The AFC East has been the NFL's most predictable division, at the top at least, since 2003. The New England Patriots have won it every year but one and they are big favorites on NFL odds to take the East for a sixth straight season in 2014.
1. New England Patriots (-260 on NFL odds to win)
Let's be honest here, the Patriots are going to be favored in the division likely until Tom Brady retires. That could be not that far off, however, as Brady will be 37 when the 2014 season kicks off. Brady has been remarkably durable, playing every regular-season game since 2002 other than the 2008 season when he was suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 against Kansas City. New England still won 11 games that year behind Matt Cassel but missed the playoffs as Miami won the division via tiebreaker. The Patriots have the untested Ryan Mallett as Brady's backup these days.
Brady's receiving corps should be better than last year's questionable group with the addition of Brandon LaFell from Carolina and a return to health of Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. He's no sure thing to be ready for Week 1 as he works his way back from a serious knee injury and surgery. New England lost two key defensive players in linebacker Brandon Spikes and cornerback Aqib Talib, but may have upgraded on Talib with Darrelle Revis.
2. New York Jets (+1000 on NFL odds to win)
While sportsbooks like Miami as the second-favorite to the Patriots in the AFC East, the Jets appear to have made bigger strides than the Dolphins this offseason. New York could have a new No. 1 quarterback in Michael Vick, top running back in Chris Johnson and receiver in Eric Decker. Even if Vick doesn't beat out second-year player Geno Smith, the competition alone should benefit Smith, who was wildly inconsistent as a rookie but proved he could lead game-winning drives. Getting Mark Sanchez out of town was likely addition by subtraction. Johnson, meanwhile, is only 28 so he might have another nice season or two in him. Decker was probably a product of playing with Peyton Manning, but he's a vast upgrade over what the Jets had in 2013.
The Jets are likely to always be a good defensive club under head coach Rex Ryan. That group was No. 3 against the rush in 2013. It allowed 24.2 points per game largely because the offense left the defense in bad spots because of too many turnovers.
3. Miami Dolphins (+500 on NFL odds to win)
For Miami to play postseason football for the first time since 2008, Ryan Tannehill needs to take a big jump forward this year. The Dolphins didn't do much to upgrade a very average receiving group -- Mike Wallace needs to play up to his big contract; maybe 2014 second-rounder Jarvis Landry can contribute immediately -- but did address the offensive line. Tannehill was the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL last season. The team also has a nice potential rotation at running back with new addition Knowshon Moreno, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.
In some respects, Miami is punished for playing in the AFC East because it usually has to play late-season cold weather games against the division. That's the case this year in Week 13 at the Jets and Week 15 at the Patriots. The Dolphins can make a statement in Week 1 as 3-point underdogs at sportsbooks against the visiting Patriots. The Fins ended a seven-game skid to New England in their last meeting.
4. Buffalo Bills (+1200 on NFL odds to win)
The Bills haven't won the division since 1995 or made the playoffs since 1999, the longest drought in the NFL. That's likely to continue in 2014. We still don't know what QB E.J. Manuel is. He has some weapons around him in running backs C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and new addition Bryce Brown. The Bills drafted Sammy Watkins No. 4 overall in this year's draft, and Robert Woods is an emerging receiver opposite him. Don't forget stealing Mike Williams from Tampa Bay. Buffalo also has a potentially very solid front seven on defense, although the secondary is a bit iffy. Cleveland fans will be rooting hard for Buffalo to be lousy again this year. Giving up next season's first-round draft pick (and a fourth-rounder) is a very risky but also bold move. That could easily be a Top-5 pick.
Free NFL picks: Patriots win it again, although this might be their last year as the window is creaking shut. If you said that Vick would play all 16 games for the Jets, they would be great value on NFL picks. That's just so unlikely.