As OTA’s start for most NFL teams this week, I thought it would be a good idea to give my evaluation and predictions for each division leading up to the preseason game. This week is the AFC East.
Final Standings Predictions:
1. New England Patriots: The defending Super Bowl champions will have their work cut out for them this year if they want to return to the playoffs as the AFC East champions for a seventh straight year. After losing key defensive players in the offseason such as Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Vince Wilfork, they are looking for recently signed Brandon Spikes and draft picks Malcolm Brown and Jordan Richards to fill the void. This will be a challenging adjustment but I believe Coach Belichick will be able to make it work. Even though Tom Brady is suspended for four games (as of today), he will only miss one divisional game and so his absence most likely won’t impact their divisional record. Overall with the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins all getting better in the offseason, the division is going to be much more competitive, but as long as the Belichick-Brady duo is around the Patriots will remain as the team to beat in the East.
2. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins organization has shown that they are all in with their quarterback Ryan Tannehill by recently signing him to a six-year, $96 million contract extension. Although Tannehill still has much to prove, he is a fitting option for a team that has the potential for a division title, as long as head coach Joe Philbin can make the right decisions. The big offseason news came from the signing of DL Ndamukong Suh who is a force in the run stopping game, and a giant pressure for opposing quarterbacks. The biggest problem for the Dolphins will be finding players to step up at the WR position because of the departures of Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. The team has already signed WR Kenny Stills and TE Jordan Cameron. So look for the Dolphins to be a strong team that will claim one of the two wild card spots in the upcoming season.
3. New York Jets: I had a hard time deciding if the Bills should be in the number three spot, but after some careful consideration I believe the Jets will improve from last years poor performance and finish around .500, if not better. The upside I see with the Jets is that they made some great pickups in the offseason with WR Brandon Marshall and RB Steven Ridley along with a few defensive players who will only make their run defense even more impenetrable. However, no matter how good Marshall is, he still needs somebody to throw him the ball and over the last few years QB Geno Smith has been ineffective in that regard. Although, Smith is a great athlete who can improve throughout the season and keep games close. First year head coach Todd Bowles will have a lot of work to do if he wants the Jets the make a run for the playoffs.
4. Buffalo Bills: Like I said before, every team in the AFC East improved this offseason. This is unfortunate for the Bills since this makes there chance to win the division very slim. The Bills were able to trade for RB Lesean McCoy who will be very successful in a Rex Ryan offense that loves the running game, but the passing game is another story. The Bills lack a go-to wide receiver and are in the midst of a QB battle between Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel. As of now, Manuel is the starter but he has struggled in the past and was even benched for most of last year. Don’t be surprised to see a switch at QB if Manuel doesn’t perform in the first few weeks. Even with a strong defense, a lack of experience on offense will land the Bills in last place in the AFC East.
This pretty much sums it up: