ADVERTISEMENT

>New England Patriots

Who's in: WR Brandon Lloyd, OLB/DE Trevor Scott (Buffalo), S Steve Gregory, DE Chandler Jones, LB Dont'a Hightower.

Who's out: T Matt Light, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB Kevin Faulk, DE Mark Anderson, S James Ihedigbo.

Last playoff appearance: 2011 (lost Super Bowl)

Longest playoff drought: 7 seasons (1987-93)

Other notable drought: New England hasn't had a Pro Bowl running back since 1996 (Curtis Martin).

On the spot: New left tackle Sebastian Vollmer will be tasked with protecting Tom Brady's blind side.

They'll win the Super Bowl if: Syracuse rookie Chandler Jones can generate a pass rush, helping mask some of the deficiencies of the secondary.

They'll lose in the postseason if: Teams devise a scheme to slow the Patriots' dynamic tight ends and Wes Welker. Good luck.

***

>Buffalo Bills

Who's in: DE Mario Williams, DE Mark Anderson, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Stephon Gilmore, LT Cordy Glenn.

Who's out: CB Drayton Florence, DE Shawne Merriman, WR Roscoe Parrish, LT Demetrius Bell.

Last playoff appearance: 1999 (lost in wild-card round)

Longest playoff drought: Current

Other notable drought: The Bills had lost 15 straight games to New England before ending that streak in Week Three last season.

On the spot: No. 2 receiver Donald Jones will have to stretch the field to open the underneath routes and take pressure off Stevie Johnson.

They'll finally make the playoffs if: The revamped defensive line lives up to its potential, putting the offense in favorable position.

They'll finish under .500 again if: The way quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finished 2011 is closer to his true form than the way he started the season.

***

>New York Jets

Who's in: QB Tim Tebow, S LaRon Landry, DE Quinton Coples, WR Stephen Hill, RT Jason Smith.

Who's out: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, S Jim Leonhard, WR Plaxico Burress, S Brodney Pool, RT Wayne Hunter.

Last playoff appearance: 2010 (lost in conference championship)

Longest playoff drought: 11 seasons (1970-80)

Other notable drought: The Jets haven't had a receiver with a 200-yard game since Richard Caster had 204 on Sept. 24, 1972, at Baltimore.

On the spot: Head coach Rex Ryan has to be an effective ringleader of this circus.

They'll challenge for a wild card if: Coples can provide a good pass rush, forcing throws for cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis to feast on.

They'll fall apart if: Tebow Time comes too soon. The minute Mark Sanchez throws an interception, Tebow's faithful will be loudly calling for him. The potential is there for things to get ugly.

***

>Miami Dolphins

Who's in: QB Ryan Tannehill, QB David Garrard, DB Richard Marshall, WR Legedu Naanee, OL Artis Hicks.

Who's out: WR Brandon Marshall, LB Jason Taylor, S Yeremiah Bell, QB Chad Henne, CB Vontae Davis.

Last playoff appearance: 2008 (lost in wild card round)

Longest playoff drought: 6 seasons (2002-07)

Other notable drought: The Dolphins have had three straight losing seasons for the first time in their NFL history.

On the spot: Running back Reggie Bush is coming off his first 1,000-yard season. He'll be targeted by defenses as the Dolphins' only big-play threat.

They'll fight to stay out of the basement if: The defense, which has ranked eighth in points allowed the past two seasons, can keep them in games.

Why they'll be candidates for the top pick: Rookie quarterback Tannehill is awfully raw to be starting from Day One, but the Fins don't have much choice.

Note: Capsules are in order of predicted finish.