Buffalo Bills

1998 result: 10-6, tied for second in division (lost to Miami in first round).

Coach: Wade Phillips, 10-6 in one season with Bills (26-22 in three seasons overall).

Key acquisitions: CB Antoine Winfield (first-round draft pick, Ohio State), WR Peerless Price (second-round draft pick, Tennessee).

Key losses: TE Lonnie Johnson (Chiefs), WR Quinn Early (Raiders), LB Chris Spielman (Browns, retired).

Outlook: Doug Flutie returned from his Canadian exile last season, and the Bills surprised just about everyone by making the playoffs. Flutie, 36, was rewarded with a huge contract, thus giving Buffalo two signal callers (backup Rob Johnson is the other) with starting-quarterback salaries. The downside of this was that the Bills couldn't afford to make a peep in the offseason free agent market, and therefore are pretty much the same team they were a season ago. On defense, the big question is whether Bruce Smith's increasingly fragile knees can hold up for another season as he moves toward his goal of 200 career sacks (he needs 36). Winfield will start right away, and the Bills think he will make the team less susceptible to long passes.

Schedule

September

12 at Indianapolis, 1

19 N.Y. Jets, 8:20

26 Philadelphia, 1

October

4 at Miami, 9

10 Pittsburgh, 1

17 Oakland, 1

24 at Seattle, 4:15

31 at Baltimore, 1

November

7 at Washington, 1

14 Miami, 1

21 at N.Y. Jets, 1

28 New England, 1

December

5 Open date

12 N.Y. Giants, 1

19 at Arizona, 8:20

26 at New England, 1

January

2 Indianapolis, 1

Indianapolis Colts

1998 result: 3-13, fifth in division.

Coach: Jim Mora, 3-13 in one season with Colts (96-87 in 12 seasons overall).

Key acquisitions: DE Chad Bratzke (Giants), DE Shawn King (Panthers), LB Cornelius Bennett (Falcons), S Chad Cota (Saints), RB Edgerrin James (first-round draft pick, Miami), LB Mike Peterson (second-round draft pick, Florida).

Key losses: RB Marshall Faulk (Rams), RB Lamont Warren (Patriots), P Chris Gardocki (Browns).

Outlook: If any good can be gleaned from a 3-13 season, consider this: despite a tenuous start, Peyton Manning set NFL rookie records for pass attempts (575), completions (326), yards (3,739) and TDs (26), and the offensive line yielded an AFC-low 22 sacks. But that was about it on the plus side. During the offseason, the Colts tried to address a defense that finished 29th in the league in both yards and points allowed. The acquisitions of Bratzke and King will help a defensive line that scared nobody last season, but the linebackers and secondary remain suspect. Bennett's arrival will help the linebacking corps, but he's 34 years old. The Colts are placing high hopes on James, whose receiving skills prompted them to draft him rather than Ricky Williams and made Faulk expendable.

Schedule

September

12 Buffalo, 1

19 at New England, 1

26 at San Diego, 4:05

October

3 Open date

10 Miami, 4:15

17 at N.Y. Jets, 1

24 Cincinnati, 1

31 Dallas, 1

November

7 Kansas City, 1

14 at N.Y. Giants, 1

21 at Philadelphia, 1

28 N.Y. Jets, 4:15

December

5 at Miami, 1

12 New England, 1

19 Washington, 1

26 at Cleveland, 1

January

2 at Buffalo, 1

Miami Dolphins

1998 result: 10-6, tied for second in division (defeated Bills in first round, lost to Broncos in AFC semifinals).

Coach: Jimmy Johnson, 27-21 in three seasons with Dolphins (71-57 in eight seasons overall).

Key acquisitions: WR Tony Martin (Falcons), G Kevin Gogan (49ers), DE Rich Owens (Redskins), RB James Johnson (second-round draft pick, Mississippi St.), FB Rob Konrad (second-round pick, Syracuse).

Key losses: OL Jeff Buckley (Browns), TE Frank Wainright (Ravens), WR Lamar Thomas (injured reserve), RB Bernie Parmalee (released).

