Ten questions about the AFC East

The Patriots will only go so far as Tom Brady leads them this season.

The Patriots will only go so far as Tom Brady leads them this season.

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:23 PM ET

The AFC East will once again be a two-horse race between the aristocratic New England Patriots and the trash-talking New York Jets who have been the AFC bridesmaids two years running. In Miami coach Tony Sparano is hanging on to his job by his thumbs while in Buffalo the Bills are merely looking to establish some traction.

1. Will Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth be distractions in New England?

Albert Haynesworth posed the greater challenge as he sulked his way out of Washington. He played in just one pre-season game, their finale, and raved to all how much he loved being a Patriot. If he’s motivated he’s one of the best. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Ochocinco, though, as he has yet to mesh with QB Tom Brady. Still, he’s near the end and wants to go out with a bang.

2. Can Ryan Fitzpatrick prove that 2010 wasn’t a fluke?

When you don’t have a lot of talent, heart and desire can only take you so far. Fitzpatrick is like the Little Engine That Could but now he comes into the season as the undisputed leader and often that tips the scale back the other way. Still, with the Bills he’s 8-13 as a starter. Last year the Bills won four games. Who knows, this year it might be five.

3. Is this finally the year where the Jets put it all together?

In New York they certainly think so. The Jets have tried to win it all the past two seasons by winning out on the road as a wild card. As the Jets now know, that’s a tough road to hoe as they’ve finished second best in the AFC Championship game two years running. So, for them to have a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl, first they have to beat the Patriots and win the division. It’s that simple.

4. Can Tony Sparano survive the season in Miami?

In the off-season Dolphins owner Steve Ross attempted and failed to woo Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh to take over the reins with Harbaugh deciding instead to remain on the west coast and take on the taxing job as head coach of the 49ers. This can hardly be viewed as a vote of confidence. If the Dolphins are a dud, exit Sparano.

5. Will Plaxico Burress shoot the Jets in the foot?

Burress’ aim with a loaded revolver down his pants was a punch line for late night comedians for months after he accidently shot himself in the thigh. Now that he’s out of the slammer and with the Jets, Burress is being looked on as the big receiver that Mark Sanchez will be looking for in the red zone. He could be a big plus.

6. Did the Bills make the right choice in not drafting a quarterback?

With the overall No. 3 pick, the Bills could have landed any quarterback in the draft not named Cam Newton, who went first overall to Carolina. Instead, in a draft that was loaded with quarterbacks, they didn’t pick a one. So no Blaine Gabbert, no Andy Dalton, no Ryan Mallett, no Jake Locker, no nothing. The Bills, though, were desperate to shore up their run defence so going with DT Marcell Dareus may prove to be the smart pick.

7. At 34 has Tom Brady peaked?

Well, let’s see what he did at 33 — completed 324 of 492 passes for 3,900 yards, and 36 touchdowns against just four interceptions. Along the way he threw 335 consecutive passes without an interception and won his second MVP award. So given all that, maybe at 34 the only direction he can go is down. What he does need to do is produce in the playoffs as the Patriots somehow have gone three seasons without a post-season win. Hard to figure.

8. Will Reggie Bush resurrect his career in Miami?

It’s doubtful. In his previous five seasons with New Orleans, Bush was used more as the threat that never was. On the ground, he never rushed for more than 600 yards or had more than 157 carries. On screens and swing passes out of the backfield, he never developed as a big yardage threat. In his career he never had more than five receptions go for 20-plus yards in any single season. On top of that he is injury prone.

9. In Buffalo is it C.J. Spiller or Fred Jackson?

It should be Jackson as right now he is the better back as he is more powerful and can see and hit the holes better than Spiller. In his rookie season last year Spiller showed that he had more speed but he didn’t get many touches. He was the Bills No. 1 pick two seasons ago so with all the politics that go along with that, he will receive a lot more touches than a year ago. Jackson has a right to be complaining.

10. Is Mark Sanchez overrated?

If you don’t win in New York you’re a bum. It’s as simple as that. Now that he’s entering his third season a lot more will be expected from Sanchez, especially with the addition of Plaxico Burress. To date he has been plagued by inconsistency but that’s what you get with young quarterbacks. He has to show he’s got the stuff to be more than a bridesmaid.

 


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