New England Patriots
After their Super Bowl upset defeat at the hands of the Giants, the Patriots are looking to repeat as division champs and advance deep into the playoffs. Their offense is returning largely intact, which is good news for a unit that set all sorts of records last year, including total points and most TD passes. Their defense still looks a little old and slow, despite the addition of LB Jerod Mayo, a potential opening day starter, in the first round of the draft. But the coaching staff is excellent at putting together schemes and gameplans to make this defense better than just the sum of its parts. Though they will obviously not go undefeated this year, the Pats should have little trouble wrapping up the division for the sixth straight year, for the simple fact that very few teams will be able to outscore them.
New York Jets
Before the Jets signed Brett Favre I would have ranked them third in this division, but Favre brings an instant legitimacy to the QB position that New York has not had in several years. Having a future Hall of Fame QB to lead the offense will increase the production of the Jets skill position players, and should translate into a couple more victories than they otherwise would have had. Upgrades at G (Faneca) and FB (Richardson) in the offseason should also allow the Jets to run the ball more effectively this year. The Jets loom as a wildcard contender but my gut tells me they will come up a little short.
The Bills have been gradually improving the last couple years and that trend should continue, but ultimately this team needs better production from its offense. Will rookie WR James Hardy develop into the receiving threat they've been looking for to take some of the pressure off of Lee Evans? Will QB Trent Edwards perform better as a full-year starter (assuming J.P Losman doesn't reclaim the job at some point this season)? I have my doubts. However, the running game and defense remain decent to above average and will give the Bills a shot at making the playoffs, albeit a slim one.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Dolphins will win more games than they did last year. Seriously though, this is a team with a lot of question marks heading into the 2008 season. They traded away their best player, defensive end Jason Taylor. Ronnie Brown is only 10 months recovered from a torn ACL. Their defense was downright terrible last year, and at least on paper doesn't look to be much beter in '08. And the guy expected to start at QB, Chad Pennington, was literally just signed a few days ago after the Jets dumped him. On the positive side, the offensive line will be better this year (though that's admittedly not saying very much) with the drafting of blue chip tackle Jake Long at #1. If the Dolphins win more than five games the season should be considered a massive success.