Updated: Sep 11
Photo Credit: How They Play
The AFC East is home to one of the most prolific franchises in the modern era in the New England Patriots. It also is home to former Super Bowl winners in the Jets and Dolphins. 2020 saw the Buffalo Bills take the division crown and was a new champion for the first time since 2008 when the Miami Dolphins took the crown. Are the Bills here to stay? Read on as we break it down!
New England Patriots
Photo Credit: Boston.com
Last season: 7-9 (third in the division)
Key additions: TE Jonnu Smith, TE Hunter Henry, WR Nelson Agholor, OLB Matt Judon, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Raekwon McMillan, OT Trent Brown, DE Henry Anderson.
Key Losses: WR Julian Edelman, RB Sony Michel, CB Jason McCourty, DE John Simon, G Joe Thuney, S Terrence Brooks, WR Damiere Byrd, OT Jermaine Eluemunor.
Outlook: The New England Patriots have run the AFC East for over two decades it seems. The Bills won the division last year, but prior to that, New England won it every year since 2001 except for 2002 (NYJ), 2008 (MIA) and as mentioned 2020 (BUF).
Mac Jones was given the starting job after Cam Newton's surprising release a few weeks ago. He gets to throw to Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne. The Patriots offense leaves a lot to desire as does the defensive unit but the defense is solid all around - but could use some upgrades. Henry Anderson, Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy are all good up front players who can work in the box - allowing McCourty to patrol the outfield and make plays, but we will see how the defense works without McCourty as a true corner. In the end, I expect the Patriots to finish just above .500 at 9-8. However, Tom Brady is gone and while Belichick remains, the feel of the division has changed dramatically. But as ESPN's Rich Cimini pointed out on twitter, the age of the AFC East QB's are as follows:
Josh Allen - 25
Tua Tagovailoa - 23
Zach Wilson - 22
Mac Jones - 22
This makes the division highly unpredictable - to a point where the Bills are such a presumptive favorite in the division, the true race is for second place. But don't count out the Patriots who not only upgraded the offense with much needed weapons, the defense is returning COVID starters. The offense added impressive TEs Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry and tackle Trent Brown to sure up the line. Adding OLB Matt Judon, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Raekwon McMillan, DE Henry Anderson to a solid defense that is returning LB Dont'a Hightower and S Patrick Chung. The Pats hope to make the division interesting.
Photo Credit: Bills Wire
Last season: 13-3 (first in the division), lost the AFC Championship Game to Kansas City.
Key Additions: WR Emmanuel Sanders, TE Jacob Hollister, DE Greg Rousseau, DE Boogie Basham, OT Bobby Hart
Key Losses: DE Trent Murphy, G Brian Winters, WR John Brown, DT Quinton Jefferson.
Outlook: Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs is already shaping up to be one of the most dynamic combos in the sport today. In his first season with the Bills, Diggs caught 127 balls for 1,535 yards and 8 touchdowns - the receptions and yards were career highs. Unfortunately, Allen really only has Diggs as a true #1 threat. Cole Beasley is 32 and definitely is an impact player and Emmanuel Sanders, now 34, knows his way around a football but offensively, the Bills may be limited in options. Devin Singletary, a third round pick in 2019, is the top RB for the team right now.
Despite all of this, Josh Allen has proven he has what it takes to lead a franchise. The Bills rewarded their MVP candidate with the richest deal for a QB. Allen inked a 6 year, $258 million extension worth a maximum of $288 million through incentives. The Bills have a solid defensive unit and should be able to keep most teams in check but could face some issues against the run. The Bills could compete for a title this year and even win it - expect them to finish as high as 14-3.
The 501 points scored from the 2020 Bills is the most since the 1990 K-Gun version of the Buffalo Bills. But can you count on Allen repeating his MVP level performance 69.2% completion and 37 TD and 10 INT? The are one of the classes of the AFC but the defense will hold the key for their Super Bowl chances.
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
Key Additions: WR Jaylen Waddle, WR Will Fuller, G D.J. Fluker, CB Jason McCourty, LB Brennan Scarlett, DT Adam Butler, DE Jaelan Phillips, P Michael Palardy.
Key Losses: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, G Ereck Flowers, C Ted Karras, S Bobby McCain, LB Kyle Van Noy.
Outlook: Tua Tagovailoa is one of the most perplexing studies in the league. If he is decent, Miami's signal caller completed 186-290 of his passes last year for 1,814 yards and 11TD's but only 5INTs. It was a good ratio but this will put a lot of pressure on Myles Gaskin - the team's top RB. The pass catchers in Miami to start the season will be Devante Parker and Jaylen Waddle - with Will Fuller joining the group later in the season as he is currently suspended. Miami's defense is a bit perplexing - as they lack a true star beyond Howard - and while Miami allowed the 6th fewest points, they were not stellar at stopping the run or pass - which leads one to believe they were situationally very good. This team is an enigma and could finish second...or last...but I envision them at 7-10.
Tagivailoa's progression in year 2 needs to take a huge step forward or you will hear about that Watson trade again. By drafting his former Alabama running mate Jaylen Waddle and signing Will Fuller, they are hoping to surround Tua with the weapons needed to compete. The Dolphins ranked fifth in scoring defense and the league tied for the lead in interceptions. They inked disgruntled CB Xavien Howard to the contract he deserved and hope to build on a solid 2020 campaign.
New York Jets:
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
Last season: 2-14 (fourth in the division)
Key Additions: QB Zach Wilson, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Corey Davis, DE Carl Lawson, MLB Jarrad Davis, DE Vinny Curry, DT Sheldon Rankins, S Lamarcus Joyner, RB Michael Carter, WR Elijah Moore.
Key Losses: QB Sam Darnold, RB Frank Gore, WR Breshad Perriman, LB Neville Hewitt, LB Jordan Jenkins.
Outlook: Zach Wilson and Robert Saleh are there to pick up the pieces left by Sam Darnold (who the Jets will see week 1) and Adam Gase. The Jets have overhauled the roster further distancing themselves from former GM Mike McCagnan, as the offensive line is rebuilt. The starting WR's are now Corey Davis, Jami
son Crowder, Keelan Cole, Denzel Mims and rookie sensation - Elijah Moore. They are starting Tevin Coleman at RB with Ty Johnson backing him up - but waiting in the wings is Michael Carter. Unfortunately, defensively the Jets are not just weak but very weak. Aside from Quinnen Willliams, CJ Mosely and Marcus Maye - the team is full of holes. Losing Carl Lawson at defensive end could cost them games as there is no obvious pass rush option on the roster. The Jets are up and coming, and should finish with a 6-11 record, a huge improvement.