DENVER BRONCOS (12-4)
LAST YEAR: Broncos roared into playoffs on 11-game winning streak as AFC’s top seed, but promptly lost to Baltimore in double overtime after Jacoby Jones hauled in Joe Flacco’s 70-yard TD toss in waning seconds of regulation. Last time Denver lost at home as top seed, to Jacksonville in 1996, it bounced back to win Super Bowl. Broncos are out to repeat history this season.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: WR Wes Welker, RG Louis Vasquez, rookie RB Montee Ball, LB Shaun Phillips, DB Quentin Jammer, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: DE Elvis Dumervil, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
CAMP NEEDS: Just three years after John Elway rescued foundering franchise, Broncos have very few holes, but do have to make up for loss of Dumervil. Broncos signed Phillips and drafted Quanterus Smith, and hope to see more from Robert Ayers and big jumps from Jeremy Beal and Malik Jackson. Only weak link on offense is battered line in which every starter except Zane Beadles is coming off surgery. All-Pro LT Ryan Clady signed his $57.5 million extension on eve of camp but will miss up to two weeks (right shoulder surgery).
EXPECTATIONS: LB Von Miller said it as soon as last season was over, and Clady reiterated it after signing contract: Super Bowl or bust in Denver. Last year, all questions about how Peyton Manning would hold up and adjust to his new team were answered positively. Now, it’s about how they’ll all handle expectations of championship run. Elway & Co. have already built solid, deep roster that should withstand adversity. Manning has better backfield and improved receiving corps to work with, and defense led by Champ Bailey and Miller is real deal, giving Denver legitimate shot at Lombardi Trophy. Miller’s looming four-game suspension for violating league’s drug policy is worrisome.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (7-9)
LAST YEAR: Chargers missed playoffs for third straight season and owner Dean Spanos finally fired coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith. Spanos replaced Turner and Smith with pair of 40-year-olds, former Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and former Indianapolis assistant GM Tom Telesco. Continuing offensive line woes led to another subpar season by QB Philip Rivers. RB Ryan Mathews managed to not only break both collarbones, but continued his fumbling problems. Four TV blackouts showed Bolts aren’t as popular at box office when losing.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: LT Max Starks, OLB Dwight Freeney, rookie ILB Manti Te’o, rookie RT D.J. Fluker, RB Danny Woodhead.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB Quentin Jammer, OLB Shaun Phillips, RG Louis Vasquez, LB Takeo Spikes, SS Atari Bigby, DT Antonio Garay, TE Randy McMichael, DE Vaughn Martin, CB Antoine Cason. LB Antwan Barnes.
CAMP NEEDS: Plenty, starting with finding cohesion on offensive line with three new starters, including Fluker. Veteran Jeromey Clary will move from right tackle to right guard. Bolts also need to find depth at receiver and in defensive front seven, where new regime let plenty of players go.
EXPECTATIONS: McCoy and Telesco don’t like word “rebuilding,” but this is as close to major overhaul as Chargers have had in some time. Rivers will have to get used to how McCoy and coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, former coach of Arizona Cardinals, run offense. Rivers was sacked 49 times and committed 22 turnovers, and has that fumbling problem. Fourth straight season out of playoffs is possibility.
OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12)
LAST YEAR: In first full season following death of longtime owner Al Davis, Raiders struggled under new regime led by GM Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen. Offense sputtered as RB Darren McFadden was poor fit for zone-blocking system, and defense allowed most points per game for this franchise since 1961.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Matt Flynn, DB Charles Woodson, CB Tracy Porter, CB Mike Jenkins, rookie CB D.J. Hayden, LB Nick Roach, LB Kaluka Maiava, rookie LB Sio Moore, DT Pat Sims, DT Vance Walker.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Carson Palmer, DT Richard Seymour, DT Tommy Kelly, LB Philip Wheeler, LB Rolando McClain, DB Michael Huff, P Shane Lechler.
