Written By: Andrew Giovanniello
The AFC East is in the past numerous years has been one of the more lopsided divisions in football, ruled by the evil empire themselves, the New England Patriots. Last year, however, the division saw two playoff teams come out of there for the first time since 2010. The Miami Dolphins, under first year head coach Adam Gase, shocked the NFL world and earned the second AFC Wild Card spot. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets? Well they took a step back. Will the AFC East look to be the same going into the 2017-18 NFL season? Wingspan Sports previews the division, and all of the other ones right here.
New England Patriots
Every year, there are at least a handful of analysts that suggest that the Brady/Belichick tandem are approaching their final year. Every year those same analysts are proven wrong. Last year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell threw down a 4-game suspension on Tom Brady for his role in the DeflateGate scandal. The Patriots would go 3-1 in his absence, and ending the regular season 14-2. In the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl, Tom Brady looked like, well, human. But it took a Herculean effort to win the biggest game of the year, coming back from a 28-3 deficit with 8 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, and finishing off the Atlanta Falcons off in OT. This offseason was one like we’ve never seen in years past in New England. Usually, teams that win the Super Bowl lose a key piece or two. This team kept essentially every key piece they had, and added more key pieces to their roster. Additions like Kony Ealy, Lawrence Guy, Dwyane Allen and Rex Burkhead are traditional, under the radar moves that Belichick made. The biggest move of the offseason however, was the addition of Brandin Cooks. Cooks is lining up to be Brady’s biggest wide receiver threat since Randy Moss, and we all know what those two did in 2007. Let’s not forget the defense either. Their defense was the best scoring defense in the league last year. They were able to keep Dont’a Hightower, and signed the top free agent from this offseason, Stephon Gillmore. This team is primed for another Super Bowl run, but let’s be honest, when aren’t they primed?
Projected Record: 15-1
The Miami Dolphins made a big move toward taking down the Patriots last season. Though they couldn’t quite win the division, they made the playoffs as a second wild card team. For as accomplished as their regular season was, their playoff “run” was lackluster. The Dolphins got trounced by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Wild Card weekend. Ryan Tannehill was in the middle of his best season to date, until he suffered a season ending knee injury in week 14, right before the playoffs. The injury was a kill shot to the surging Dolphins. The ‘Phins look to build off of their franchise quarterback’s breakout season. The re-signed key defensive players such as Charles Harris, Kiko Alonso, and Cameron Wake. The team didn’t make a big splash in the free agency period. They would rather just build off the team they had last year evidently. In his first year running the team, new head coach Adam Gase raised eyebrows around the NFL on how well he did. Gase looks to do more of the same this season. The Dolphins finished 10-6 last season. I see more of the same for this team 2017.
Projected Record: 10-6
The Buffalo Bills had a tumultuous 2016 season, to say the least. Nepotism was shown early on in the season, as OC Greg Roman was unceremoniously fired by the organization after their week 2 loss to the lowly Jets. Though he was terminated, the problems for the Bills did not stem from the offense. It was the defense that the root of their problems. Who was leading the Bills’ defense? None other than Rob Ryan, brother of then head coach Rex Ryan. Both were fired at the end of the season. Rex landed on his feet as an analyst for ESPN. How long that job will last is an question that only time could answer. As for the team itself? The Bills fired GM Doug Whaley, and replaced him with Brandon Beane. They lost Stephon Gilmore to their division rivals, the New England Patriots. They will try to replace him with cornerbacks Shareece Wright and Tre’Davious White. Gilmore was considered by many to be the top prize of free agency, so replacing him is no easy feat. They also lost RB Mike Gillislee to the Patriots as well. As for the quarterback situation, this may be the last chance for Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo. The rumblings for his benching slowly but surely started last season. The Bills finished last season at 7-9. From what I’ve seen through free agency and the draft, this team took a slight step backwards.
Projected Record: 6-10
New York Jets
Now for the cellar of the AFC East, the New York Jets. What a terrible year 2016 was for this team, the worst in recent memory. Jet fans have been long in suffering since 1969 when Broadway Joe carried the Jets over the Colts in what was one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. Todd Bowles enters his 3rd season under a white-hot seat. The fans are already to give on the first time head coach. GM Mike Maccagnan was willing to give Bowles one last shot at glory. However, the roster Maccagnan gave him to work with this season is pretty abysmal. If you think 5-11 is bad, just wait until this season. It will not be pretty folks. The Jets released the likes of Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, David Harris, and Darrelle Revis. They did make some signings however, signing Morris Claiborne from the Cowboys, and Josh McCown from the Browns. McCown adds to an already putrid Jets QB situation. The competition will include Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, along with McCown. No one expects the Jets to compete. Amazingly, Vegas has the Jets O/U win total at 5.5 wins. If I were a betting man, which I am, I would go heavy on the under.
Projected Record: 3-13