AFC East preview

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September 7, 2017 by adamburt13

(Courtesy of Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Written by Adam Burt

As the 2017 NFL regular season approaches us, I’m here to breakdown my thoughts and predictions for the AFC East.. With the AFC East being home to the defending super bowl champion New England Patriots, it would be a long shot to see Miami, New York or Buffalo surpass Belichick and the Patriots for that top spot. But is it possible? And if so, what would these 3 struggling franchises have to do for a chance at contending?

New England Patriots

2016-17 record: 14-2 (1st)

Key additions: CB Stephon Gilmore, WR Brandin Cooks, RB Rex Burkhead, RB Mike Gillislee, TE Dwayne Allen

Key losses: WR Julian Edelman (Injury), DE Rob Ninkovich, CB Logan Ryan, RB LeGarrette Blount, DE Chris Long, TE Martellus Bennett

As mostly anyone could have guessed, I’m without question picking the Patriots to win the AFC East again this season. It is an unpopular opinion but I don’t see the flawless 16-0r un most fans are buzzing about being a reality despite the stacked roster on paper after a very successful offseason. I’m predicting the Patriots will finish this upcoming regular season with a record of 13-3.

As always I think the Patriots will have their way with the rest of the AFC East teams on their schedule this season simply because we are all still witnessing the Brady and Belichick era of domination roll on with a very similar coaching staff and number 12 still chugging along playing at an elite level. Although, no matter how stacked New England may be on paper each year and how well the Patriots may be playing, they always seem to run into a week against the Bills, Dolphins or Jets that is just your average inner division stressful back and forth coaching stalemate between two organizations that know each other very well. This season I see one of the possible losses coming in a tight contest against either the Bills or Dolphins.

The Patriots as well as the rest of the AFC East will also face the NFC South this season. A division where I think a lot of teams have become very strong contenders in the NFC as a whole. With the Patriots not normally playing these out of conference teams, I could see the Pats dropping a game to one of these four NFC South opponents on the schedule. Maybe a young team like Tampa Bay comes out and has a strong outing, or New England struggles in the Super Bowl LI rematch against the Atlanta Falcons. I’m not sure which team it will be but I could see them dropping one of the NFC South games this year simply due to the fact that the division is packed with some very high-powered offensive weapons and a few young, talented defensive units.

Lastly, the Patriots also will host some very tough AFC rivals outside of the east this season that have a lot of hype surrounding them, such as the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs. I doubt the Pats will lose their home opener and super bowl banner celebration game against the Kansas City Chiefs but I could for sure see them losing a close one to Pittsburgh or Oakland who I think are two very tough teams that the Patriots could run into come playoff time.

Team MVP/X-Factor: The Goat himself, Tom Brady

The things he is continuing to do at this age with a great surrounding cast is truly remarkable. I feel if Brady is well protected, and the Patriots offensive weapons can avoid further injury, this may be Tom Brady’s best passing season of his entire career at the age of 40.

2017-18 prediction: 13-3

Miami Dolphins:

2016-17 record: 10-6 (2nd)

Key Additions: QB Jay Cutler, DE William Hayes, ILB Lawrence Timmons, TE Julius Thomas

Key Losses: QB Ryan Tannehill (Injury), CB Tony Lippett (Injury), LB Raekwon McMillan (Injury)

The Miami Dolphins have had to face adversity this offseason losing starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill due to a season ending knee surgery. However, Miami made the call to bring in former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler who had recently just retired. Cutler comes into Miami to find himself amongst some young offensive weapons, and his old offensive coordinator from Chicago, Adam Gase, who is now the head coach of the Dolphins.

This offseason, star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh stated,

“I think the Patriots are definitely beatable. It’s just a matter of playing a good game, almost a perfect game in a lot of ways because they’ve got great coaching and obviously great players and talent on their side of the ball. So you’ve got to be going on all cylinders. Without question, I have a ton of respect for them, but without question, they’re definitely beatable as everybody is in the league.”

I would say this is the type of confidence that you like to see any guy on your side have, but Suh likes to talk a lot of trash occasionally to stir the pot, so I’m not sure I’m buying into this. No way does he actually believe the Dolphins could top the Patriots in the east, or even beat us once, goes to show you the mindset of opposing AFC East players; scheming up one plan, how to take down the Patriots.

