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afc East
September 02, 1996
Call it romance, call it nostalgia, but I look at the Buffalo Bills and see five proud veterans rallying the troops behind them for one final Super Bowl push: Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Kent Hull. Collectively they have been selected for 27 Pro Bowls. They're all 30 or older. They all know the elation of playing on four straight Super Sundays and the disappointment of four defeats. All of their names will come up when the Hall of lame committee gathers for future selection meetings.
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September 02, 1996

Afc East

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Drew Bledsoe has a new quarterback coach in Chris Palmer and, he says, a new commitment. He threw for 3,507 yards last season, but when the Patriots got into the red zone, they sputtered. Defensive backs said Bledsoe was easy to read. He would look for tight end Ben Coates, and if Coates was covered, panic set in. That will be corrected, Parcells says. That might mean even more work for Curtis Martin, who as a rookie last season gave the Patriots more than they ever expected—1,487 rushing yards, to be exact.

Because of the Parcells situation, people are predicting everything from a division title to a last-place finish. That's why I'm playing it safe.

The New York Jets are doing everything but playing it safe. Last spring I saw a guy outside a K Mart with a basket and a bell. He was chanting, "Please give to the Jets War Relief Fund," so I dropped a dollar in the basket, and now I feel good about helping the worst team in football buy enough players to compete.

Pete Carroll went 6-10 in 1994, his first year as coach, and he got fired. Rich Kotite went 3-13 last season, so what did Jets owner Leon Hess do? He opened the vault and said, "Buy your way out of it." The Jets spent more than $50 million in the off-season on free agents, including the $25 million that former Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell got. So let's just say that New York helped itself in every area it addressed, mainly because the people it replaced were so hopeless.

Last season the Jets had four tackles, none of whom could pass-block. They had so few wideouts that they couldn't even put a three-receiver package on the field. They scored two rushing touchdowns. Their quarterback couldn't throw a sideline pass. But their defense was solid, especially their strong safety, Victor Green, who's as good as there is in the league.

Green had 186 tackles last year, and he was nifty in coverage. Teammates seemed to rally around him. Defensive tackle Matt Brock, pass-rushing end Hugh Douglas, left cornerback Aaron Glenn and linebackers Marvin Jones and Mo Lewis are excellent, too. It took the Jets four games to find out what wideout Keyshawn Johnson, the top pick in the draft, could do, but that post-corner move he put on Oakland Raiders corner Larry Brown for a score during the Jets' preseason finale shows there are big things to come.

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