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August 29, 2013

In AFC East, it's Pats _ and everyone else. Again

Life in the AFC East has been simple for the last decade. Just plug in the New England Patriots at the top of the division, and see how everybody else shakes out.

Bill Belichick & Co. have won nine of the last 10 division titles, with Tom Brady leading the way. The star quarterback has been a constant stabilizing presence on an offense that has endured lots of turnover while the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have all mostly looked up at the Patriots in the standings.

Well, except for 2008, when Brady was sidelined with a knee injury in Week 1. The Dolphins won the division that year, and they’d like nothing more than to change things at the top of the AFC East again.

“I’m excited where I’m at and where the team is at this point,” second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “We want to work to get better every day and use every opportunity we can, but the work is not done.

“We are still working to get better.”

Meanwhile the Jets and Bills are just trying to figure out who will be under center. For New York, will it be Mark Sanchez, dealing with a shoulder injury, or rookie Geno Smith? It’s even more uncertain in Buffalo, which may start the undrafted Jeff Tuel in Week 1, but also has injured first-rounder EJ Manuel and journeymen Matt Leinart and Thaddeus Lewis.

“It’s a brand new year, and everything’s up for grabs,” Bills defensive star Mario Williams said before training camp. “Everything’s up for the taking.”

Here are five things to know about the AFC East:

:IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QBs: Brady is still one of the NFL’s elite players, and it never seems to matter to whom he’s throwing or handing off. Tannehill is coming off a so-so rookie season he hopes to build on. Rex Ryan’s Jets don’t know if Sanchez will be healthy enough, so they might be forced to go with the raw Smith, a first-round talent who slipped to the second round because of questions about his abilities and mental makeup.

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