AFC East Writers Predict the Division’s Best and Worst

The AFC East writers have made some bold predictions, but Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are expected to continue dominating their divisional competition in 2013. (Photo: Andrew Weber — USA Today Sports)

The NFL season may have begun on Thursday night, but the AFC East season begins Sunday. The Buffalo Bills will play the New England Patriots, while the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets will play out-of-conference games (against the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively). To get ready for the season, writers from multiple AFC East sites within the NFL Draft Sites Network took the time to predict how teams and players will fare in 2013.

The respondents are as follows:
Ryan Talbot (Staff Writer, Buffalo Bills Draft) — Poll Writer
Dan Hope (Editor, Buffalo Bills Draft)
Joe Marino (Staff Writer, Buffalo Bills Draft)
Joseph Curtis (Staff Writer, Buffalo Bills Draft)
Glenn Gifford (Staff Writer, Buffalo Bills Draft)
Chad Pullen (Assistant Editor, Miami Dolphins Draft)
Garrett Baker (Assistant Editor, Miami Dolphins Draft)

Which teams and players in the AFC East will thrive? Who will disappoint? Here are our takes on the AFC East in 2013.

1. What are your predictions on how each team in the AFC East will finish this season?

Dan Hope: Patriots 13-3, Dolphins 6-10, Bills 5-11, Jets 3-13
Ryan Talbot: Patriots 11-5, Bills: 8-8, Dolphins: 7-9, Jets: 3-13
Joe Marino: Patriots 11-5, Dolphins 8-8, Bills 6-10, Jets 3-13
Joseph Curtis: Patriots 11-5, Dolphins 7-9, Bills 6-10, Jets 5-11
Glenn Gifford: Patriots 11-5, Dolphins 9-7, Bills 6-10, Jets 5-11
Chad Pullen: Patriots 11-5, Dolphins 9-7, Bills 5-11, Jets 3-13
Garrett Baker: Dolphins 10-6, Patriots 9-7, Bills 5-11, Jets 3-13

The results are mostly consensus in favor of the Patriots, with 11-5 being the record of choice, but Baker is making a bold prediction in favor of a Dolphins victory. Talbot is the only writer to see the Bills making the top two in the division, while the writers are in consensus agreement toward a Jets last-place finish.

2. Who will be the Offensive Rookie of the Year?

Hope: Robert Woods
Talbot: EJ Manuel
Marino: EJ Manuel
Curtis: EJ Manuel
Gifford: EJ Manuel
Pullen: EJ Manuel
Baker: EJ Manuel

In the division with the NFL’s only two rookie starting quarterbacks, the results are near-consensus in favor of EJ Manuel. Hope, an unapologetic believer in Robert Woods, goes against the grain and puts faith in one of Manuel’s top pass-catchers.

3. Who will be the Defensive Rookie of the Year?

Hope: Sheldon Richardson
Talbot: Kiko Alonso
Marino: Dion Jordan
Curtis: Kiko Alonso
Gifford: Dion Jordan
Pullen: Dion Jordan
Baker: Dion Jordan

The leading vote-getter, Jordan, has the most potential of any defensive rookie in the AFC East. He was the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, and could provide an immediate spark for the Dolphins off the edge.

4. Who will be the best free agent pickup?

Hope: Mike Wallace
Talbot: Danny Amendola
Marino: Danny Amendola
Curtis: Mike Wallace
Gifford: Dannell Ellerbe
Pullen: Brent Grimes
Baker: Philip Wheeler

The writers have a wide range of choices here, but it comes as no surprise that five of the seven chose Miami Dolphins players, considering the heavy spending the Dolphins did in free agency this season. Leading vote-getters Wallace and Amendola are both expected to step up and immediately be their teams’ No. 1 receivers.

5. Who will be the biggest free agent bust?

Hope: Philip Wheeler
Talbot: Mike Wallace
Marino: Mike Wallace
Curtis: Dannell Ellerbe
Gifford: Mike Wallace
Pullen: Danny Amendola
Baker: Danny Amendola

In an interesting twist, the free agents with the highest expectations from some writers are also the ones most expected to bust by other writers. Both Wallace and Amendola signed lucrative contracts with their teams this offseason, so either would be a huge disappointment if he fails to live up to expectations.

6. Which running back will lead the division in rushing?

Hope: C.J. Spiller
Talbot: C.J. Spiller
Marino: C.J. Spiller
Curtis: C.J. Spiller
Gifford: C.J. Spiller
Pullen: C.J. Spiller
Baker: C.J. Spiller

No disagreement in this category. Spiller is clearly the best running back in the AFC East, and the Bills plan to use him heavily, so this one was an easy choice.

