Power Rankings: AFC East looks loaded


Get a load of this.

ESPN.com's regular-season Power Rankings came out Tuesday. Three AFC East teams bunched together at Nos. 9, 10 and 11. What's more, they were rated among the top six teams in the conference, suggesting the AFC East deserves three playoff teams.

The New York Jets and New England Patriots slipped from the previous poll in July, while the Miami Dolphins climbed two spots.

They're all rated lower than the best team from the other three divisions, but the second-best team from those divisions are rated lower.

If that hierarchy holds, then the AFC East would earn both wild-card berths. That's doubtful, but an accomplishment I've considered legitimately possible since last year's playoffs.

Let's a take look at the division through the eyes of our four Power Rankings voters: senior writer John Clayton, NFC West blogger Mike Sando, AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky and AFC North blogger James Walker.

9. New York Jets

  • Previous rating: 7

  • Final 2009 ranking (regular season): No. 12

  • My take: The Jets have been my favorite to win the AFC East for the past seven months, but I have to agree with the panel. Confidence in my prediction has been shaken by quarterback Mark Sanchez's lukewarm summer, but reaching accord with cornerback Darrelle Revis was monumental.

10. New England Patriots

  • Preseason rating: 9

  • Final 2009 ranking (regular season): No. 10

  • My take: Seems about right for now. There's a multitude of questions on defense. Will they be able to generate a pass rush? Will their cornerbacks be good enough without Leigh Bodden? Do they have enough leadership? But it's hard to think of the Patriots being outside the top third of the NFL as long as they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

11. Miami Dolphins

  • Previous rating: 13

  • Final 2009 ranking (regular season): No. 21

  • My take: The Dolphins are the AFC East's X-factor. They have uncertainty on both sides of the ball, including a quarterback who's still establishing himself, running backs with age/injury concerns and unstable cornerback play. The addition of receiver Brandon Marshall and inside linebacker Karlos Dansby are huge, though.

31. Buffalo Bills

  • Previous rating: 31

  • Final 2009 ranking (regular season): No. 24

  • My take: Throughout last season I criticized the panel for rating the Bills way too high. Now I disagree with how little credit the Bills are getting. Sando and Clayton each ranked the Bills the worst team in the NFL. Kuharsky saved them from being on the bottom of the Power Rankings by pegging them at a robust 30. My prediction for the Bills this year is five or six victories. That would place them much higher than 31st.