AFC East Preview
The AFC East is the least competitive division in all of professional sports. The Patriots will win it again, probably for the next few years, and the other three teams will fight for second place. At least two of those teams appear to be on the rise meaning that there are three relatively equal teams fighting to be second best to the Patriots.
New Faces: WR John Brown, RB Frank Gore, WR Cole Beasley: DT Ed Oliver, OG Cody Ford, TE Dawson Knox, RB Devin Singletary: Brown and Beasley look like two of the teams top three receivers. Beasley should put up good numbers from the slot with Brown stretching defenses and Zay Jones using his size to move throughout the field. Gore will be in a committee situation, but he’s been in a committee situation for the better part of the last decade. Oliver looks like a long term All Pro contender. Ford has practiced at both guard and tackle but looks best suited to start at guard. Knox has been hurt but offers some upside while Singletary will be in the rotation at running back and might even end the season as the clear leader.
Offensive Outlook: Allen will need to be a better passer of the football but with better weapons and an improved offensive line that is easily attainable. Having his ability to move the chains with his feet will also help. Zay Jones needs to have the breakthrough year he has teased. He’s a big bodied receiver who should start to see more single coverage with Brown stretching defenses and Beasley working from the slot. He needs to capitalize on those opportunities.
Defensive Outlook: Oliver is gonna be the leader of a much improved defensive front with Tremaine Edwards leading the linebackers and Tre’Davious White the rock in the secondary. Having a corner like White that can lock up in man coverage and take away half the field coupled with a linebacker as athletic as Edwards gives Buffalo the potential to generate a lot of turnovers. As I have continued to study them this off season, I expect their defense to be one of the leagues best at making big play and one of the worst at giving them ups.
Overall Prediction: Buffalo is an improving team that still has a long way to go. The defense is starting to look like it cold be a good one and might be the strength of this team down the stretch, but the offense still has enough question marks that I can’t see Buffalo being able to compete with the best teams.
New Faces: QB’s Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick, DT Christian Wilkins, OG Michael Dieter; Deeiter looks like a starter, Wilkins will be the best player on the front seven, and either Fitzpatrick or Rosen will start. Early returns suggest teh two are about even in which case I would expect Rosen to get the nod early in the season, if not immediately.
Offensive Outlook: Dieter seems likely to start at guard after a strong camp. The real question for this season is whether or not Josh Rosen is a franchise quarterback (my money is on yes.) They acquired Rosen for a second day draft pick which is incredible value. Should he show similar moxie to what he showed in Arizona last season, and some improvement in his maturity, then he could allow Miami to trade away what is likely to be the first overall pick in a draft that appears to be quarterback heavy at 0the top.
Defensive Outlook: Wilkins is a dynamic talent. He should improve the overall effectiveness of the defensive front seven. The team has great depth at safety and could look to swing a trade before the season starts to fill in some other gaps or add draft capital for next season.
Overall Prediction: Tough to see Miami wining more than a handful of games. If Rosen can consistently replicate his heroics against San Francisco last season then the Dolphins could muster up three wins. I’ll be taking the under, however.
New Faces: Michael Bennett DE, N’Keal Henry WR, Demaryius Thomas WR. Bennett is immediately a leader of the defense while Thomas and Henry offer an exciting opportunity for New England to open up its offense after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski.
Offensive Outlook: The Patriots have always adjusted to their relative strengths, or at least away from their major weaknesses, and this year should be no different. James White, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel should see lots of touches in the backfield, with Michel leading the way, while Tom Brady will have a deeper receiving corps with which to work. Edelman is still around and Phillip Dorsett finally looks ready to contribute more but the additions of Thomas and Henry give New England some size out wide and I would expect Josh McDaniels and Brady to figure out how to utilize it (likely through play action.)
Defensive Outlook: This looks like a weak link but the Patriots have been able t salvage veteran careers before and turn them into a productive NFL defense. Bennett gives them some leadership up front and the linebackers have a lot of veterans that entered the league as talented players with high upsides. The strength of the defense is in the secondary where New England is three deep across the board. I’d expect them to keep ten defensive backs with at least a couple of players being able to slip between safety and cornerback positions.
Overall Prediction: The Patriots competition won’t come from within the division this season. The elite AFC teams from other divisions should be able to catch up with the Pats, or surpass them outright, but I expect New England to be among the best records in the league. Their floor is 11 wins.
New Faces: WR Jamison Crowder, DT Quinnen Williams, LB CJ Mosely, RB’s Ty Montgomery and Le'Veon Bell. Bell was the big fish that the team needed after being spurned by Kirk Cousins the previous year. He’ll get a lot of use over the next two seasons. Mosely was a relatively quiet signing, and one of the best of the entire league free agency period. Williams was an obvious choice for the Jets and Jamison Crowder is exactly the kind of receiver the Jets need opposite Robbie Anderson. Montgomery is a nice insurance policy for Bell and should be able to spell him adequately.
Offensive Outlook: The team is counting on enhanced skill position talent in developing Sam Darnold. Bell, Anderson, and Crowder give Darnold plenty of weapons to work with, although the four game suspension of tight end Chris Herndon hurts a little. The offensive line situation here is just so poor it’s difficult to tell how effective this offense can actually be. I expect a lot of growing pains here.
Defensive Outlook: Well, the defensive front seven looks great, Jamal Adams is the best safety in the game, their other safety Marcus Maye is also a long term starter, and Trumaine Johnson is paying dividends at cornerback. By my calculations, however the team has eleven other corner backs currently under contract, all of who are bottom of the roster guys. If the Jets don’t stabilize this position they won’t be able to cover two receiver sets, much less a modern NFL offense.
Overall Prediction: The Jets have great skill players, a good young quarterback, a ferocious front seven and the best safety in the. Unfortunately their dearth of talent along the offensive line could derail the entire offensive operation and the cornerback situation is simply unacceptable for an NFL team. The Jets will show some improvement but their ceiling is six wins.
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