AFC; East

New England -- Possibly the NFL's most perplexing franchise. Fast starters and miserable finishers, the Patriots want to prove that they're not "losers" down the stretch. This could be the year if quarterback Steve Grogan stays healthy.

Buffalo -- The Bills' dramatic about-face was one of the big stories of 1980. They won't surprise anybody this year, though. Still, Coach Chuck Knox made his players believe in themselves.

New York Jets -- This club was pretty much the flipside to Buffalo last year, a real bust. It's absolutely essential they win early to establish the right frame of mind.

Baltimore -- When he's on, Bert Jones may be the best passer in the game, and Curtis Dickey can really motor out of the backfield. Scoring points is no problem; keeping the other team off the board is.

Miami -- Adversity has come knocking. In one of several blows, top draft choice David Overstreet skipped out to Canada. Second-year QB David Woodley must develop rapidly. Central

Cleveland -- It's really hard to imagine the Browns winning as many close games as they did last year. On the other hand, why shouldn't they with clutch performer Brian Sipe (1980 AFC Player of the Year) at quarterback?

Pittsburgh -- Chuck Noll's coaching, a solid offensive line, plus a big-play passing game will probably keep the Steelers right in the thick of things. But the once vaunted defense doesn't frighten people anymore.

Houston -- The pressure is on for new head coach Ed Biles to make the Oilers less reliant on Earl Campbell. A good year from QB Kelly Stabler is a must.

Cincinnati -- After several good drafts, the Bengals aren't the patsies they once were, but moving up won't be easy. West

San Diego -- The Chargers got to the AFC Championship game last season. With more defensive consistency (instilled b y new assistant Jack Pardee) and running help from rookie halfback James Brooks, San Diego's Air Force could land in the Super Bowl.

Oakland -- Jim Plunkett's performance was no fluke last year. He may be pro football's Luis Tiant. A lot hinges on his blockers, who must provide adequate time to throw, and a shaky defensive secondary.

Denver -- Craig Morton is still quarterbacking the Broncos, which means last year's experiment with Matt Robinson (now with Buffalo) was a failure. The attack really needs a new look.

Kansas City -- Under Coach Marv Levy the Chiefs just keep getting better (from 4-12 to 7-9, to 8-8), but the defense can't carry the load forever.

Seattle -- Once a loose expansion team, the Seahawks now struggle to win at home.

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