It's not just about the New England Patriots being the New England Patriots. Yes, I know you should never bet against that legendary Tom Brady-Bill Belichick duo, no matter how bleak things look. But I also believe the Patriots are destined to win the AFC East for the 10th time in 11 seasons merely because the rest of that division continues to let them off the hook.
The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are slated to start two quarterbacks in Week 1 who have a combined zero NFL pass attempts. The Bills, due to injury, are down to their third-string quarterback. And it's not as though the first two options were scaring anyone in the first place. The Jets, because they're a dysfunctional mess, saw their No. 1 signal caller suffer an injury in the fourth quarter of their third preseason game, and now it looks as though rookie Geno Smith will have to step in early in the regular season.
With Kevin Kolb concussed and rookie EJ Manuel recovering from a knee procedure, the Bills have to turn to undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel, who didn't have his own Wikipedia page until Monday. Tuel isn't ready. No chance. Even college head coach Mike Leach's endorsement was lukewarm at best.
Those two teams won six games apiece last year. Can anyone see them improving in 2013? Neither have had positive offseasons whatsoever, so closing a six-game gap on the Pats will be close to impossible.
The wild card is Miami. The Dolphins won seven games last year and should be better if young quarterback Ryan Tannehill can continue to improve in his sophomore season. But top pick Dion Jordan has been hurt, left tackle Jake Long is gone and adding Mike Wallace might not be the game-changer fans expect. This is still a team that lost 28-0 to New England in their last regular season game, and one that was destroyed through the air all too often last year before losing their best cornerback in the offseason.
The point is that although the Patriots are down a couple stud tight ends and no longer have Wes Welker, you'd be crazy to think anything will change atop the AFC East in 2013.