The AFC East, or as it has really been known since 2002, the Patriots Division due to their dominance and the other three teams being unable to even come close to putting a dent in the dominance, looks to continue as being the Patriots division for another year. Of course, the hope is that the rumblings and grumblings in New England will have the great dynasty implode while the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets wait. But one of the key questions will be, can either of those three teams end up having enough to jump ahead even if the Patriots fall back? And honestly, I am not sure. The Patriots may be that one team who if they do collapse, still ends up winning the division. The Bills may have a shot, but the Jets are in rebuilding mode and the Dolphins look like they are trying to clean the slate. So it looks like the Patriots will rule for another year, or so we think.
(1) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
LAST SEASON: 13-3 (1ST IN AFC EAST, DEFEATED TENNESSEE IN DIVISIONAL, DEFEATED JACKSONVILLE IN AFC CHAMPIONSHIP, LOST TO PHILADELPHIA IN SUPER BOWL)
KEY ADDS: DE-Adrian Clayborn (FA-Atlanta), RB-Jeremy Hill (FA-Cincinnati), WR-Jordan Matthews (FA-Buffalo), DT-Danny Shelton (Trade-Cleveland), CB-Jason McCourty (Trade-Cleveland), WR-Cordarrelle Patterson (Trade-Oakland), OT-Trent Brown (Trade-San Francisco), RB-Sony Michel (Draft-Georgia), OT-Isaiah Wynn (Draft-Georgia), CB-Duke Dawson (Draft-Florida)
KEY LOSSES: WR-Danny Amendola (FA-Miami), CB-Johnson Bademosi (FA-Houston), CB-Malcolm Butler (FA-Tennessee), OT-Cameron Fleming (FA-Dallas), RB-Dion Lewis (FA-Tennessee), OT-Nate Solder (FA-New York Giants), WR-Brandin Cooks (Trade-Los Angeles Rams)
The Patriots still run the AFC. However, near the end of the season, it seemed like there was some slight discord, notably with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. To me, it sounded like it was more of hearsay and rumor than anything though Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had a heated argument on the sideline late in the regular season last year. And adding on to all of it is Patriots resident party animal Rob Gronkowski possibly wanting a new extension to his contract, though it seems sometimes he rather do anything else BUT football so that may be a question. We’ll see. But my attitude is, once the Patriots are on the field, all is well in the Patriot world. The one thing they really added was the presence of a run game that shouldn’t be taken lightly (drafting Sony Michel and picking up Jeremy Hill). That will be a problem for teams if the Patriots rely on that dimension more. The passing game will be interesting given that the Patriots lost Danny Amendola to the Dolphins and Julian Edelman starts the season suspended while Brandin Cooks is in Los Angeles now. However, the one thing we will always know about Brady until anything changes, he can get any WR and be a contributing factor. Jordan Matthews is there now while the Pats kept kept Matthew Slater and drafted Braxton Berrios from Miami so until things change in New England with that I won’t worry. Defensively it always seems like a question as last year it seemed pretty mediocre (30th in passing yards allowed and 20th in rushing yards allowed though 31st in rushing yards per attempt). The additions to the defense was to get stronger up front with adding Adrian Clayborn and Danny Shelton while the Pats got Jason McCourty and drafting Duke Dawson, but it will be interesting though as the Patriots do not have a new defensive coordinator to replace Matt Patricia who is now coaching Detroit as of yet. This year however seems like a few more questions than normal in New England, whether it is replacing players or coaches and now possible discord in the locker room among Brady and Belichick (still think it’s overblown) and the contract situation of Gronkowski making it odd, but you still have to figure the Pats will still remain atop of the AFC East and the favorites in the AFC. KEY QUESTION: is there an end in sight for the Patriots dynasty? If it is, not this year. Maybe next off-season we re-evaluate what the Patriots have, pending on if Brady comes back as there are now rumblings of retirement now, something that hasn’t been said too much prior to now.
