Walker's 2012 AFC East predictions

I've been asked about predicting the AFC East for months. But I wanted to wait until after I visited all four teams up close in training camp and watched the preseason.

Now I'm ready to make a 2012 season predictions.

Here is how the AFC East will finish:

First place: New England Patriots

Thoughts: The Patriots have owned the AFC East for a majority of the past 12 years, and there is nothing to suggest that gap has closed enough in 2012. New England has the most talent, the best quarterback and the most explosive offense by a long shot. The Patriots also have the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL. The only thing that could derail New England is a significant injury to quarterback Tom Brady. Otherwise, there’s no reason New England won’t be AFC East champs again this year.

Second place: Buffalo Bills

Thoughts: Second and third place was the toughest call to make. But after spending time in both camps, I just have a more optimistic feeling about the Bills. There were some concerns from the Bills in the preseason. But I still think Buffalo is a team on the rise with a strong roster on both sides of the ball. You cannot say the same about the Jets. My issue with Buffalo is that it struggles in the AFC East. The Bills will have to beat teams like the Jets and Dolphins to have a shot at the wild card. It’s a long season but Buffalo will get a big chance to do it in Week 1.

Third place: New York Jets

Thoughts: The Jets have the talent to either make the playoffs or combustible enough to completely flame out. I don’t see the quarterback experiment between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow going smoothly for 16 games. Sanchez is not consistent enough to keep the immense Tebow pressure at bay for a full season, and Tebow is not a franchise quarterback. The offensive weapons aren’t dynamic enough, either. I like New York’s defense. The Jets have the potential to be one of the top defenses in the NFL. But if the offense can’t score enough touchdowns, New York can’t win enough games to make the playoffs.

Fourth place: Miami Dolphins

Thoughts: Miami is a team in major transition in 2012. The Dolphins have a new coach (Joe Philbin), a new rookie quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) and a new offense and defense. I expect a ton of growing pains ahead for Miami. This is a team with a lot of holes, particularly on offense. The Dolphins’ defense hasn’t been lights out this preseason, but it should be the strength of the team. I said earlier this offseason that I would be shocked if Miami wins more than six games. I’m sticking to that prediction.

So there you have it. You can take these predictions to the bank. The Patriots will win the AFC East, the Bills will finish second, Jets third and Dolphins in the basement.

Enjoy the ride.