deal that could potentially be worth $100 million. The Bills are one of the popular sleeper picks at +700 to win the division, 28/1 to win the AFC Championship and 50/1 to win the Super Bowl.
The Miami Dolphins started last season 0-7 and closed out the year by winning six of nine to finish with a 6-10 record. But that still was not enough to save head coach Tony Sparano from getting fired. In late January, the Dolphins hired former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin to replace Sparano. In March, they parted ways with All-Pro wide receiver Brandon Marshall, trading him to the Chicago Bears for a pair of third-round draft picks. They then selected QB Ryan Tannehill out of Texas A&M with the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft. While Tannehill is expected to compete with veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard for the starting job in training camp, this team still has lots of question marks and too many holes to fill in order to be competitive in the AFC East. The Dolphins sit at +1200 to win the division, 22/1 to win the AFC Championship and 50/1 to win the Super Bowl.
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