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Colts Favorites, Jets Could Surprise
AFC East Preview

Dateline: August 10, 2001

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"Vinny is coming off a year in which he threw 25 interceptions, but the switch to a West Coast-style of offense should eliminate many of those mistakes. I think Vinny will be back and better than ever as soon as he figures out the new system."
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The AFC Eastern Division Championship will be a three-team race this season, and one of those teams will not be the New England Patriots. They still have Drew Bledsoe running the offense, but this team has a shortage of impact players on offense and defense. If they manage to put together a decent running game, they may win as many as six games this year.

Buffalo is another team that I don't think will be in the playoff race. If Rob Johnson gets hurt, and he does have a history of getting hurt, then the Bills will be up a creek with a broken paddle. Alex Van Pelt is Johnson's backup, which shouldn't be real comforting to bills fans. The Bills no longer have 38-year old veteran quarterback Doug Flutie, nor do they have defensive linemen Marcellus Wiley and Ted Washington. Wiley's 10½ sacks from a year ago will be tough to replace.

One team that I think will compete, and could emerge as a Super Bowl contender if things go right, is the New York Jets. Vinny Testeverde is working in a West Coast-oriented offense now, and he has looked very comfortable running it in training camp. The short passing attack of the new offense should cut down on the sizable number of interceptions he threw last year. The defensive squad should be solid, and John Abraham will have a huge year if he stays healthy and can adjust to playing defensive end.

The Miami Dolphins are coming off a solid season that ended on a sour note with a big loss in the playoffs. Quarterback is still a source of inconsistency, and if Jay Fiedler plays like he did at the end of last season, ex-Jet Ray Lucas will be called on to start. Lucas is more athletic than Fiedler, but he will not suddenly turn the Dolphins into a great passing team. Miami suffered a huge loss on the defensive line when defensive end Trace Armstrong took his league-leading 16 sacks and headed to Oakland. The Dolphins may make a run at the playoffs again, but I doubt they will pull out the division title.

The team that I think will win this division is the Indianapolis Colts. They will have one of the more explosive offenses in the league, and if first-round pick Reggie Wayne becomes a dependable option at wide receiver, they could be almost unstoppable. A lot of young bodies were added to a defense that struggled last year, along with a couple quality free agents. This team reminds me a lot of the Rams in respect to the fact that if they can get just a small improvement from the defensive squad, they may win the whole darn thing.

My Prediction

TeamRecord
Preview
Indianapolis Colts 13-3Colts Offense Ready to Explode
New York Jets11-5Jets Move to West Coast
Miami Dolphins9-7Dolphins Need a Spark
Buffalo Bills6-10Bills Count on Johnson to Stay Healthy
New England Patriots5-11Patriots Add Depth, Lack Talent

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