7. Which receiver will lead the division in receptions?

Hope: Danny Amendola
Talbot: Danny Amendola
Marino: Danny Amendola
Curtis: Danny Amendola
Gifford: Danny Amendola
Pullen: Kenbrell Thompkins
Baker: Stevie Johnson

On a team replacing both of its starting wide receivers from last season, Amendola is expected to replace Wes Welker and become a go-to receiver immediately for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The most interesting choice here comes from Pullen, who thinks the Patriots’ leading receiver will instead be undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins.

8. Which receiver will lead the division in receiving yards?

Hope: Mike Wallace
Talbot: Danny Amendola
Marino: Danny Amendola
Curtis: Mike Wallace
Gifford: Steve Johnson
Pullen: Mike Wallace
Baker: Mike Wallace

Wallace is a big-play receiver who see should more than fair share of opportunities to gain receiving yardage throughout the season. Wallace has 3,286 receiving yards over the past three seasons.

9. Which player will lead the division in sacks?

Hope: Cameron Wake
Talbot: Chandler Jones
Marino: Cameron Wake
Curtis: Cameron Wake
Gifford: Chandler Jones
Pullen: Cameron Wake
Baker: Cameron Wake

One of the NFL’s best pass-rushers, Wake led the AFC East with 15 sacks last season. Talbot and Gifford both think second-year Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones could be in for a significant spike in production in a breakout year.

10. Which team will have the most sacks by the year’s end?

Hope: Miami Dolphins
Talbot: Buffalo Bills
Marino: Miami Dolphins
Curtis: Miami Dolphins
Gifford: Buffalo Bills
Pullen: Miami Dolphins
Baker: Miami Dolphins

It comes as no coincidence that all five writers who picked Wake to lead the division in sacks also picked the Dolphins to lead among teams. The Dolphins should also see sack production from Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan among others. Talbot and Gifford, however, don’t believe in Jones’ supporting cast, instead seeing the Bills as the division’s leading pass-rushing team.

11. Which player will lead the division in interceptions?

Hope: Devin McCourty
Talbot: Reshad Jones
Marino: Devin McCourty
Curtis: Devin McCourty
Gifford: Dee Milliner
Pullen: Antonio Cromartie
Baker: Devin McCourty

McCourty has 14 career interceptions in three NFL seasons, but he could have even more opportunities in 2013 as he begins his first full season at free safety for the Patriots.

12. Which team will have the most interceptions in the division?

Hope: Miami Dolphins
Talbot: New England Patriots
Marino: New England Patriots
Curtis: New England Patriots
Gifford: New York Jets
Pullen: New England Patriots
Baker: Miami Dolphins

McCourty could lead the interceptions charge for the Patriots, the leading vote-getter in this poll, but they also have a number of other players who could tally up the interceptions including cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard.

13. Who will be the division’s offensive player of the year?

Hope: Tom Brady
Talbot: Tom Brady
Marino: Tom Brady
Curtis: Tom Brady
Gifford: Tom Brady
Pullen: Tom Brady
Baker: Tom Brady

Another unsurprising consensus choice, as Brady remains one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks and consistently puts up big numbers at the helm of the Patriots offense.

14. Who will be the division’s defensive player of the year?

Hope: Vince Wilfork
Talbot: Chandler Jones
Marino: Mario Williams
Curtis: Cameron Wake
Gifford: Cameron Wake
Pullen: Cameron Wake
Baker: Cameron Wake

Arguably the division’s best pass-rusher, Wake is an impact player on the Dolphins’ defensive line and a rightful top vote-getter for divisional defensive player of the year.

15. Who will be the division’s special teams player of the year?

Hope: Caleb Sturgis
Talbot: Marquise Goodwin
Marino: Brandon Fields
Curtis: Matt Slater
Gifford: Marquise Goodwin
Pullen: Marcus Thigpen
Baker: Stephen Gostkowski

The responses are all over the place on the final poll question, with two writers choosing kickers, one choosing a punter, one choosing a core special teams player and the other three choosing return specialists. The only player to receive multiple votes was Goodwin, who returned a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown in the Bills’ preseason opener and has the speed to be special in the return capacity for the Bills as a rookie.

Now it’s your turn. If you want to make your own predictions, join the discussion in the comments thread below!

Tags: 2013 Season Predictions, AFC East, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Season Predictions

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