The AFC East in 2018 is much the same as it has been for years. Regardless, let’s delve into the potential for surprise within a division which has been under the control of the New England Patriots for so long.
New England Patriots
What better way to start than with the New England franchise. The Patriots will once again take centre stage in the East, looking to secure their tenth division championship which would mark a decade of dominance.
The Belichick/Brady dynamic returns for another season, which means the Pats will be a shoe-in for the playoffs. In addition, the retention of key players like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman further heightens their chances of success to reach the promised land once more. Surprise, surprise.
The one weakness the Pats have is their ability to defend against passing quarterbacks. With a 89.5 passer rating for opposing quarterbacks on average last year, it remains a significant weakness. Furthermore, the New England roster faced a purge. Malcolm Butler was unsurprisingly picked up by the Tennessee Titans, who also gained the services of Dion Lewis. Also, Danny Amendola is travelling to division rivals, the Miami Dolphins. However, generally the Patriots remain good enough regardless of who exits the team, mostly due to their mentality of no player being larger than the team.
Is it time the Jets take flight? Possibly.
First of all, the acquisition of Sam Darnold is a likeable move. He has good range but has to reduce a sizeable interception rate in his collegiate career. The Jets also took a low risk move seeking high rewards by signing Teddy Bridgewater who is returning from knee surgery. In addition, the Jets signed Isaiah Crowell who significantly bolsters their run game.
However, the Jets struggle on the offensive line. Allowing 47 sacks last season, changes were needed, which they have to a certain degree. The New York-based team signed Spencer Long from the Redskins this pffseason, who has 4 years of NFL service under his belt. Brian Winters returns from a lengthy injury at right tackle and Kelvin Beachum returns at left tackle, who is both a fantastic athlete and a great guy who deserves a chance in the NFL. Short anecdote – I once met Kelvin Beachum in London, when he was on the Jags roster, loves football and was so genuine. So, shoutout Kelvin!
There’s been a lot of noise regarding the Florida based franchise. But why? Well, Ryan Tannehill returns from his season-long knee injury. This momentous occasion marks a pivotal moment in Tannehill’s career, it’ll truly make or break his reputation in the league. The Dolphins also possess a world class safety in Reshad Jones.
And, that’s it for the Dolphins. In terms of positivity, that is. Defensively the Fins lost their best asset in Ndumakong Suh and their best offensive piece in Jarvis Landry. Moreover, the void Jay Ajayi left has yet to be filled. Thus, I see the Dolphins struggling on both sides of the ball this season.
The Bills had a turbulent season last year. Filled with ups and downs, the franchise finished with a 9-7 record.
The signing of QB Josh Allen provides great arm strength and versatility from the 6’5” star. In addition, the 7th round pick has demonstrated many skills required for being the starting quarterback of any NFL franchise. In spite of that, Bills GM Brandon Beane stated that he would begin the 2018/19 season as the third string quarterback. For the sake of the Bills, please alter this mindset Mr. Beane. The Bills also have a fantastic defence, featuring Tre’Davious White, Vontae Davis and Micah Hyde.
On the other hand, many would argue that Allen, based on what we have seen, is a downgrade from Tyrod Taylor. However, second guessing collegiate quarterbacks has become a natural occurrence in the NFL, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Josh Allen proves his doubters wrong this season. For me, the Bills could be a dark horse in the battle for the AFC wildcard playoff place.