- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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With the 2012 regular season in the books, let's take a look at whose stock is rising and falling in the AFC East:
1. Black Monday victims: This choice is obviously. The AFC East was hit hard on Black Monday, which is the first day of the offseason for teams that don't make the playoffs. The AFC East had three teams with losing records this year. Therefore, changes were expected. The Buffalo Bills fired head coach Chan Gailey and his entire coaching staff, while the New York Jets let go of general manager Mike Tannenbaum. This is just the beginning. Further changes will be made this offseason. Two more changes that are expected with Buffalo starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is due a $3 million roster bonus in March, and embattled Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano.
2. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: Sanchez had one last shot at glory to enter the offseason on a good note. Greg McElroy’s concussion opened the door for Sanchez to re-enter the starting lineup in the regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills. But Sanchez had two turnovers in a 28-9 loss on Sunday. Sanchez enters the offseason with a lot of questions. He will be guaranteed $8.25 million by the Jets in 2013, so Sanchez will remain on the roster. But New York will be adamant about finding a replacement for the embattled quarterback.
3. Quarterback draft class: I made sure to record and watch two bowl games of note in the past week so I could do some advance scouting on top quarterbacks. So I closely watched bowl games of West Virginia's Geno Smith, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and Mike Glennon of NC State. To put it bluntly, I wasn't impressed. All three quarterbacks have holes in their game that need to improve before playing against NFL defenses. It's early, and plenty can change during the interview and combine process. But from what I've seen on the field, I don't think any of these quarterbacks should be considered by the Bills or Jets with No. 8 and No. 9 overall picks. USC quarterback Matt Barkley also enters the draft with injury concerns. This certainly won't be the year to get a sure-fire quarterback prospect.
1. New England Patriots: The reigning AFC champions had a great Week 17. The Patriots seized an opening to take over the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, while also pitching a rare shutout defensively. New England had one of its most complete games of the season in a 28-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Both New England's offense and defense were dominant. It was an ideal way to enter the postseason. The Patriots will rest their players and get ready for their next opponent in the divisional round on Jan. 13.
2. Rex Ryan, Jets head coach: Ryan survived his second straight non-winning season in New York, which is an accomplishment in itself. But on top of that, the Jets fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum, which provides a little more power for Ryan. The new general manager for the Jets will get final say, but chances are Ryan will have some influence as a holdover. Jets owner Woody Johnson obviously thinks highly of Ryan. But he cannot have another 6-10 season.
3. LaRon Landry, Jets safety: Landry was quietly one of the better free-agent signings in the AFC East last year. Landry signed a team-friendly, one-year contract due to injury concerns. But he had a Pro Bowl year and is likely to cash in on a lucrative extension. Landry stayed around the football and recorded 99 tackles, two interceptions and four forced fumbles. He answered durability questions by playing in all 16 games and earned a Pro Bowl nod. That combination raises his price tag heading into free agency.