CAMP NEEDS: First priority will be picking starting quarterback from Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and rookie Tyler Wilson. None of them shined during offseason workouts; Flynn has inside track on starting assignment after being acquired from Seattle. Oakland also needs to get more pressure on QBs after tying franchise low with 25 sacks last season.
EXPECTATIONS: Raiders are in Year 2 of major rebuilding project, much time so far spent on clearing out old problems. About 40 percent of salary cap is dedicated to accelerated bonuses of players no longer on team, leaving little depth or star power on 2013 roster. While contending appears unlikely, Raiders are hoping to identify building blocks for better future starting next year, when Oakland should be in position to rebuild with high draft pick and plenty of salary cap room.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-14)
LAST YEAR: Everything that could have gone wrong did. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn were lousy at QB, Romeo Crennel was ineffective as head coach, and season spiraled out of control from opening kickoff of Week 1. Off field, LB Jovan Belcher was involved in grisly murder-suicide in a season everyone in Kansas City would rather forget.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QBs Alex Smith and Chase Daniel, CBs Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, LBs Akeem Jordan and Zac Diles, TE Anthony Fasano, rookie RT Eric Fisher, OL Geoff Schwartz, WR Donnie Avery.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Cassel, Quinn, TE Kevin Boss, RT Eric Winston.
CAMP NEEDS: After turning over half of roster under new GM John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid, Chiefs need to come together more than anything. QB Smith and WR Dwayne Bowe established good chemistry in OTAs, and offense promises to be more explosive than year ago. Defense returns all its important pieces and looks to improve under new coordinator Bob Sutton.
EXPECTATIONS: Chiefs woefully underachieved last season, yet still had six players in Pro Bowl. So with massive upgrades at several important positions, including QB and DB, and Reid pulling strings, folks in Kansas City are talking about same kind of turnaround Indianapolis engineered last season. Is this playoff team? Questions remain along defensive front and alongside Bowe, but there’s enough talent to go .500, and a few breaks could put Chiefs in position to cause trouble for heavily favored Denver in AFC West.
BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-6)
LAST YEAR: Made turnaround after late-season swoon to take AFC North. Then beat Colts, Broncos in double overtime in frigid Denver, Patriots at New England and, finally, held on to take Super Bowl over San Francisco.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: OLB Elvis Dumervil, DE Chris Canty, S Michael Huff, DT Michael Spears; rookie LB Arthur Brown, rookie S Matt Elam.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB Ray Lewis, C Matt Birk, WR Anquan Boldin, S Ed Reed, S Bernard Pollard, OLB Paul Kruger, CB Cary Williams, FB Vonta Leach.
CAMP NEEDS: Ravens need to find receiver to replace clutch Boldin and rework defense that lost several starters, but gained some capable newcomers. Also searching for leader in locker room and on field, someone who can step and replace experience, guidance and excitement that Lewis and Reed provided.
EXPECTATIONS: This isn’t same team that won Super Bowl, but Ravens are confident additions they made will compensate for loss of several key players and enable them to contend for division title. Made key signing by retaining QB Joe Flacco, who has solid players in backfield in Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Goal is getting back into playoffs and making serious run at second straight Super Bowl title, counting on Flacco to continue improvement, defense to successfully retool.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6)
LAST YEAR: Reached playoffs as a wild card for second straight season and lost at Houston in opening round for second consecutive year. Young defense led by Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins (12 1-2 sacks) finished sixth in yards allowed. QB Andy Dalton improved overall in second season, but struggled again in playoffs.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: LB James Harrison, rookie TE Tyler Eifert, rookie RB Giovani Bernard, QBs Josh Johnson and QB John Skelton.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Bruce Gradkowski, DT Pat Sims, LB Manny Lawson.
