Yesterday, we previewed the AFC North. Today, let’s preview the AFC East and give final predictions
First: New England Patriots (12-4)
Since 2003, the Patriots have won the AFC East in every season with Tom Brady as their starting quarterback. (Brady missed most of 2008 with a knee injury) Don’t expect that to change this year. The Patriots aren’t as strong as they have been in year’s past, losing receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, running back Dion Lewis, left tackle Nate Solder, and cornerback Malcolm Butler all during this offseason. However, they still have #12 behind center and arguably the greatest head coach of all time in Bill Belichick. Brady still has a strong supporting cast with four capable running backs, the most talented tight end in Rob Gronkowski, and a solid offensive line, especially in the interior. It’s unclear if Eric Rowe can take on Butler’s role, but New England’s defense is still good enough with a strong defensive line and a good safety duo of Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. They also still have the luxury of playing in this very weak division, which is why they are only tied for the 22nd hardest schedule in NFL. With another cupcake schedule, New England should easily win the AFC East and should be considered the favorite to get the number one seed in the AFC.
Second: New York Jets (6-10)
The Jets believed they’ve found their franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. They’re wasting no time in starting his development, as they recently traded Teddy Bridgewater to the Saints and gave Darnold the starting job. How they perform this season will revolve around him. If Darnold performs at a high level, then the Jets may be able to sneak into the playoffs. If not, they’ll be picking high in the draft once again. Darnold’s not in a great position to succeed, as the Jets have one of the worst offensive lines and not proven talent at tight end. Isiah Crowell and Bilal Powell are a solid duo, but neither is a game changer. The Jets have solid depth at receiver with Robby Andrson, Jermaine Kearse, Quincy Enuwa and Terrelle Pryor, but none fit the bill as a #1 receiver. On defense, defensive end Leonard Williams and linebacker Avery Williamson should help them contain the run, but they lack any sort of pass rush. Their biggest strength may be their secondary, but there is also a question there. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson was given $15 million a year in free agency, but he’s more of a #2 corner than a lockdown #1 and there isn’t much depth behind them. Their safety duo of 2017 draft picks Marcus Maye and Jamaal Adams has major upside, especially Adams. Overall, the future looks bright for the Jets with so many young players, but they may be a few years away from actually contending, despite being tied for just the 25th hardest schedule.
Third: Miami Dolphins (3-13)
In 2016, the Miami Dolphins made the playoffs. However, due quarterback Ryan Tannehill missing the entire season, the Dolphins failed to make it back to the postseason in 2017. Tannehill will be back in 2018, but that definitely doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to contend this year. In what is being called “a culture change”, the Dolphins got rid of receiver Jarvis Landry, center Mike Pouncey, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. It, therefore, seems logical that Miami will struggle to run the ball, stop the ball, or established any sort of passing game. Miami is weak up front, running back Kenyan Drake isn’t ready to be a #1 running back and can’t handle the workload, while the wide receiving corps is inconsistent, to say the least, The secondary is solid and Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn should be a solid pass rush duo, but that won’t be enough to carry Miami to the playoffs. With the hardest schedule in the division (T-15th), Miami almost certainly will be out of contention very early into the season.
Fourth: Buffalo Bills (2-14)
Even though the Bills made the playoffs a year ago, they shouldn’t come close to having that success this year. The Bills traded their quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and plan to roll with either Nathan Peterman, who threw five picks in his NFL debut last season, or first-round pick Josh Allen, who clearly isn’t MLB ready. Their lost three members of their offensive line, and now will roll with easily the worst offensive line in football. While we’re at it, their wide receiving corps is also the weakest in the league and Lesean McCoy is due to begin regressing. Buffalo also is very weak at linebacker, doesn’t have much of a pass rush, and has no cornerback depth after Tre’Davious White. There are clearly too many holes for this team to compete, and the main goal probably will have to be the keep Josh Allen from dying with all the hits he’s going to take behind that offensive line if he’s forced into action.