Few would argue that the defending AFC East champion New England Patriots remain the most talented team in the division, despite the loss of virtually their entire corps of running backs from last season. The Pats will feel the loss of feature back Curtis Martin, who bolted for "greener" pastures in the offseason, signing with the New York Jets. New England will need one of their young backs, preferably rookie Robert Edwards, to step up and take some pressure off QB Drew Bledsoe. Still, the Patriots have one of the league's top defenses, making them the front runners.
It won't be easy for New England, though; it never is when you've got coaches Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson in the same division. Jets coach Parcells stole his favorite running back (Martin) from New England, injecting an immediate boost into the offense that already boasted big-time receiver Keyshawn Johnson. Big Bill would love to see QB Glenn Foley take the reins of the team this year, but veteran Vinny Testaverde was brought on for insurance and may get the nod if Foley falters.
Jimmy Johnson has steadily improved the Miami Dolphins in his first two seasons as coach, turning them into a playoff team by adding quickness through the draft. And of course, there's Dan Marino. The aging QB may have lost a step, but he still has that quick release to go along with the intensity and leadership that the young Dolphins need.
The Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts both improved in the offseason but, well... someone in the division has to lose. The Bills signed Rob Johnson to quarterback the team and plucked Doug Flutie from the CFL to provide backup and wisdom. Both are an improvement from last year. The Colts — the NFL's worst team a year ago — are on the road to recovery, but the road could be bumpy while savior Peyton Manning adjusts to professional defenses.