But that doesn't mean the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins should just mail it in this year. In fact, Bills general manager Buddy Nix had some fighting words for the Patriots this week after a successful offseason in Buffalo.
"I think they oughta expect a lot of us. We expect a lot out of ourselves," Nix told the Toronto Sun. "New England, the AFC -- they don't scare me. I think we can compete with any of 'em, and our intention is to try to win the division."
That's a bold statement for Nix, who is leading a team that hasn't been to the playoffs in 13 years. But I can tell you from experience and being at Bills training camp this summer that this is a confident group. They feel the tide is turning in their favor.
Buffalo was the only AFC East team to beat New England last year. So the Patriots certainly will have their guard up in 2012.
Still, the Bills have a lot to prove if they are a legitimate threat to the reigning AFC East and AFC champions. Buffalo hasn't done much so far this preseason to inspire confidence that the team is ready to take over the Patriots. It will take a lot more than words for the Bills to claim the top spot this year.