MY PREDICTION: 12-4. I know that may be like 8-8 or 7-9 to some Patriot fans, but I think some teams will start hitting the Patriots hard on that defensive side.
(2) BUFFALO BILLS
LAST SEASON: 9-7 (2ND PLACE, LOST TO JACKSONVILLE IN WILD CARD)
KEY ADDITIONS: CB-Vontae Davis (FA-Indianapolis), RB-Chris Ivory (FA-Jacksonville), CB-Rafael Bush (FA-New Orleans), DT-Star Lotuleilei (FA-Carolina), LB-Julian Stanford (FA-New York Jets), DE-Trent Murphy (FA-Washington), QB-AJ McCarron (FA-Cincinnati), C-Russell Bodine (FA-New York Jets), QB-Josh Allen (Draft-Wyoming), LB-Tremaine Edmunds (Draft-Virginia Tech), DT-Harrison Phillips (Draft-Stanford)
KEY LOSSES: OT-Seantrel Henderson (FA-Houston), LB-Preston Brown (FA-Cincinnati), WR-Deonte Thompson (FA-Dallas), CB-EJ Gaines (FA-Cleveland), WR-Jordan Matthews (FA-New England), QB-Tyrod Taylor (Trade-Cleveland), FB-Mike Tolbert (FA)
The Bills were a cult classic somewhat thanks in part due to the Bills Mafia and their viral videos last year of fans jumping through tables. But that said, the Bills Mafia had a lot to be excited about as Buffalo made the playoffs for the first time since 1999. However, numerous changes happened in the off-season, and most of it has to be considered a positive. Tyrod Taylor is gone (though to be fair, he was a solid option at quarterback, but just not on that elite level) and in comes in first round pick Josh Allen from Wyoming. Allen is an NFL scout’s dream as he has the tools and the look of the prototypical QB. Whether it happens or not will remain to be seen. But if Allen doesn’t start to begin the year it will rest on longtime Bengals backup AJ McCarron, who many have felt like he should have gotten a crack at a starting spot somewhere. But whoever is at QB will have weapons such as LeSean McCoy in the backfield and Kelvin Benjamin at receiver. And the defense looks primed to make a splash after beefing up with former Panther Star Lotuleilei (somewhat surprised Carolina let this guy go) and drafting Virginia Tech standout Tremaine Edmunds, to really make the Bills a stronger defense. Adding on top of it, the Bills added Vontae Davis and Rafael Bush at the corners to help out the passing defense. So Buffalo looks primed for another playoff run. KEY QUESTION: Will the Bills contend with New England for the division? I think they’re a year away, but if they have another good year I think they will close the gap, especially if you are starting to see some question marks in Foxboro.
MY PREDICTION: 10-6. I have lofty expectations, but I like the Bills defense and I think whoever is at QB will utilize the offensive weapons.
(3) NEW YORK JETS
LAST SEASON (5-11, 4TH PLACE)
KEY ADDITIONS: QB-Teddy Bridgewater (FA-Minnesota), LB-Avery Williamson (FA-Tennessee), TE-Clive Warford (FA-Oakland), RB-Isaiah Crowell (FA-Cleveland), RB-Thomas Rawls (FA-Seattle), WR-Terrelle Pryor (FA-Washington), CB-Trumaine Johnson (FA-Los Angeles Rams), QB-Sam Bradford (Draft-USC), DT-Nathan Hays (Draft-Ft. Hays State)
KEY LOSSES: RB-Matt Forte (Retired), TE-Austin Seferian-Jenkins (FA-Jacksonville), C-Wesley Johnson (FA-Detroit), K-Chandler Cantanzaro (FA-Tampa Bay), DE-Kony Ealy (FA-Dallas), DE-Muhammad Wilkerson (FA-Green Bay), LB-Demario Davis (FA-New Orleans), LB-Julian Stanford (FA-Buffalo) QB-Bryce Petty (Waivers-Miami)
Well, the Jets surprised many as most projected them to be 0-16 or 1-15. So it was a head-turner when they were 3-2 after 5 games and Josh McCown was playing out of his mind. And then the Jets lost 9 of their final 11, thus reminding us of what we expected out of the New York Jets (though McCown never really tailed off, despite a hiccup here & there). On a talent level, the Jets were supposed to be thumped, but Todd Bowles really got the guys playing. This off-season New York made some moves that really progresses them to be a threat, such as landing two key pieces on defense in corner Trumaine Johnson and Avery Williamson. They added depth at the running back with Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls. They made two surprising moves of signing Teddy Bridgewater and paying a lot to draft Sam Bradford. So many feel the Jets could be a sleeper or a team to definitely watch in the future. But time will tell on that. New York should be a tough team again though I still think the talent level isn’t as deep as the major contenders of the Patriots, but they should be one not to take lightly. KEY QUESTION: WHO STARTS WEEK 1 THIS YEAR? McCown. Sam Darnold fell backwards in his final year at USC and that should raise a few concerns. McCown gives them the best shot to win right now, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets are eliminated by Week 15, you may see Darnold start, but if he starts earlier, the Jets are in trouble.