Outlook: The search for a capable running game has become a rite of autumn for Miami. Twelve tailbacks were invited to training camp to compete for four spots. Karim Abdul-Jabbar remains the starter for now, but John Avery, James Johnson or fifth-round pick Cecil Collins could replace him. Other problems on offense: Marino is 38 years old, and he has no wide receivers who are threats to get open deep. The defense might be one of the league's best. It allowed a league-low 16.6 points per game last season. Zach Thomas is a dominant linebacker and CBs Terrell Buckley and Sam Madison tied for second in the league with eight of Miami's NFL-leading 29 interceptions.

Schedule

September

13 at Denver, 9

19 Arizona, 1

26 Open date

October

4 Buffalo, 9

10 at Indianapolis, 4:15

17 at New England, 1

24 Philadelphia, 1

31 at Oakland 4:05

November

7 Tennessee, 8:20

14 at Buffalo, 1

21 New England, 1

25 at Dallas, 4:15

December

5 Indianapolis, 1

12 at N.Y. Jets, 4:05

19 San Diego, 1

27 N.Y. Jets, 9

January

2 at Washington, 4:15

New England Patriots

1998 result: 9-7, fourth in division (lost to Jaguars in first round).

Coach: Pete Carroll, 19-13 in two seasons with Patriots (25-23 in three seasons overall).

Key acquisitions: RB Lamont Warren (Colts), QB John Friesz (Seahawks), C Damien Woody (first-round draft pick, Boston College), LB Andy Katzenmoyer (first-round pick, Ohio State), RB Kevin Faulk (second-round pick, LSU).

Key losses: C Dave Wohlabaugh (Browns), LB Todd Collins (Rams), P Tom Tupa (Jets).

Outlook: QB Drew Bledsoe broke his right index finger late last season, and the team lost three of its final four games. WR Terry Glenn could be one of the NFL's finest, but he has missed 16 of the past 32 regular season games. DE Willie McGinest, the heart of the defensive line, isn't over a groin injury that kept him out of seven games, and RB Robert Edwards, the team's leading rusher as a rookie a year ago, may never play again after injuring a knee in a beach football game held in conjunction with the Pro Bowl. Starting LB Ted Johnson won't play for the second season in a row because of a torn biceps. With those players healthy, the Patriots would be a top team. Instead, they easily could be at the bottom of the AFC East.

Schedule

September

12 at N.Y. Jets, 1

19 Indianapolis, 1

26 N.Y. Giants, 8:20

October

3 at Cleveland, 1

10 at Kansas City, 1

17 Miami, 1

24 Denver, 1

31 at Arizona, 4:05

November

7 Open date

15 N.Y. Jets, 9

21 at Miami, 1

28 at Buffalo, 1

December

5 Dallas, 8:20

12 at Indianapolis, 1

19 at Philadelphia, 1

26 Buffalo, 1

January

2 Baltimore, 1

New York Jets

1998 result: 12-4, first in division (beat Jaguars in AFC semifinals, lost to Broncos in AFC championship).

Coach: Bill Parcells, 21-11 in two seasons with Jets (130-92-1 in 14 seasons overall).

Key acquisitions: S Steve Atwater (Broncos), TE Eric Green (Ravens), LB Roman Phifer (Rams), P Tom Tupa (Patriots), QB Rick Mirer (Seahawks).

Key losses: G Matt O'Dwyer (Bengals), QB Glenn Foley (Seahawks), TE Kyle Brady (Jaguars), S Corwin Brown (released).

Outlook: It's been years since the Jets have been viewed as a Super Bowl contender, but the pieces seem in place. QB Vinny Testaverde threw for 29 TDs with only 7 INTs last season and has one of the NFL's top wide receiver duos: Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet, who combined for 158 catches, 120 for first downs. Chrebet, though, is likely to miss six weeks with a broken foot. The defense ranked seventh last season, mostly because of a strong linebacking corps that should improve with Phifer and the return of Marvin Jones from injury. The concerns are at guard, where four players with no NFL experience are competing for two spots; tight end, because Green has knee problems, and special teams, although Tupa will help.

Schedule

September

12 New England, 1

19 at Buffalo, 8:20

26 Washington, 1

October

3 at Denver, 4:15

11 Jacksonville, 9

17 Indianapolis, 1

24 at Oakland, 4:15

31 Open date

November

7 Arizona, 1

15 at New England, 9

21 Buffalo, 1

28 at Indianapolis, 4:15

December

5 at N.Y. Giants, 1

12 Miami, 4:05

19 at Dallas, 4:15

27 at Miami, 9

January

2 Seattle, 1