NFL Offseason: Good News and Bad News for AFC East

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 22, 2013

By Russell S. Baxter

Watching the salary cap cuts and preparing for March 12 and unrestricted free agency? Ready for late April and the NFL Draft? Can’t wait for the Hall of Fame game and the preseason?

Are you anxious for the 2013 NFL season to begin?

So am I.

In the meantime, we’ll be taking a look back at each of the NFL’s eight divisions, starting with the AFC East, in terms of the good and the bad as of late. Be it recently or historically, there’s always some interesting numbers that we all find fascinating in terms of trends, one of the many aspects that makes the National Football League the game we all love.

But why waste time with my gushing when you can be reading?

New England Patriots (12-4)

The Good News: The Patriots scored an NFL-high 557 points in 2012 (the third-highest single-season total in NFL history), becoming just the second franchise to reach the 500-point mark in three straight seasons (the Rams achieved that feat  three straight years from 1999-01) and the first in league annals to reach that mark four times. New England scored an NFL record 589 points in 2007.

The Pats have now posted 12 straight winning seasons dating back to 2001, tied for the seventh-best mark in league history.

The record is held by the Dallas Cowboys, who rang up 20 consecutive winning campaigns from 1966-85 … New England also posted a perfect 6-0 record in divisional play in 2012; the Dolphins, Jets and Bills were a combined 6-12 vs. their AFC East rivals this past season…

The Bad News: Quarterback Tom Brady threw 34 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions in 2012, meaning that in 81 games dating back to 2007 the two-time Super Bowl MVP has thrown for 187 scores and been picked off just 45 times.

However, the team has gone 0-2 in the Super Bowl over that span …The Patriots had their issues with the other conference last season, going 1-3 vs. NFC teams in 2012. From 2001-11, Bill Belichick’s was 38-6 vs. inter-conference opponents and a combined 41-8 if you include the team’s five Super Bowl appearances over that span.

New England lost to the Cardinals (20-18), Seahawks (24-23) and 49ers (41-34) by a combined 10 points, with the losses to Arizona and New England coming at home…


Miami Dolphins (7-9)

The Good News: Don’t sit on the Dolphins’ defense, which despite a mediocre ranking in terms of yards allowed (21st in NFL, including 27th in pass defense), only six teams in the league gave up fewer points than Miami (317), who allowed only 28 offensive touchdowns.

Speaking of that defense, defensive end Cameron Wake finished fourth in the NFL with 15.0 sacks, a big reason the Dolphins finished seventh in the league with 42 sacks. While running back Reggie Bush finished 14 yards short of a second straight 1,000-yards season rushing (986), he totaled a career-high 227 carries and led the team with eight total touchdowns …

The Bad News: Since winning the AFC East with an 11-5 mark in 2008 (just one season after finishing 1-15), the Dolphins are a combined 27-37, finishing 7-9 three of the last four seasons, as well as 6-10 in 2011 …

Reality check: Miami has played in just one playoff game in the last 11 seasons from 2002-12. The Dolphins lost to the Ravens, 27-9, in the 2008 AFC Wild Card Playoffs. Prior to that, the franchise reached the playoffs five straight years from 1997-2001...One reason for the team’s shortcomings in terms of reaching the playoffs has been the lack of big plays on the defensive side of the ball.

Since 2009, the Dolphins have totaled a league 75 takeaways, forcing less than 20 turnovers in each of the last three seasons (16 in 2012)…


New York Jets (6-10)

The Good News: It’s hard to find a lot of positives when you suffer through the first losing season of head coach Rex Ryan’s four-year tenure as Jets’ head coach and injuries robbed you of cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Santonio Holmes for the majority of the season.

But it’s at least worth noting that the Jets finished 12th in the league in rushing yardage one year after ranking 22nd in the NFL in the same category.

Running back Shonn Greene ran for a career-high 1,063 yards in 2012, one season after rushing for 1,054 yards ...

The Bad News: The turnover issues for quarterback Mark Sanchez are well-documented, but we’re going to document them again.

Over the last two seasons, the Jets’ signal-caller has thrown for 39 scores while coughing up the ball 52 times, totaling 26 turnovers in each season. In 62 career regular-season games, Sanchez has thrown 68 touchdown passes and committed an astounding 89 turnovers …

It wasn’t long ago that Rex Ryan’s Jets were successful road warriors but that has changed dramatically over the last two seasons. Including six postseason contests (and four wins), New York was an imposing 15-7 on the road from 2009-10. But it’s been a reversal of fortune as of late, with the Jets just 5-11 away from home since 2011…


Buffalo Bills (6-10)

The Good News: It may surprise some that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick not only threw 24 touchdown passes for the second consecutive season in 2012, but he cut his interceptions from a league-high 23 in 2011 to 16 this past season.

Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick lost 6-of-8 fumbles, bringing his turnover total to 22 in 2012, down from 25 a year ago …

The third season proved to be fairly charming for running back C.J. Spiller, a big reason the Bills finished sixth in the league in rushing yards per game (138.6).

Spiller ran for 1,244 yards in 2012, the most by a player on the team since Willis McGahee ran for 1,247 yards in 2005…

The Bad News: Dismal times: For the eighth straight season, the Bills (6-10 in 2012) finished with a losing record, the worst stretch in the team’s 53-year history dating back to 1960.

Buffalo has also now finished last in the AFC East five consecutive years dating back to 2008 and the team has also lost 10 or more games each of the last four seasons ...

Trend?: The Bills have finished in the Bottom 5 of the league in rushing defense in four straight and six of the last eight seasons. Only the Saints (147.6 yards per game) gave up more rushing yards per game than the Bills (145.8 yards per game) in 2012…

Next week: The Good News and the Bad News for the NFC East

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