It is the division of the enigmatic and the established.
Predictably, the surface talk has been about the enigmatic. Ron Meyer has taken over as coach at New England, with draft picks raised. Frank Kush has taken on Baltimore, with fists raised.
But when the talk gets serious -- about teams primed not for about face, but rather for forward march -- it is the old guard of Don Shula's Miami and Chuck Knox's Buffalo, as well as Walt Michaels' newly established New York Jets, that merits attention.
When we last left Miami, San Diego's Rolf Benirschke had beaten the Dolphins with a 29-yard field goal in overtime for a 41-38 AFC playoff game. "We didn't know how to feel in the locker room afterward," Miami wide receiver Jimmy Cefalo remembers. "How could we be ashamed?"
The Miami quarterback situation (a.k.a. "Woodstrock") still is unresolved. David Woodley, the mobile, and Don Strock, the veteran, still don't know who will get to defend the 11-4-1 team's 1981 division title.
Offensive tackle Roy Foster (USC) and wide receiver Mark Duper (Northwestern Louisiana) could help the AFC's fifth-best offense swell with points.
In Buffalo (10-6), Joe Cribbs doesn't feel he's getting enough bills. The running back who gained 1,097 yards in his rookie season doesn't know if he can give 100 percent for only 100 percent of his current paycheck.
Quarterback Joe Ferguson, who last year passed for 24 touchdowns and 3,652 yards (both club records), needs Cribbs' help.
The Jets (10-5-1) had their first season of double-digit victories since 1969, the year after The Year. But when Bill Simpson intercepted Richard Todd's 51st pass of last year's AFC wild-card game on the Bills' two-yard line with time expiring, Buffalo's 31-27 victory was guaranteed.
But it was a marvelous year for Todd (25 touchdowns, 13 interceptions), and for the New York Sack Exchange of Joe Klecko, Mark Gastineau, Abdul Salaam and Marty Lyons, who had an NFL-high 66 sacks. Running back Freeman McNeil (623 yards) needs his health in 1982 and the Jets need McNeil.
Baltimore (2-14) was defenseless last year: 533 points allowed, an NFL record. Quarterback Bert Jones has gone west, receiver Roger Carr has gone home. The Colts will get volts injected into the defense from linebacker Johnie Cooks (Mississippi State) and tackle Leo Wisniewski (Penn State). Mike Pagel (Arizona State) had a better preseason at quarterback than fellow rookie Art Schlichter (Ohio State).
The Patriots (2-14), who lost to bashful Baltimore twice last year, will rely on the NFL's top pick, defensive tackle Kenneth Sims (Texas), and linebackers Lester Williams (Miami) and Andre Tippett (Iowa) to rescue the defense. The quarterback question--Steve Grogan or Matt Cavanaugh? -- remains.