MY PREDICTION: 5-11. The Jets may play physical, but still don’t match the passing prowess of the others, and still have holes on both sides that can’t be ignored.
(4) MIAMI DOLPHINS
LAST SEASON: 6-10 (3RD PLACE)
KEY ADDITIONS: WR-Danny Amendola (FA-New England), WR-Albert Wilson (FA-Kansas City), G-Josh Sitton (FA-Chicago), QB-Brock Osweiler (FA-Denver), QB-Bryce Petty (Waivers-New York Jets), RB-Frank Gore (FA-Indianapolis), DT-Akeem Spence (Trade-Detroit), DE-Robert Quinn (Trade-Los Angeles Rams), S-Minkah Fitzpatrick (Draft-Alabama), TE-Mike Gesicki (Draft-Penn State), LB-Jerome Baker (Draft-Ohio State) C-Daniel Kilgore (Trade-San Francisco)
KEY LOSSES: WR-Jarvis Landry (Trade-Cleveland), QB-Jay Cutler (FA), C-Mike Pouncey (FA-Los Angeles Chargers), RB-Damien Williams (FA-Kansas City), OT-Jermon Bushrod (FA-New Orleans), DT-Ndamukong Suh (Released-Los Angeles Rams), CB-Nate Allen (FA)
To say this a do-or-die-season for Ryan Tannehill is an understatement. He missed all of last season due to a knee injury and he is one of the more polarizing quarterbacks in the NFL. While they traded away Jarvis Landry, the Dolphins added Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson to help Tannehill in the receiver spot while adding Mike Gesicki in the draft to help at tight end while adding Frank Gore at back. So many view he will have no excuses (though you wonder how much is left in the tank of Gore and Amendola). If he succeeds, Miami will be in a fine spot. If he doesn’t, well, start the talk of who the Dolphins get with one of the top 3 picks in the NFL draft. Defensively Miami hopes to add by subtraction as the Phins let Ndamukong Suh and his insane contract go while adding Robert Quinn and hope the smarts of top draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick will go a long way. But it feels right now the Dolphins defense is patchwork a little bit where their passing defense is brutal, and it’s not good when you have to see Brady twice and this year seeing the likes of Stafford, Rodgers, Cousins, and Carr. It may be a long year in Miami for both sides of the ball especially if Tannehill isn’t consistent enough. KEY QUESTION: Will this be Tannehill’s final year with the Dolphins? Yes. He does have weapons but it just seems like he can never get over that hump.
MY PREDICTION: 4-12. I just don’t see Miami doing well, at all this season and it seems like they made moves to patch things up on a temporary basis. I think a rebuild is in need.
Overall, it is still the Patriots division, but I think the Bills will surprise more and I think the Jets will get better, but the Dolphins need a new start.
-Fan in the Obsrtucted Seat