It seems that most analysts, with the exception of Hugh Douglas as Don alluded a few days ago, are picking the Buffalo Bills to finish second in the AFC East this season. While I agree that the Bills will be improved from last year's 6-10 team that finished the season 1-8, those predictions are also based on the assumption that the Jets are trending downward.
Those predictions are also centered around the fact that the Jets have made themselves an easy team to hate over the past few seasons. Rex Ryan's brash predictions have made the team a lightning rod for criticism when things went wrong, which was certainly the case as the Jets dropped their final three games of the 2011 regular season to miss the playoffs.
Much to the chagrin of the national media and to the pleasure of the team's fans, the Jets have been shying around from the limelight this offseason, with the notable exception of trading for Tim Tebow of course. Starting with declining another opportunity to appear on HBO's Hard Knocks, Ryan and Gang Green have taken advantage of last season's failure to make the playoffs and found an opportunity to keep their mouths shut.
This quiet demeanor may come as a shock to many, but the Jets have nothing to boast about heading into the 2012-13 season and they know it. It's time for them to get down to business on the football field and this team seems to recognize that fact for the first time in years. Of course, two straight AFC Championship Game appearances will bloat anybody's heads.
Looking at the players on the field though, how are the Bills that much better than the Jets? Both teams have legitimate question marks surrounding their turnover-prone quarterbacks, but Mark Sanchez has more upside than Ryan Fitzpatrick. I like the Bills' running back duo better than the Jets but New York's offensive line looks stronger, making the ground game a wash. I would also take the Jets' weapons in the passing game over the Bills', who have little behind Stevie Johnson.
Defensively, the Bills have a significant advantage rushing the passer. The Giants proved last season that a dominant pass rush can lead a team to the promised land, and that is what most Bills fans are latching their hopes onto. The addition of Mario Williams alongside Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams will be huge for Buffalo, but I would take the Jets in every other facet defensively.
The presence of Darrelle Revis will always make the Jets pass defense formidable, and both teams should be able to shut down opposing quarterbacks in different ways. Tom Brady certainly won't be happy to face these teams four times this season. Each team should also be solid against the run, as the Jets were last season and the Bills made serious improvements to their front seven.
While I expect both teams to finish at or above .500 next season, the Jets are the ones with the upside to make Douglas' claim come true. If everything comes together, which is definitely a big if, they have the talent to win the division. The Bills can be a solid team, but I can't say the same thing about them.
My final predictions: Jets 10-6, Bills 9-7. Which makes the Jets a bigger threat to New England than the Bills.