I think with an offense filled with some bright stars and Suh leading the pack on defense, the Dolphins will place second in the AFC East under the Patriots this season. Im going to go with a finishing record of 9-7. Last year Miami finished with 10 wins but I don’t think Jay Cutler is going to ride this team to a 10 victory season. A majority of the Dolphins losses this season will be to AFC East rivals. Although I feel like if any team in the east has the best shot of snagging a game against New England it would for sure be the Dolphins.

Team X-factor: Jay Ajayi

If the Dolphins are to click this season and become a 10 win team or more, I think player who will need to produce is running back Jay Ajayi. If the Miami Dolphins line stays healthy and can let Ajayi hit some holes and pound the ball downfield, it would be a huge relief off of Jay Cutler’s shoulders to have a steady running game to rely on throughout the season.

2017-18 prediction: 9-7 (2nd)

Buffalo Bills

2016-17 record: 7-9 (3rd)

Key additions: WR Jordan Matthews, DB Micah Hyde, WR Andre Holmes

Key losses: WR Sammy Watkins, WR Robert Woods, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Ronald Darby. LB Reggie Ragland, RB Mike Gillislee

The Buffalo Bills seem to be shaking things up throughout the organization. They have moved on from the Rex Ryan days and now are relying on Sean McDermott, ex defensive coordinator from the Carolina Panthers. For a team that looked like it was starting to show a bit promise a few years back with some serious talent, they have recently threw away that promise by failing to reach the playoffs under Ryan and trading away/not re-signing a majority of their starting players. Names like Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore just to name a few have all moved on. And as far as letting go of veteran players and shopping others, I don’t think they are done yet.

Buffalo has always struggled to find their way to the top of the AFC East. I certainly don’t think Sean McDermott is going to be able to do much with what is left of the depleted roster heading into this year either. It’s clear the mindset in Buffalo was to trade key players and stack up on draft picks for a possible rebuild to begin. With that being said, I still think Buffalo has enough to not finish in last in the AFC East. I’m going to say they finish with a record of 6-10 with a few positive efforts from guys they may keep around throughout this rebuild if that’s the direction the franchise is actually heading.

Team X-Factor: Tyrod Taylor

Coming into this season he will be without two of his receivers from last season that he depended on but has a new target in Jordan Matthews acquired from the Eagles in the Ronald Darby trade. Star running back LeSean McCoy will hold his own but in order to find success, Taylor is going to have to play heads up football all season long, and move the ball down field with some authority.

2017-18 prediction: 6-10 (3rd)

New York Jets

2016-17 record: 5-11 (4th)

Key additions: S Jamal Adams, WR ArDarius Stewart, CB Morris Claiborne, QB Josh McCown, WR Jermaine Kearse

Key losses: WR Eric Decker, WR Brandon Marshall, ILB David Harris, SS Calvin Pryor, DE Sheldon Richardson.

I’m just going to go ahead and say it; the Jets might just have the worst team in the NFL when you look at their roster. Not so much on the defensive side, but could you name the Jets’ starting quarterback? Not many can, and maybe it’s due to the fact that it’s just recently been announced that Josh McCown has been named the starter over Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. But now McCown is dealing with a preseason injury so who knows who might be the week one ready starter for this team.

I will say their defensive line is still the strong feature of this team, but recently they just traded away a key piece of that strong defensive front (Sheldon Richardson) which may hurt that group a bit. But, they do get wide receiver Jermaine Kearse in return who seems like he will be the go to target in that offense being the best healthy option. I will also admit I love the direction the Jets took in their draft, but this team is going to be riding along the bottom of the AFC East this season without question and for the near future the way things are looking.

I’m predicting a season ending at 4-12 for the Jets, the reason being that the quarterback situation is brutal and they have lost all their productive receivers they’ve had throughout previous seasons (Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker). On top of losing Marshall and Decker the Jets also have to adjust to the injury of receiver Quincy Enunwa. They just don’t seem to be in a good situation to win football games in a division with 3 teams that all have more promise than they do. Todd Bowles will be back coaching this team again this season but I expect them to switch quarterbacks multiple times this season and will be expecting struggles offensively moving the ball down field.

2017-18 prediction: 4-12 (4th)

Team X-factor: Bilal Powell

This team has injuries and has lost a majority of its receivers this offseason. A steady run game is what they are going to need to thrive off of this season. Bilal Powell is a guy that I believe will get a healthy serving of touches throughout the entirety of this football season, but what he does with those touches will ultimately be the deciding factor. And even then I still don’t see much promise this season for the Jets.

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