Good News/Bad News (2013 AFC East)

By Russell S. Baxter

Pro Football Guru

And now, the end is near.

It may technically still be the offseason, but there’s never a bad time when it comes to reminiscing NFL-style.

Here’s the final installment when it comes to our eight divisional reviews of the 2013 season. We note the positives and negatives for all 32 teams, with a twinge of recent history and trends as well. You can preview each of the eight pieces right here.

Ahead is the division that has been basically dominated by one team for more than a decade: the AFC East.

New England Patriots (12-4)

Good News: Can you say dynasty still in progress? The Patriots have now posted 13 straight winning seasons dating back to 2001, tied for the sixth-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 has also won 10 or more games each of the last 11 seasons dating back to 2003, the season they won their second Super Bowl title. Bill Belichick’s club has also won five straight AFC East titles and since realignment in 2002, owns the NFL’s best numbers in terms of overall record (147-45), home (81-15) and away (66-30) marks and divisional record (57-15) as well…

Born to run? Not necessarily if you’re the Patriots as of late. Or so in the perception as Belichick’s team finished ninth in the NFL this past season in rushing. A year earlier, New England finished seventh in the league in yards gained on the ground. All told, it marked the first time since the 1982 and ’93 seasons that the Pats finished in the NFL’s Top 10 when it came to running the football…

Bad News: Yes, quarterback Tom Brady’s numbers were down in 2013 compared to recent seasons. The 14-year signal-caller threw for 25 scores compared to 11 interceptions. Dating back to the start of the 2007 season, Brady has played in 97 regular-season games and in those contests, served up an impressive 212 touchdown passes while being picked off just 56 times. However, the Patriots are 0-2 in the Super Bowl and have lost the last two AFC title games over that seven-year span…

The recent postseason numbers indicate that the Pats have been mediocre at best. Of course, keep in mind that in order to compile such statistics, you have to keep reaching the playoffs on a steady basis. Still, the truth is that Belichick and company is a mere 8-8 in their last 16 postseason contests dating back to the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoffs, a loss to the Broncos. Of course, we all remember that this club won 10 straight playoff games before that ’05 setback in Denver, a run that included three Super Bowl victories in four years…

New York Jets (8-8)

Good News: Is the kind of football that helped Rex Ryan’s team reach a pair of AFC title games on the comeback trail? During his first two seasons on the job, both of those resulting in the Jets coming within one game of the Super Bowl, Ryan’s club finished first and fourth, respectively, in the league in rushing. That number dipped to 22nd in 2011 but made its way back up in ’12 when New York finished 12th in the league in rushing yardage. This past season, only five teams in the NFL ran for more yards than Ryan’s rebuilt team…

The Jets have made a habit of drafting defensive players in the first round in recent years, as was the case in 2013 when they landed cornerback Dee Milliner and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson with the ninth and 13th overall picks, respectively. The latter would garner NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, helping Ryan’s team rank third in the league in rushing defense while totaling 3.5 sacks. Richardson also saw his action out of the offensive backfield this past season, rushing for two touchdowns on a total of four carries…

Bad News: The turnover issues for quarterback Mark Sanchez have been well-documented. The Jets’ signal-caller coughed up the football 26 times in both 2011 and ’12. Sanchez committed an astounding 89 turnovers in 62 regular-season contests. Enter rookie quarterback Geno Smith in 2013. The second-round pick committed 25 of the team’s 29 turnovers this past season…

It wasn’t long ago that Rex Ryan’s Jets were successful road warriors but that has changed dramatically over the last three 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 7-17 away from home since 2011…

Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Good News: Following a somewhat-rough rookie campaign, quarterback Ryan Tannehill began to come into his own in his second NFL season. One season after throwing more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (12) and completing just 58.3 percent of his passes, the 2012 first-round pick doubled his scores through the air (24), was picked off 17 times and hit on 60.4 percent of his throws. It should also be pointed out that Tannehill attempted 588 passes in 2013, 104 more than in his rookie campaign (484)…

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 35-45 and have failed to post a winning record in five consecutive seasons. Miami has played in just one playoff game in the last 12 seasons from 2002-13. 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-low 99 takeaways, forcing less than 20 turnovers in three of those five seasons…

Due to numerous factors both on and off the field, as well as the Miami locker room, the Dolphins allowed a league-high 58 sacks in 2013, all upon Tannehill. The young signal-caller was sacked 18 times in the first four games (as many times as Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning was sacked in 2013), as well as three or more times in 11-of-16 contests this past season…

Buffalo Bills (6-10)

Good News: Buffalo’s defense continues to be an issue, especially against the run (more on that later). But one thing Doug Marrone’s club did well on that side of the ball in 2013 was get after opposing quarterbacks. The Bills totaled 57 sacks this past season, second only to the Carolina Panthers (60). Three member of the defense, defensive ends Mario Williams (13.0) and Jerry Hughes (10.0) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (10.5), reached double digits when it came to sacks. That’s not a bad total considering just 24 players in the league totaled 10 or more sacks in 2013…

There was also some very encouraging news when it came to the team’s performance against is AFC East rivals. Buffalo swept the Dolphins and split with the Jets in 2013. And while a 3-3 divisional record is hardly a cause for a massive celebration, keep in mind that the Bills were a mere 6-24 vs. their AFC cohorts the previous five seasons (2008-12)…

Bad News: Dismal times: For the ninth straight season, the Bills finished with a losing record in 2013, the worst stretch in the team’s 54-year history dating back to 1960. Buffalo has also now finished last in the AFC East six consecutive years dating back to 2008 and the team has also lost 10 or more games each of the last five seasons. Of course, the Bills still own the NFL’s longest current playoff drought, their last postseason appearance resulting in a 22-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the 1999 AFC Wild Card Round...

Trend?: The Bills have finished in the Bottom 5 of the league in rushing defense in five straight and seven of the last nine seasons dating back to 2005. In 2013, only four teams in the NFL gave up more yards on the ground than Marrone’s club, a very slight improvement after the Bills were ranked next-to-last in the league against the run the previous year…