CAMP NEEDS: Choose backup QB. Figure out how to work Bernard into rotation at RB behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Get Eifert acclimated quickly so he can be used in multiple TE sets. Come up with creative ways to help Harrison get pressure on quarterbacks. Make good impression on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
EXPECTATIONS: Bengals spent offseason keeping roster virtually intact, hoping they can reach playoffs for third year in row — something they’ve never accomplished. Then they want to break streak of futility in postseason, with last win in 1990 season, tied for seventh-longest such streak in NFL history. Bengals have enough depth and playmakers to contend for AFC North title. Anything less than getting back to playoffs and winning at least a game will be huge disappointment.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8)
LAST YEAR: Ben Roethlisberger’s rib injury and series of late-game swoons sent Steelers spiraling to 2-5 finish and no playoffs for first time in three years. Defense ranked No. 1 for fourth time since 2007 but produced just 20 takeaways, 26th in league. Crowded backfield picture never came into focus, putting more pressure on Roethlisberger. Two-time Super Bowl winner made uncharacteristic mistakes in clutch situations against Dallas and Cincinnati in December.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie RB Le’Veon Bell, rookie LB Jarvis Jones, rookie S Shamarko Thomas, QB Bruce Gradkowski, CB William Gay.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB James Harrison, WR Mike Wallace, CB Keenan Lewis, OL Max Starks, RB Rashard Mendenhall, NT Casey Hampton.
CAMP NEEDS: Some clarity at running back. Team let mercurial Mendenhall walk in free agency and grabbed Bell in second round of draft. Jones will begin camp in battle with Jason Worilds to replace Harrison; job is first-round pick’s to lose. Wallace’s departure leaves major void in speed at receiver, though Steelers insist group led by Antonio Brown can still get downfield when necessary.
EXPECTATIONS: Pittsburgh hasn’t endured consecutive non-winning seasons since Bill Clinton was president (1998-99). Salary cap restrictions forced team to address immediate needs through draft instead of free agency. Bounce-back year is possible if offensive line and Roethlisberger remain healthy and Bell produces. Even with Harrison and Hampton gone, defense should remain competitive if S Troy Polamalu and LB LaMarr Woodley can return to Pro Bowl form after being limited by injuries in 2012.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-11)
LAST YEAR: Announcement on first day of 2012 camp August that Jimmy Haslam was buying franchise from Randy Lerner sent shockwave through organization. One of league’s youngest teams never recovered from 0-5 start. Top CB Joe Haden was suspended first four games, and Browns endured more than their share of growing pains under Pat Shurmur, who was fired after season. There were some bright spots: development of RB Trent Richardson, WR Josh Gordon, QB Brandon Weeden and RT Mitchell Schwartz, all rookies in ‘12.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: OLB Paul Kruger, QB Jason Campbell, WR Davone Bess, DL Desmond Bryant, OLB Quentin Groves, rookie OLB Barkevious Mingo, TE Gary Barnidge, WR David Nelson, K Shayne Graham, RB Dion Lewis.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: K Phil Dawson, WR/KR Josh Cribbs, TE Benjamin Watson, P Reggie Hodges, LB Scott Fujita, CB Sheldon Brown, QB Colt McCoy.
CAMP NEEDS: Healthy Richardson, Weeden to step up, and fewer distractions. Richardson was held out of OTAs and minicamps with shin injury, but said he will be on field from opening day of camp with no restrictions. He missed all of 2012 exhibition season coming off knee surgery, played majority of regular season with broken ribs. No denying his toughness, Browns are concerned about durability. Team has modified offense to fit Weeden’s strengths. Haslam’s ongoing legal troubles present background noise team doesn’t need.
EXPECTATIONS: New coach Rob Chudzinski inherits better situation than previous regimes. He’s got talent on both sides of ball, but needs time. Browns can’t afford any significant injuries and must hope Weeden, far too inconsistent last season, can develop and thrive under coordinator Norv Turner. Defense is transitioning to 3-4 under former Cardinals coordinator Ray Horton, who has promised multiple attacking fronts. Gordon’s suspension for first two games makes it imperative Browns find more offensive playmakers.
