ALL Eyes on a tight afc East

ROB LONGLEY

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

With the Patriots no longer dominant, the AFC East is wide open with all four teams in the hunt. Here's a look at their prospects:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 5-3

The next three weeks should clear up just where they stand in the division. But this isn't the Patriots we've grown so used to watching dominate the past several seasons. The running game is hurting and the defence is not as stout as it once was with stalwart Rodney Harrison out for the season.

BIG GAME: Tomorrow vs. Buffalo -- The Pats have dominated the Bills, winning eight in a row including a pair by blowout scores last season. Are the young and improving Bills ready to compete?

NEW YORK JETS 5-3

Still lacking in consistency, a trait not helped by gunslinger Brett Favre at quarterback. But the biggest hurdle facing the improving Jets is their schedule, the toughest of the four. After what should be an easy home game today against St. Louis, the Jets are at New England, at undefeated Tennessee and at Denver.

BIG GAME: Dec. 28 vs. Miami -- With the Bills and Patriots also meeting that day, there could be some serious scoreboard watching. Of course, it's also possible that both of these teams fade from contention by then, as well.

BUFFALO BILLS 5-3

Have hurt themselves by losing divisional games to the Jets and Dolphins which could become critical if a playoff berth is settled via a tiebreaker. Injuries have hurt them of late and, as the weather starts to turn, they will need the running game to step up. Still, if they can right themselves soon, they remain the most likely candidate to unseat the Patriots.

BIG GAME: Dec. 28 vs. New England -- While the Rogers Centre date against Miami has some appeal in Toronto especially, this season finale could be the biggest Bills home game in years.

MIAMI DOLPHINS 4-4

Have the lightest remaining schedule but, as a developing team, they are going to need it. GM Bill Parcells has changed the losing culture and the Dolphins seem to compete in every game. He's not the greatest QB the division has seen, but Chad Pennington is a considerable upgrade on the recent past for the Dolphins.

BIG GAME: Dec. 7 vs. Buffalo (at Toronto) -- Who could have predicted that the inaugural game of the Bills in Toronto series could have huge playoff implications for both participants?


Videos

Photos