New England is the AFC East team that is most impacted by Peyton Manning's decision to play in Denver next season. The Patriots have to play the Broncos at home in 2012. On the surface, the AFC East gets a break this year on the schedule crossovers. The AFC East faces the AFC South and the NFC West (the weakest of the four NFC divisions).
The Patriots play Denver and Baltimore as their two foes based on last year's standing. Buffalo plays Cleveland on the road and Kansas City at home. The Jets play San Diego at home and Pittsburgh on the road. Miami plays Oakland at home and Cincinnati on the road. Of course, New England has been dealing with the more dificult schedule breakdown for a decade, and that hasn't stopped the Pats from winning eight of the last nine AFC East titles.
The AFC North benefitted from the easier crossovers in 2011, facing the NFC West and AFC South. Predictably, three AFC North teams made the playoffs. The AFC North has it tougher this year, facing the NFC East and AFC West.