With NFL training camps getting underway around the country, it is around that time of year where many NFL experts and fans give their predictions for the upcoming season. Each day for the next 8-10 days, I will post my predictions for each division around the NFL, and then give my playoff and super bowl predictions and today I will start with the AFC East.
It is no secret that the AFC East has probably been the least exciting division in the NFL since the early 2000s, as the New England Patriots have won the AFC East division 15 times in the past 16 years. However, with quarterback Tom Brady now in his 40s and lots of drama surrounding the Patriots since late last season, the Patriots reign of AFC East titles may be coming to an end sooner than later. But will 2018 be the first year since 2008 where a team not named the New England Patriots win the division?
- New England Patriots: 10-6
As long as the Patriots still have the dynamic duo of Tom Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as their head coach, I just can’t picture this franchise not winning this division, especially in the fairly weak AFC East. However, I do believe they will regress quite a bit and have the most losses in a single season since 2009.
Their wide receiver group is a big questionmark as Brady’s number one receiver, Julian Edelman is suspended for the first four games and is coming off of an ACL tear from last season, Danny Amendola left to join the Miami Dolphins, and tight end, Rob Gronkowski has suffered many different injuries throughout his NFL career and was even considering retirement this past offseason. They lost some other key pieces this past offseason to free agency as running back, Dion Lewis and cornerback, Malcolm Butler each signed with the Tennessee Titans and their best offensive lineman, Nate Solder signed with the New York Giants.
Not to mention that last season, the Patriots were ranked amongst one of the worst defenses in the league as they allowed the fourth most total yards in the league last season, but luckily for them, Tom Brady had another fantastic season and helped lead them to the Super Bowl. However, if the Patriots defense plays like that again in 2018, I just can’t picture Brady at age 40 bailing out his team the way he did last season, especially after losing many of his key play makers from the past few seasons this past offseason.
If the Patriots didn’t have six of their 16 games against either the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills, I could see this franchise being an 8-8 team this season, but I have them at 10-6 to win the division, but will miss out on a first round BYE for the first time since 2009, another season where they went 10-6.
- New York Jets: 8-8
In a few years from now when Tom Brady retires, I believe that right now the New York Jets are the team that has the best chance to take over the AFC East, a division heavily dominated by New England so far this century.
Remember around this time last season where many NFL experts were predicting the Jets to go 0-16 or 1-15? Well they ended up overachieving last season as they went 5-11 with a very young and inexperienced roster and even most games that they lost, they were fighting until the very end and were within one possession.
They got a very talented and young defense with Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye as the two safeties that each had a fantastic rookie season last year. Leonard Williams has been a dominating force in that defensive line since he got drafted in 2015, and the signings of cornerbacks, Tremaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne makes their secondary a bigger strength.
While on the offensive side, the Jets drafted possibly the best quarterback in a QB heavy 2018 draft class by taking USC’s Sam Darnold with the third overall pick. It is still unclear on how much playing time Darnold will get in his rookie season, but even if he doesn’t play, the Jets still have two reliable veteran quarterbacks on the roster with Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.
The Jets may have an average at best offensive line and running attack, but they might have the most underrated wide receiver group of any NFL team. Last season, Robby Anderson had a breakout year as he had 941 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, serving as a reliable deep threat with above average speed and great hands. Quincy Enunwa will be returning this season after missing all of last year due to a season ending neck surgery and just two years ago, Enunwa flashed some great potential with the Jets as he had 857 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Not to mention they have a pair of veteran wideouts who have had success in the past with Jermaine Kearse and Terrelle Pryor.
After back to back seasons where this team went 5-11, I believe the Jets will take a step forward in 2018 and get to that .500 mark as many of their young talents such as Darnold, Adams, Maye, and others will show some signs of progression. I truly like where this franchise is heading under head coach, Todd Bowles and general manager, Mike Maccagnan.
- Miami Dolphins: 6-10
This past offseason, the Dolphins let go of their two of their best offensive players as wide receiver, Jarvis Landry was traded to the Cleveland Browns while center, Mike Pouncey signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. On top of this, they have their franchise quarterback, Ryan Tannehill coming back from an ACL tear he suffered last season, his second since the start of the 2016 season.
Tannehill has shown some flashes that he can be a franchise quarterback at times, but coming back from an ACL tear and being without your number one receiver and best offensive lineman……. Yeah this season is not going to end well on the offensive side for the Dolphins.
Sure the Dolphins signed veteran wide receiver, Danny Amendola but I don’t see him as a legitimate number one wide receiver who can replace Jarvis Landry. Their offense as a whole in just about every facet of the game is just very average at best, and unless you have somebody like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers under center for your team, wins can be very hard to come by in the NFL.
While on the defensive side, the Dolphins decided to move on from their best defensive player as they cut defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh who elected to sign with the Los Angeles Rams. Even with the cut of Suh, the Dolphins still have a decent defense that can get by thanks to the additions of Robert Quinn and Minkah Fitzpatrick. However, if they can’t put up points on the offensive side of the ball, I can’t see this team winning more than six games.
The Dolphins are just a team that is all-around average at almost every part of the game and it is very rare that those kind of teams have winning seasons. If you want to win as a team in the NFL, you have to have something that you specialize in and the Dolphins just don’t have that right now.
- Buffalo Bills: 4-12
Even though the Bills made the playoffs for the first time since 1999 last season, they have one glaring problem going into this season, THEY DON’T HAVE A QUARTERBACK. They elected to move on from Tyrod Taylor who had three successful seasons for the Bills from 2015-2017 by throwing 51 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions and that may come back to bite them as their quarterback room looks like a mess right now.
They signed AJ McCarron from the Cincinnati Bengals who has only made three NFL starts since getting drafted in 2014. Sure he won two of those games for the Bengals, completed 66.4% of his passes and threw six touchdowns, but that is still a very small sample size and who knows how he will react as a full time starter.
Nathan Peterman looked dreadful in the limited action he got in his rookie season last year as he completed less than half of his passes and threw five interceptions in four appearances. And then there is Josh Allen, the rookie out of Wyoming who the Bills traded up to get in the 2018 NFL Draft and he has the potential to be the biggest bust of the draft.
Sure Allen has incredible arm strength and is a big 6 foot 5 presence in the pocket, but this is a guy that played in a weaker conference in college and had accuracy issues. In 27 college games, Allen only completed 56.2 percent of his passes, which is concerning since he played in the Mountain West Conference.
So overall the quarterback situation looks like it could be a mess in Buffalo, while the supporting cast around their signal caller isn’t quite great either. Sure they have LeSean McCoy who has been a reliable running back for years now, but he just turned 30 a few years ago and there are allegations against him and if those charges are true, then McCoy could be out of the league before we know it.
As for the wide receivers, the Bills have absolutely no depth at that position. They have the 27 year old Kelvin Benjamin who can be a good deep or redzone threat, but other than that, the Bills wide receiver core looks like a mess, which doesn’t help the fact that they don’t have a reliable quarterback on their roster.
Much like the Miami Dolphins, the Bills also have a decent defense that can get the job done, headlined cornerback Tre’Davious White, defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Jerry Hughes, and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. But if their offense can’t put up points, it will be very hard to win football games regardless of how good your defense is. The Bills just have way too many questionmarks heading into the 2018 season, especially on the offensive side of the football, which is why I have them in last place in the AFC East.