The Buffalo Bills orchestrated one of the most noteworthy offeseasons of 2012, landing prize defensive end Mario Williams on a $100-million free agent contract, and supplementing the big splash with the pickup of former Patriot Mark Anderson in free agency and cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the first round of the draft.
Those moves, plus the continued development of such offensive players as wide receiver Stevie Johnson and running back C.J. Spiller, have expectations soaring in Buffalo.
Along those lines, general manager Buddy Nix exuded confidence in a recent intereview with the Toronto Sun, saying, "We expect a lot out of ourselves. New England, the AFC -- they don't scare me. I think we can compete with any of 'em, and our intention is to try to win the division." (hat tip to Pro Football Talk for pointing out the interview).
"I think anything short of going to the playoffs for me, personally, would be a big disappointment," Nix added.
Nix's confidence should not come as a surprise, as the offseason is a time in which nearly every NFL team possesses optimism heading into the regular season slate. The Bills also look improved on paper, although questions remain with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and whether left tackle Cordy Glenn can adeptly step into a blindside protection role.
From a Patriots perspective, the team still seems like a safe bet to reign supreme in the AFC East. Despite falling to the Bills early in 2011, the Patriots still bested the rest of their division by five games, and were a full seven games clear of the Bills in the standings.
Though the competition in the AFC East may prove stiffer, a gap appears to remain entering 2012.