HOUSTON TEXANS (12-4)
LAST YEAR: Texans opened 11-1 before late-season collapse cost them bye week and home-field advantage in playoffs. AFC South champions beat Cincinnati in wild-card round before falling at Patriots. DE J.J. Watt flourished in second season, piling up 81 tackles and 20 1/2 sacks while swatting down pass after pass to earn Defensive Player of Year honors. Quarterback Matt Schaub was healthy for playoffs after missing Houston’s first trip in 2011 season, but many blamed him for Texans’ season-ending loss to New England.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: S Ed Reed, rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: OLB Connor Barwin, SS Glover Quin, WR Kevin Walter.
CAMP NEEDS: Linebacker Brian Cushing is expected to be ready after recovering from surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate ligament on Oct. 8. Unit wasn’t same last season after his injury. Hopkins will need to get comfortable in offense and fellow rookie D.J. Swearinger, safety taken in second round, has to prove he can fill in for Reed if Reed’s unable to play early in season. Reed comes off surgery on partly torn labrum on April 30.
EXPECTATIONS: Texans are no longer content to simply make playoffs. Team has its sights on reaching Super Bowl this season. With stingy defense led by Watt and Cushing, which should get boost with the addition of Reed, and potent offense featuring Arian Foster and Johnson, Houston should be among top teams in 2013.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-5)
LAST YEAR: Coming off embarrassing 2-14 season, Colts were expected to be worst team in NFL. Things looked even bleaker when head coach Chuck Pagano left after three games to battle leukemia. But Colts rallied behind interim coach Bruce Arians, made historic nine-game improvement and reached playoffs for 11th time in 13 seasons.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, OT Gosder Cherilus, DL Ricky Jean Francois, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, S LaRon Landry, OG Donald Thomas, CB Greg Toler, LB Erik Walden, rookie DE-OLB Bjoern Werner.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Austin Collie, DE-OLB Dwight Freeney.
CAMP NEEDS: Find pass rusher to replace Freeney. Settle on starting running back from crowded group. Strengthen offensive line. Add depth at receiver.
EXPECTATIONS: Two-time defending division champion Houston is still AFC South favorite, and Colts face tougher schedule in 2013. But they still have Andrew Luck, a better offensive line and stouter defense — and that could be enough to get them back into AFC playoffs.
TENNESSEE TITANS (6-10)
LAST YEAR: Titans turned offense over to Jake Locker, who dislocated left non-throwing shoulder making tackle in opener. He missed five games after injuring shoulder again, limiting his growth in first season as starter. They also finished with 16 players on injured reserve, including four starting offensive linemen, while Tennessee allowed franchise-worst 471 points — most in NFL.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Assistant coach Gregg Williams, LG Andy Levitre, RB Shonn Greene, TE Delanie Walker, S Bernard Pollard, S George Wilson, DT Sammie Hill, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Kevin Walter, rookie RG Chance Warmack.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: TE Jared Cook, QB Matt Hasselbeck.
CAMP NEEDS: Starting offensive line must get on field together. Levitre and RT David Stewart didn’t practice this offseason coming off surgeries, LT Michael Roos was limited, too. Locker is starter but must continue improving to keep job. Figuring out if Williams, fresh off one-year NFL suspension for role in Saints’ bounty scandal, or defensive coordinator Jerry Gray will be call schemes during games a must.
EXPECTATIONS: Owner Bud Adams spent more than $100 million on free agents for team that hasn’t been to playoffs since 2008, last won postseason game in January 2004. Adams turns 91 in January and wants to see that his money turns franchise back into winner.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-14)
LAST YEAR: Worst season in franchise history prompted firing of general manager Gene Smith and coach Mike Mularkey, and started complete overhaul that is expected to be three-year project. Jaguars hired young GM Dave Caldwell and energetic coach Gus Bradley to lead rebuild. Defense ranked 30th in league and allowed franchise-record 444 points.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DTs Roy Miller and Sen’Derrick Marks. Three rookies — OT Luke Joeckel, S Johnathan Cyprien and CB Dwayne Gratz — penciled in as starters.
