Which AFC East Team Has The Best Chance To Take The Patriots Division Crown?
Every summer for the past two decades writers in New York, Miami, and Buffalo have flooded the news cycle with stories about how the teams in their respective cities are finally ready to take the division from the Patriots. Inevitably those dreams fall apart by midseason as the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills mediocre performances force them to just fight for playoff spots. Since the 2001 season when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, New England has won the division 15 times. The sum total of success of the rest of the AFC East teams is as follows: the Dolphins and the Jets have each won it once, and the Jets defeated the Patriots in the Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2010. To put it mildly, the Patriots have utterly dominated the AFC East for 17 straight seasons.
However, because it’s the summer and expectations for everyone are high, we are going to play the game of “which team will knock off the Patriots this year”.
2017 record: 9-7 (made playoffs)
Key Additions: AJ McCarron, Chris Ivory, Vontae Davis, Tremaine Edmunds, Josh Allen
Summary: The Bills made the playoffs last season for the first time this millennium, and are likely to build off of that success this season. They did not make any huge splashes in free agency, but the signings of AJ McCarron and Chris Ivory, as well as the resigning of Kyle Williams, are all practical moves that help the team in the short term. McCarron provides the team with a solid starter to hold the Bills offense afloat while first round pick Josh Allen has time to develop into an NFL-ready quarterback, and Ivory provides running back depth that is sorely needed with the controversy currently surrounding Lesean McCoy. The Bills also have some serious talent on defense, like Williams, Lorenzo Alexander, Micah Hyde, and now Vontae Davis. With head coach Sean McDermott remodeling the team’s program and providing a stable and positive environment, the Bills are on an upwards trend.
Prediction: The Bills are the best candidate to knock the Patriots off of their division throne. However, it is still unlikely to be this year. The Bills have some spots of serious talent, but it is inconsistent across their roster, particularly on offense. Outside of Kelvin Benjamin and Charles Clay, the Bills receiving corps is extremely thin. In addition, they are likely to have one of the worst offensive lines in the league after the departures of three of their starters. The talent on their defense should be able to keep them competitive, but they do not have enough pieces together right now to put together a serious run against the Patriots in a year when they face a tough schedule of opponents.
New York Jets
2017 record: 5-11
Key Additions: Trumaine Johnson, Terrelle Pryor, Teddy Bridgewater, Moris Claiborne, Sam Darnold
Summary: Heading into 2017 many believed the Jets were going to be the worst team in the draft due to a depleted roster that was lead by journeyman quarterback Josh McCown. Instead, they put up an impressive five wins (no sarcasm here, I was thoroughly expecting the team to win just one or two games last season) and seemed to be moving in the right direction culture-wise under head coach Todd Bowles. They made some impressive defensive additions in the offseason with Trumaine Johnson and Moris Claiborne, which could give them one of the best secondaries in the division. Teddy Bridgewater is also a sneaky good signing because he would be an absolute steal if he can get back close to the way he played before his knee injury. Resigning Josh McCown also provides the team with stability and takes pressure off of Sam Darnold to start day one.
Prediction: The Jets have a long way to go, but the future is bright. They aren’t going to be challenging the Patriots for the AFC East this season because of serious deficiencies across their roster. Their offense is a mess, and while the addition of Terrelle Pryor certainly helps, having your second best receiver be Robby Anderson does not bode well. In addition, their running back corps is not overly impressive with Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell. The Jets defense is a whole other story. They have serious talent in their secondary, led by a personal favorite, Jamal Adams. They also have some good young linebackers led by Darron Lee that can do some damage. They don’t have the experience to seriously challenge the Patriots this year, but they have potential for the future.
2017 record: 6-10
Key Additions: Frank Gore, Robert Quinn, Danny Amendola, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mike Gesicki
Summary: The Dolphins had a head scratching 2017 season. They had some impressive wins over teams like the Patriots and the Falcons, and then got blown out by other teams like the Ravens and the Panthers. They couldn’t seem to put it all together at any point. Their offseason was even more confusing, as they got significantly worse and significantly older. Signing players like Frank Gore and Danny Amendola is good because it brings in high character players who can provide strong leadership. However, both of those players are in their thirties and well past their prime. They will in no way be able to replace the production of Jarvis Landry. The team also lost center Mike Pouncey and DT Ndamukong Suh, and while those players certainly had character flaws, they were high-level talents who the Dolphins did not replace.
Prediction: The Dolphins got worse over the offseason and their record will reflect that. They are asking Ryan Tannehill to come off of an ACL injury and run a successful offense with Kenyan Drake, DeVante Parker, and a rookie tight end. That is a recipe for disaster, especially in a division with surprisingly good defenses. The Dolphins defense does have some talent scattered about. Cameron Wake is one of the best defensive linemen that I’ve ever watched play, Kiko Alonso is a psychopath but talented, and Minkah Fitzpatrick should bring dynamic playmaking ability to the Miami secondary. However, it will be a challenge for them to put all of this together against the reigning Super Bowl champs and the NFC North.
Until next time – B$