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Each NFL Team’s Difference-Maker: AFC East

Sam Spiegelman looks at every AFC East team’s difference-maker that each squad will rely on to hopefully carry them to the playoffs.

Lamar Miller
Lamar Miller

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

We’re merely 28 days from the start of the 2014 NFL season.

Every day, we have reviewed the top storylines from training camps across the NFL, providing who is impressing, who is disappointing, and any other significant notes from on and off the field.

Given the news coming out of camps, XN Sports will be naming one difference-maker for each team. Wednesday marks the AFC East and NFC East, and the rest of the schedule is below.

Aug. 6: NFC East

Aug. 7: AFC North

Aug. 7: NFC North

Aug. 8: AFC South

Aug. 9: NFC South

Aug. 10: AFC West

Aug. 10: NFC West

Here are the difference-makers in the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

We saw during the Bills-Giants preseason opener that Buffalo’s offense won’t go anywhere if EJ Manuel cannot make a huge leap froward in 2014. Last year Manuel’s rookie campaign was cut very short by injuries, so this year he’s bound for another year with rookie-esque setbacks.

But if Manuel can figure things out faster rather than slower, the Bills offense could be formidable. With Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Mike Williams to go along with a three-headed rushing attack of Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown, and C.J. Spiller, there’s a lot of potential in Northwestern New York.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins were starved for a rushing attack last season, with Lamar Miller failing to be a difference-maker in his second NFL season. The team went out and signed veteran Knowshon Moreno in free agency, but Moreno hasn’t been healthy yet in Miami and it’s unknown how much of an impact he can even have in 2014.

Miller, though, has been the star of training camp and looks poised to be the do-it-all back for the Dolphins — what LeSean McCoy is to the Eagles. With a reliable running game and Ryan Tannehill continuing to develop, the Dolphins will be a tough test.

New England Patriots

The difference between the Tom Brady being a good NFL quarterback and an elite quarterback over the past few years has been the presence of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Now looking healthy for the first time in two years, Gronk adds a whole new element to the New England offense that has been lacking.

The receiving unit remains unimpressive, as only Julian Edelman has proved to be a reliable target. With Gronk making plays and again proving to be indefensible, expect more big plays down the field and better efficiency in the red zone.

New York Jets

Like with Buffalo, the Jets offense will be entirely different if Geno Smith is a better quarterback his sophomore season. Last year, Smith impressed at times with his late-game heroics and poise. Though that was often counteracted by questionable decision-making, it provided glimpses where it was very conceivable Smith can be a really effective quarterback.

Jets management brought in a Pro Bowl running back, Pro Bowl wide receiver, and upgraded the offensive line to give Smith more weapons, more protection, and ways to take pressure off the quarterback to shoulder the entire offense. If he can take advantage in Year 2, the Jets should be a playoff team.

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