CAMP NEEDS: Settle on starting QB, whether it’s former top-10 pick Blaine Gabbert or backup Chad Henne, and find out if RB Maurice Jones-Drew is healthy (foot surgery) and able to run behind offense’s new zone-blocking scheme.
EXPECTATIONS: Jaguars expect to be more competitive than last season (not too difficult), but No. 1 item to figure out in 2013 is whether team has franchise QB or needs to draft one next April.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4)
LAST YEAR: After 3-3 start, Patriots went 9-1, won AFC East for ninth time in 10 years, then beat Houston 41-28 in divisional round. TE Rob Gronkowski re-broke left forearm in that game and, without him, Patriots lost to Ravens in AFC championship game 28-13. Patriots had NFL’s best offense, leading league with 34.8 points and 427.9 yards per game. Defense was second in league with 41 takeaways. Tom Brady finished fourth in NFL with 4,827 yards passing and WR Wes Welker tied for second with 118 catches.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Tim Tebow, WR Danny Amendola, RB Leon Washington, WR Michael Jenkins, rookie WR Aaron Dobson, rookie LB Jamie Collins, S Adrian Wilson, DE Armond Armstead, DL Tommy Kelly.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Wes Welker, WR Brandon Lloyd, RB Danny Woodhead, DT Brandon Deaderick, DT Kyle Love, S Patrick Chung.
CAMP NEEDS: Most glaring need is finding targets for Brady. Four of last year’s top five receivers — Welker, Lloyd, Hernandez and Woodhead — are gone. Gronkowski could miss start of season after surgeries on forearm and back. Patriots signed Amendola to start at one WR spot and added veteran Jenkins and draftees Dobson and Josh Boyce to compete for playing time. Starting CB Alfonzo Dennard’s arrest for drunken driving leaves uncertainty in secondary. Pass rush needs improvement, which could come from 2012 first-round draft DE Chandler Jones.
EXPECTATIONS: Despite arrest of Hernandez on murder charge, losses of Welker and Woodhead to free agency and release of other key players, Patriots should win weak AFC East and likely be among Super Bowl contenders. Coach Bill Belichick could rely more on ground game with third-year backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. On defense, promising youngsters Jones, Dennard and linebacker Dont’a Hightower were starters.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-9)
LAST YEAR: Dolphins had new coach (again) and new quarterback (again), and may have finally found some stability with both jobs. Joe Philbin won favorable reviews from players in first year as an NFL head coach, and rookie QB Ryan Tannehill played well and showed progress. Lack of playmakers was biggest problem. No WR scored more than one touchdown for offense that ranked 27th, and defense tied for fourth worst in takeaways. Miami endured fourth consecutive losing season, franchise’s worst such stretch since pre-Don Shula 1960s.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: WR Mike Wallace, rookie DE Dion Jordan, CB Brent Grimes, LB Dannell Ellerbe, LB Philip Wheeler, TE Dustin Keller, WR Brandon Gibson, T Tyson Clabo, rookie CB Jamar Taylor, rookie CB Will Davis, G Lance Louis, DT Vaughn Martin, rookie PK Caleb Sturgis.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: T Jake Long, RB Reggie Bush, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Kevin Burnett, CB Sean Smith, WR Davone Bess, TE Anthony Fasano.
CAMP NEEDS: Getting Tannehill comfortable with new supporting cast following changes at RB, WR, TE and both tackles. Wallace provides much-needed depth threat, and Dolphins believe second-year pro Lamar Miller has big-play ability to rival departed Bush. Second-year T Jonathan Martin moves to left side to replace Long, with Clabo taking over on right side. Quickly incorporating top draft pick Jordan into pass rush. Ellerbe and Wheeler are expected to provide more big plays than Dansby and Burnett. Rookies Taylor and Davis will battle for CB job left vacant with Smith’s departure.
