Every year, during the NFL pre-season, fans have a sense of optimism. Some fans hope for their rookie quarterback to be the next Peyton Manning. Others hope their new head coach will be the next Bill Belichick. From the moment OTA’s (organized team activities) start, there is great anticipation for the NFL season. It is amazing that the NFL dominates the sports media, talk shows and Twitter for 8 months out of the year. Here is my AFC East Preview.
AFC East- Since 2001, the Patriots have won 12 division titles, appeared in 9 AFC Championship Games and are 4-2 in the Super Bowl. To say that they have dominated this division is an understatement. The Patriots are the class of the NFL. If there ever was a defending Super Bowl winner with a chip on their shoulders, it is going to be New England. Because of “Deflate-Gate”, Brady and the Patriots legacy is under question. Whether Brady plays in 12 games are all 16, he is going to be looking to make a huge statement to the league. Despite the Patriots dominance over the years, not one AFC East team has made adjustments. The Bills, Jets and Miami have not had one elite quarterback over the years to consistently compete with Brady. It has always been some older veteran or a young rookie prospect that didn’t pan out.
New England Patriots (Last year 12-4… This year…11-5)
The defending Super Bowl Champions may be without Brady for 4 games. Whatever the case may be, Belichick will adjust and have the Patriots ready for another Super Bowl run. Losing Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and running back Shane Vereen (52 catches last year) will hurt them some, but their system is bigger than the players. As Belichick starts to get more comfortable with his team, they get better as the season progresses. . The Patriots are 51-9 in the month of December under Belichick. If you are going to beat the Patriots you better do it the first time you play them during the season. The Patriots will win this division again and compete for another Super Bowl. When Brady comes back, he will put up MVP like numbers.
Miami Dolphins (Last year 8-8… This year…9-7)
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is entering his 3rd season as Miami’s Starter. In his rookie year Tannehill had 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Last season he had 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Every season the Dolphins have asked Tannehill to do more and more and he has responded by improving his completion percentage and touchdowns every year. Lamar Miller rushed for 1,099 yards last season and the addition of speedy wide receiver Kenny Stills (63 receptions last year) should improve their offense. The Dolphins also landed top free agent DT Ndamukong Suh. The former Nebraska Cornhusker is a nightmare match up for any offensive line. He can stop the run, plug up the middle and rush the passer when needed (36 sacks in 5 seasons). The Dolphins should be a much improved team. If Tannehill can win some games and not just manage them, they could be a playoff team. They have the best defensive tackle in the division and the second best quarterback in the AFC East.
New York Jets (Last Year 4-12… This year…9-7)
The Jets had the busiest off-season of any team in the NFL. They hired a new head coach Todd Bowles and new general manager Mike Maccagnan. They brought in pro bowl defensive back Darelle Revis, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and drafted DT Leonard Williams with the 4th overall pick in the draft. Geno Smith was punched in the face, he has a broken jaw and now Ryan Fitzpatrick appears to be the starter. If any Jets fan think that a “game manager” can win a Super Bowl, they are sadly mistaken. The Jets should be much better than last year, they improved on offense, defense and with their head coach. But, they are not a legitimate contender because they don’t have an elite quarterback. The last time the Jets won a Super Bowl was 1969, coincidentally, that was the last time they had a franchise quarterback, Joe Namath. The best thing long term for the Jets would be Bryce Petty becomes the starter. If not, the Jets will be in the same position two years from now… Looking for a franchise quarterback.
Buffalo Bills (Last year 9-7… This year 7-9)
The Bills are welcoming in the Rex Ryan era. For all of his trash talking and bravado, Ryan has a career record of 46-50. He hasn’t made the playoffs for four straight years and hasn’t developed any offensive skilled players during his time with the Jets. There are no more excuses for Ryan on offense. Up until this point, in his coaching career, he has been the opposite of NFL coach Norv Turner. Ryan focuses his time on defense and Turner focused his time on offense. They both struggle to coach the other side of the ball. The Bills have WR Sammy Watkins and RB LeSean McCoy, both are super talented and should put up Pro Bowl like numbers. The Bills, Jets and Dolphins all have very good defenses. All these conference games should be decided by a touchdown or less, coaching will be a huge part of winning and losing. Ryan has never been a great game coach, when trailing by 13 points or more at halftime, the Jets were 0-14 under Ryan. This means, his inability to make adjustments have come back to cost him. If Ryan wants to grow as a coach, he will have to be less conservative on offense and develop, not limit his offensive talent. If the Bills QB’s struggle, Ryan will find himself in the same shoes as Turner, a former head coach who is now just a coordinator.
This division has talented players and great defensive minds. But, until Tannehill proves otherwise there is only one elite QB in the AFC East. The Jets, Bills and Dolphins could all finish 10-6 or 6-10. The talent level is that even.
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