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2018 AFC East Season Preview--- Can The Pats Win A 10th In A Row?

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

This division should be re-named the New England Patriots Division. The Pats won the AFC East last year with a 13-3 record, and it was the 9th time in a row and 14th in the previous 15 years they won the division. Can anyone step up to take down these behemoths? The Jets look improved and the Bills were in the postseason a year ago, plus Miami has a chance to be much better with Ryan Tannehill back and healthy. Let’s take a look at how this division stacks up and then make win total predictions for each team, as well as their projected order of finish.

Have The Bills Finally Found A Quarterback?

The Buffalo Bills made it to the postseason last year with a 9-7 record, which broke a string of 16 years of missing the postseason. Can they make it back? We shall see. The Bills were 29th in the league in total offense last year and 22nd in scoring, putting up just 18.9 ppg. They were also 31st in the league in passing and needed a change, so they send Tyrod Taylor packing and then traded up in the draft to take quarterback Josh Allen with the 7th overall pick. They also brought in AJ McCarron to help out at the position, but he was injured in their 2nd preseason game and is out indefinitely. Nathan Peterman is still on board, so the Bills really have an unsettled quarterback situation. They believe that Allen will eventually take over, but despite drafting him, this offense could still be weaker than last year’s. The ground attack was 3rd best in the league last year and will need to rely on it this year, especially until the quarterback situation is settled.

The defense was one of the worst in the league last year as they ranked 26th in yards allowed and 18th in points allowed, giving up 22.4 ppg. This year’s defense should be better, especially after they drafted LB Tremaine Edmunds with the 16th overall pick and defensive lineman Harrison Phillips in the 3rd round. They also brought in Vontae Davis from Indianapolis to help out the secondary, which was 20th in the league in pass defense a year ago. They have some nice new pieces to their defense and should improve on last year’s numbers. The Bills made the postseason last year despite the fact they were 29th in total offense and 26th in total defense. 

The Dolphins Look To Be Rebuilding

The Miami Dolphins went 6-10 last year and have been to the postseason just once since 2008. A big reason for their struggles last year was the loss of Ryan Tannehill, who missed the entire season due to an ACL injury. It was his 2nd ACL injury in the last two years. They need him to be healthy, or it could be another long year for a unit that ranked 25th in total offense and 28th in scoring, putting up just 17.6 ppg. He did throw for over 8,000 yards and 51 TDs in 2014 and 2015, so he is capable of having a big year. The problem this year as their best receiver, Jarvis Landry, is now a member of the Cleveland Browns. The good news for the offense is they have added running back Frank Gore who should help a running game that was 29th in the league last year. If Tannehill can stay healthy and Gore can help the running game, the Dolphins could have a decent offense on their hands.

The Dolphins didn’t have problems on just offense last year as they also had their issues on the defensive side of the ball. The Dolphins finished the year ranked 29th in the league in points allowed, giving up 24.6 ppg. They were 16th in the league in yards allowed, but the weak offense put the defense in bad spots for much of the year. The defense has a shot at being decent if the offense can take care of the ball. They have a big hole to fill along the line as Ndamukong Suh is off to the Rams. They did bring in lineman Robert Quinn but did nothing in the draft to help out the line. The secondary looks to be the strength of the team, especially with the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick, who they took with the 11th overall pick in the draft. The problem on defense is a linebacking corp that is one of the worst in the league. The Dolphins have some holes to fill, but Ryan Tannehill gives them some hope. He just has to stay healthy.

The Pats Have Question Marks At Wide Receiver

The New England Patriots have owned this division for the decade and a half. Last year, they made it to their 8th Super Bowl in the previous 17 years but came up just a bit short against the Eagles. This year they again have high hopes which is totally understandable when you have the possible GOAT, Tom Brady, leading the offense. He is the best quarterback in the league and has been for some time. He should have another strong season, even though the Patriots don’t have as much depth at wide receiver as they are used to. They lost Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks in the offseason and will not have Julian Edelman until week five as he has been suspended the first four games. Even when he returns, they just don’t have good depth at that position. The running game will be solid, and the offense will still be good overall, but they may not top the 28.6 ppg they put up a year ago.

The defense had some odd numbers last year. The Patriots were 29th in the league in yards allowed, but they were also 5th in the league in points, giving up just 18.5 ppg. They had a bend-but-don’t-break defense and will look for a much more consistent unit this time around. It will not be easy as they lost the architect of their defense in DC Matt Patricia, who is now the head man at Detroit. They did lose All-Pro corner Malcolm Butler, but the rest of the defense is still pretty much intact, and it has looked good in their first two preseason games. This will again be a very tough defense that has depth.        

The Jets Finally Have An NFL Caliber Quarterback

The New York Jets haven’t been to the playoffs since 2010, and their offense has been one of the worst in the league in five of the last six year, but they have hope for the future. The Jets took Sam Darnold with the 3rd overall pick in this year’s draft, and they also brought in Teddy Bridgewater, which gives them some outstanding depth at the position. Both have looked good in the preseason, so the Jets appear ready to improve significantly on a passing offense that was 24th in the league last year. They also added WR Terrelle Pryor through free agency and TE Chris Herndon through the draft. The receiving corps is pretty solid, and the running game will be improved with the addition of running back Isaiah Crowell. This is going to be a solid offensive team this year, especially once Sam Darnold takes over at quarterback.

With a better offense, that should make the defense better as well. This defense has struggled the last few years, but it was not all their fault as the offense constantly put them in bad positions. This defense has looked outstanding in their first two preseason games, and it should continue as the season goes on. They brought in defensive back Trumaine Johnson through free agency and also took defensive lineman Nathan Shepard with their 2nd pick in the draft. The Jets were 25th in the league in yards allowed and 22nd in points allowed last year, but with an improved offense, they should greatly improve on those rankings this year. 

Will The Pats Win A 10th Division Title In A Row

Betting Predictions

Current Odds to Win the Division and Projected Order:

1st  New England -750

2nd Buffalo Bills +1200

3rd  New York Jets  +1400

4th  Miami Dolphins +1200

Win Total Predictions

The New England Patriots are again the class of the division and they will again be in the mix for a trip to the Super Bowl. They have a strong offense and a defense that should be good once again. There just isn’t a team in this division that can hold a candle to them and there is really no value in this division because the Pats have no shot at losing it. I do feel that they could come up just a bit short of their posted win total. New England Under 11.5 Wins (-115).

The New York Jets are my sleeper pick to finish 2nd in the division. I like the upgrades they have a quarterback and a more efficient offense should help the defense as well. They won’t turn the ball over as much, which will not put that defense in bad spots. The Jets won’t push the Pats for the division title, but they will push for a playoff spot. New York Over 6 Wins (Even).

The Miami Dolphins had a bad year a season ago, but they should be improved this year, especially if Ryan Tannehill stays healthy. If that happens, then the offense will be much improved and the defense should improve as well. They are not a playoff caliber team, but they should be able to top their posted win total. Miami Over 6.5 Wins (+100).

The Buffalo Bills have got their quarterback of the future, but he will not be enough to keep them from falling to the AFC East basement this year. They had a poor offense last year and it could be even worse this year, while the defense will be below average. Do not look for them to top their posted win total this year. Buffalo Under 6 Wins (-150).

 

David Hess

I have always had a fascination with numbers and sports, so I combined the two to become a handicapper and a blogger. I love sports and I love writing about them and all the info I put in my blogs is well-thought-out and well-researched. I am a big fan of all the major sports and the colleges, plus I know golf pretty well, tennis and the WNBA. I am very versatile. Hope you enjoy my content.

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