The NFL’s AFC East is kind of like TNT: They know drama.
Oh, boy, do they know drama. The Miami Dolphins made all kinds of wrong headlines for their bullying scandal last year; the New England Patriots managed to lose a star player to accusations of murder; and the New York Jets are, well, the New York Jets. The Buffalo Bills may be in the midst of an ownership change, but that can’t compete with the other teams in this division.
Top story line — The Bills, like the New York Giants, opened camp early because of the Hall of Fame game and they can use the advantage of a few extra days of practice. This is a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2004 and has gone 6-10 for three straight seasons.
Key acquisition – Wide receiver Sammy Watkins was talented enough to warrant trading a future first-round pick in 2015 in order to move up in the NFL draft. E.J. Manuel should send him a lovely gift basket.
Biggest loss – Long-time owner Ralph Wilson died in March and the process of finding a new owner officially is underway. Will the franchise, which may go for $1.1 billion, be owned by Donald Trump, Jon Bon Jovi, the past or future owner of the Sabres or some other ownership group?
Top story line – This season can’t possibly be worse than 2013, when the NFL was rocked by the team’s bullying scandal. Gone is Richie Incognito (and Jonathan Martin, for that matter), but Mike Pouncey remains and reportedly will face no further discipline for his role in what the NFL determined was a pattern of harassment.
Key acquisition – Branden Albert, a Pro Bowler in Kansas City and a big reason for Jamaal Charles’s rushing success. He’ll be called on to lead a unit that drew far too many headlines for the wrong reasons last season.
Biggest loss – Defensive back Chris Clemons is now working in Houston, where the Texans are beefing up their defense.
New England Patriots
Top story line – Bill Belichick and Tom Brady continue to hold the team together with baling wire and pixie dust and yet every season seems to end up in the AFC championship game. Still, they have to be hoping for a healthy season for the starters, especially for tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Key acquisition – If Darrelle Revis can stay healthy and regain his form, the Patriots’ most talented cornerback since Ty Law will be a leader for the defense and will help compensate for the unit’s biggest loss.
Biggest loss – That would be Aqib Talib, who, like Wes Welker, moved from New England to Denver.
New York Jets
Top story line – Rex “I’m a great coach” Ryan has no shortage of confidence, which may be a good thing because there’s a quarterback controversy a-brewin’ and tabloid back pages that won’t fill themselves with sexy headlines. Will Geno Smith or Michael Vick start more games?
Key acquisition – Chris Johnson may not be the same running back who starred for the Tennessee Titans, but he’s an upgrade for the Jets.
Biggest loss – Sometimes, the biggest loss is a positive thing. See Sanchez, Mark.