Sean Salisbury

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Thursday, June 27
AFC East: 'Super' Patriots stay on top

By Sean Salisbury

Team Salisbury's analysis
New England Patriots The New England Patriots definitely overachieved last year. No one thought they'd be that good. They probably even surprised themselves. But the Pats have done nothing in the offseason to make their team worse. And unless the defending champs do something drastically different, which the Patriots have not, they're the AFC East leader. A youthful defense has another year of experience, Tom Brady will be better (I don't believe he's just a one-year wonder) and there is no controversy on the team this year. Once training camp begins, injuries may change the setting, but the defending champions deserve to stay the champions until someone proves they're better.

Miami Dolphins In the offseason the Miami Dolphins filled two major weaknesses by hiring Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator and acquiring Ricky Williams from New Orleans. Both moves will make Jay Fiedler a better quarterback and put him in a position to be successful. My offensive coordinator at USC, Turner is one of the best at making good QBs great. I believe in him. Turner will add a major dimension to the Dolphins' offense. Williams improves the Miami running game because he has fresh legs and can rush for 1,400 yards. He will help turn Fiedler into a solid quarterback with options. When defenses begin keying on Williams, Fiedler will see his receivers in a lot of man-to-man situations. Defensively, Jason Taylor has proved he can take his game to another level, Zach Thomas will be healthy, and I love their corners. The Dolphins safeties are physical. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Dolphins and Patriots flip-flop throughout the year. I can see the Dolphins winning the division.

New York Jets Last season, their first year playing a 4-3 defense, the New York Jets couldn't tackle anyone the first few games. But head coach Herm Edwards taught them well. By the end of the year, their defense came around and improved greatly. The Jets need to make a commitment for Curtis Martin to touch the ball 30 times a game. One of the most versatile running backs in the league, Martin does it all. Give him the ball. The second factor will be which Vinny Testeverde we see this year. The Jets would like to see the Vinny who has confidence and believes in the West Coast offense in its second year. If Vinny comes out smoking, it will prevent any Chad Pennington talk and the Jets will be fine. Their young receivers have another year of experience in the system as well. But it all depends on Testaverde -- will he be a Pro Bowl passer or will he be looking over his shoulder at Pennington?

Buffalo Bills I had a hard time picking the Buffalo Bills last, but they are in a strong division. I know Gregg Williams feels good about his team. They had several new players last year. Now they have added Drew Bledsoe, who I think is a steal. He gives them instant credibility at quarterback and makes the Bills a completely different team offensively. If Eric Moulds doesn't catch 100 balls, I'll be shocked. The Bills defense runs around and has very physical corners. They will win seven-plus games and could easily win 10 games and battle for first place.

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