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EAST DIVISION

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September 02, 2002|BY NEWSDAY IN PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH BY DIVISION

NEW YORK JETS

Coach: Herman Edwards, second season.

Last season's record: 10-6, third in AFC East. Lost to Raiders in wild-card round.

Who's in: CB Donnie Abraham (Buccaneers), CB Aaron Beasley (Jaguars), LB Sam Cowart (Bills), DT Josh Evans (Titans), SS Sam Garnes (Giants), DE Larry Webster (Ravens), DE Steve White (Buccaneers).

Who's out: DT Shane Burton, CB Marcus Coleman, LB James Farrior, CB Aaron Glenn, S Chris Hayes, G Kerry Jenkins, G David Loverne, DE Rick Lyle, DT Steve Martin, DE Eric Ogbogu, T Ryan Young.

Outlook: Huge turnover on the defensive side, where the Jets now have six new starters. However, if Cowart can stay healthy, he'll have a huge impact. The defensive line now has depth that has been missing for several seasons. Offensively, the big question is the line. But with three Pro Bowl-caliber starters in Kevin Mawae, Jason Fabini and Randy Thomas, it's still better than most. Vinny Testaverde's still got the big arm, and Curtis Martin is still a top runner.

Parting shot: Super Bowl or bust.

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MIAMI DOLPHINS

Coach: Dave Wannstedt, third season with Dolphins.

Last season's record: 11-5, second in AFC East. Lost to Ravens in wild-card round.

Who's in: DT Larry Chester (Panthers), P Mark Royals (Buccaneers), RB Ricky Williams (Saints).

Who's out: DE Lorenzo Bromell, T Spencer Folau, TE Hunter Goodwin, RB J.J. Johnson, DE Kenny Mixon, RB Lamar Smith, S Brian Walker.

Outlook: The Williams trade provides a huge upgrade on offense. He's the Dolphins' best running back since Larry Csonka. Jay Fiedler, coming off preseason hip surgery, needs a big season to keep his job over Ray Lucas. The defense is one of the quicker ones in the NFL, but tends to lose steam in the latter stages of the season and into the playoffs. The defensive line is average, the linebackers are slightly better and the secondary is solid.

Parting shot: Even Williams won't be able to get Miami over the playoff hump.

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Coach: Bill Belichick, third season with Patriots.

Last season's record: 11-5, first in AFC East. Won Super Bowl.

Who's in: TE Cam Cleeland (Saints), TE Christian Fauria (Seahawks), S Chris Hayes (Jets), WR Donald Hayes (Panthers), CB Tom Knight (Cardinals), DE Rick Lyle (Jets), DT Steve Martin (Jets), LB Ryan Phillips (Colts).

Who's out: QB Drew Bledsoe, CB Terrell Buckley, LB Bryan Cox, WR Terry Glenn, DT Brandon Mitchell, TE Jermaine Wiggins.

Outlook: There's no quarterback controversy now that Bledsoe is gone. But that still doesn't answer the question whether Tom Brady is a one-season wonder, a franchise-caliber passer or something in between. The guess here: something in between. Belichick is clearly moving toward a short passing game with the influx of tight ends, including first-round pick Daniel Graham. The defense is not super talented, but is extremely well coached.

Parting shot: Belichick caught lightning in a bottle last season and won't repeat the feat any time soon.

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BUFFALO BILLS

Coach: Greg Williams, second season.

Last season's record: 3-13, fifth in AFC East.

Who's in: QB Drew Bledsoe (Patriots), LB London Fletcher (Rams), K Mike Hollis (Jaguars), S Billy Jenkins (Packers), TE Dave Moore (Buccaneers), LB Eddie Robinson (Titans), T Trey Teague (Broncos).

Who's out: S Keion Carpenter (Falcons), LB Sam Cowart (Jets), DE Phil Hansen, CB Ken Irvin, QB Rob Johnson.

Outlook: Bills made tremendous strides in the offseason with the acquisition of Bledsoe and Fletcher, important players for each side of the ball. Bledsoe is a major upgrade for the passing game, but he'll need help from an anemic running game. The defense continues to be outmatched at the point of attack.

Parting shot: Bills will be one of the NFL's most improved teams, but let's not give them too much credit.

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