EXPECTATIONS: It’s 13 years since Dolphins won playoff game, 21 years since reaching AFC championship game, 29 years since making Super Bowl, and 40 years since most recent NFL title. Attendance has declined, and Miami Heat now rival Dolphins in popularity in South Florida. But Dolphins’ offseason was widely judged a success, and they believe they’re ready to win — perhaps even in postseason.
NEW YORK JETS (6-10)
LAST YEAR: Worst season in Rex Ryan’s four years as coach ended with Jets losing last three games, missing playoffs for second straight year and resulting in GM Mike Tannenbaum and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano being fired. Owner Woody Johnson opted to keep Ryan despite hiring new GM John Idzik. Lowlight of season — and now staple on blooper reels — came against Patriots on Thanksgiving night, when QB Mark Sanchez fumbled after running into G Brandon Moore’s backside, now called “the butt fumble,” and Steve Gregory ran it back for 32-yard score.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie QB Geno Smith, rookie CB Dee Milliner, RB Chris Ivory, RB Mike Goodson, TE Kellen Winslow Jr., S Dawan Landry, LB Antwan Barnes, DT Antonio Garay, G Willie Colon, rookie DL Sheldon Richardson, G Stephen Peterman.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB Darrelle Revis, TE Dustin Keller, S LaRon Landry, RB Shonn Greene, LB Bart Scott, DL Mike DeVito, NT Sione Po’uha, G Brandon Moore, G Matt Slauson, QB Tim Tebow, S Yeremiah Bell, LB Bryan Thomas.
CAMP NEEDS: With Tebowmania relocated to New England, camp in upstate Cortland should be quieter — but QB competition will be more intense with Sanchez trying to keep job in fifth NFL season, Smith hoping to start as rookie. New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has work cut out, with new RBs and mostly inexperienced WR corps, especially with Santonio Holmes still recovering from foot injury and uncertain to be ready for regular season. Milliner was No. 9 overall draft pick and expected to replace Revis as starter opposite Antonio Cromartie — despite not practicing in offseason while recovering from shoulder surgery.
EXPECTATIONS: Well, they certainly aren’t high outside of team facility, with many thinking Jets will be hard-pressed even to match last year’s wins total. Toned-down Ryan could be coaching for job, despite having another year left on contract, and how he meshes with Idzik will be key to future with Jets.
BUFFALO BILLS (6-10)
LAST YEAR: High-priced free-agent addition of DE Mario Williams failed to pay off for team that produced eighth straight losing record and hasn’t made playoffs in 13 years — NFL’s longest active drought. Defense was porous and offense inconsistent in leading to another offseason of wholesale changes. Coach Chan Gailey was fired and replaced by Syracuse coach Doug Marrone.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Kevin Kolb, LB Manny Lawson, DE/LB Jerry Hughes, rookie QB EJ Manuel, rookie WR Robert Woods, rookie LB Kiko Alonso.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, LG Andy Levitre, LB Nick Barnett, LB Shawne Merriman, DE Chris Kelsay, CB Terrence McGee, WR David Nelson, S George Wilson, LB Kelvin Sheppard.
CAMP NEEDS: Getting young and revamped lineup to begin jelling under Marrone’s staff that also lacks NFL experience. Can Manuel show he’s capable of winning starting job? Woods and rest of young receivers need to step in opposite starter Stevie Johnson. Defense needs to find chemistry in new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s aggressive system. Even special teams are unsettled, with veteran PK Rian Lindell challenged by sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins.
EXPECTATIONS: Not very high for team that went through top-to-bottom overhaul, including Doug Whaley taking over as general manager after Buddy Nix stepped down. Too many offseason changes to expect Bills to make competitive run, even in AFC East suddenly weakened with unsettled Patriots. Best win-starved Bills fans can hope for is Manuel showing glimpses he’s ready to be solid starter in Marrone’s up-tempo offense, and rest of team developing identity.