The AFC East has gained a new look since Tom Brady left for Tampa. Four young quarterbacks look to be their teams answer for the next decade as they battle for the title: AFC East Champions. Big stars enter the division this year. Let’s see who joined and how it all will end in our AFC East preview.
AFC East Preview
4. New York Jets
Key loses – OT Morgan Moses, WR Jamison Crowder, DE Foley Fatukasi, FS Marcus Maye,
Key additions – OG Laken Tomlinson, CB D.J. Reed, TE C.J. Uzomah, TE Tyler Conklin, OT Duane Brown, S Jordan Whitehead, OLB Jake Martin, DE Solomon Thomas, K Greg Zuerlein, ILB Kwon Alexander, CB Ahmad Gardner, WR Garrett Wilson, RB Breece Hall, DE Jermaine Johnson II, TE Jeremy Ruckert
Re-signed – FB Nick Bawden (1-year)
Head coach Robert Saleh’s first season in East Rutherford wasn’t ideal. The team went 4-13 and got swept by the rest of the AFC East. They were one of the worst teams in the league, but added a lot of talent in the offseason. With a handful of high NFL draft picks, this Jets team could now be a somewhat competitive team.
Last season’s offense would end up having four different quarterbacks play for them due to injuries. Zach Wilson started a majority of them, and he comes into this season looking to prove he is the future in New York. The front office helped him out by getting some weapons. Rookie wideout Garrett Wilson will be trying to become Wilson’s top target, and tight end C.J. Uzomah is going to be a safety valve.
While Michael Carter is listed as the #1 running back, rookie Breece Hall should see plenty of snaps as he looks to take over the #1 spot. This offensive line is up-and-coming, and has the potential to become elite. It is still a young offense, so there will be some hiccups along the way, but the Jets should improve on their 26th ranked offense.
Jets fans had a tough time watching their offense last year, but the defense was even worse. They ranked dead last in the NFL in yards, points for, and first downs allowed. They did add some talent, though, with rookies Jermaine Johnson II and Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner. Johnson II helps to create a solid defensive front four with John Franklin-Myers and Quinnen Williams.
Gardner pairs up with newly acquired cornerback D.J. Reed, causing this secondary to have one of the most improved units in the NFL. However, the Jets still have one of the worst linebacker corps in the league with C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams, who both had one of the worst seasons of their careers last season.
While the Jets improved a lot this offseason, they still have a ways to go. They still have to find out if Wilson is the answer, so I have them finishing 5-12, and 1-5 against the AFC East. They are heading in the right direction, and this season needs to be an improvement.
3. New England Patriots
Key loses – WR Gunner Olszewski, CB J.C. Jackson, ILB Kyle Van Noy, C Ted Karras, RB Brandon Bolden
Key additions – WR Ty Montgomery, S Jabrill Peppers, CB Terrance Mitchell, CB Malcolm Butler, OG Cole Strange, WR Tyquan Thornton, CB Marcus Jones, CB Jack Jones
Re-signed – OT Trent Brown (2-years), ILB Ja’whaun Bentley (2-years), K Nick Folk (2-years), WR/ST Matthew Slater (1-year)
Extensions – S Adrian Phillips (3-years, $14 million), P Jake Bailey (4-years, $13 million), DT Davon Godchaux (2-years, $20 million), RB James White (2-years, $5 million)
Year two without Tom Brady, and the Patriots ended up making the playoffs. With Mac Jones becoming the first rookie quarterback since 1993 to start for the Patriots, they went 10-7. They would go on to lose 47-17 in the playoffs to the Buffalo Bills in the worst postseason loss of head coach Bill Belichick’s tenure. It was an interesting offseason for the Patriots, as they hope to reach the postseason again.
Mac Jones and the Patriots offense finished 15th in total offense a year ago. Yet, they didn’t do much this offseason on that side of the ball. Drafting Cole Strange in the first round was definitely strange to fans, but he helps create a top ten offensive line. This should help out their running back committee, as they hope to lead the Patriots to a top ten finish in rushing again.
Wideouts Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne had solid seasons in 2021. They are hoping their chemistry with Jones causes another leap in their statistics. This offense still features below average weapons, and with questionable play calling, they might be one of the bottom ten offenses in the league.
Bill Belichick’s been known for his defensive mind, and last season showed another reason why. The Patriots finished fourth in total defense. However, they struggled against the run, finishing 22nd in yards against. It didn’t help to lose JC Jackson this offseason, but bringing back Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler is a decent consolation. The secondary has depth and a great safety duo, but might struggle against elite receivers.
The linebacker corps took a hit losing Kyle Van Noy, but has two guys that play hard in Bentley and Wilson. The young defensive line looks to make a jump next to veteran Matthew Judon. With Bill Belichick at the helm, I don’t see this defense being ranked lower than ten.
One of the harder teams to predict in this league, I believe the Patriots will finish 7-10 after going 1-5 in the division. Mac Jones will need to take a big leap this season for them to reach the playoffs.
2. Miami Dolphins
Key loses – QB Jacoby Brissett, OG Jesse Davis, WR Albert Wilson, CB Justin Coleman
Key additions – OT Terron Armstead, WR Cedrick Wilson, C Connor Williams, RB Chase Edmonds, CB Keion Crossen, FB Alec Ingold, QB Teddy Bridgewater, OLB Melvin Ingram, RB Raheem Mostert, DE Trey Flowers, P Thomas Morstead, WR Tyreek Hill, LB Channing Tindall, WR Erik Ezukanma, QB Skylar Thompson
Re-signed – TE Durham Smythe (2-years)
Extensions – CB Xavien Howard (5-years, $50 million), WR Tyreek Hill (4-years, $120 million)
After starting 1-7, Miami would finish the season winning eight out of their last nine to finish with a record of 9-8. Despite the second-half success, they still decided to fire head coach Brian Flores and hire Mike McDaniel. They would make another big move this offseason, trading for superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill. It creates one of the fastest duos in NFL history, and the Dolphins are looking to challenge Buffalo for the division.
With Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa should have no issue getting the ball out fast. With this offensive line, Tua will need to get the ball out fast. Even with the upgrades made from last season, they still rank in the bottom ten in the league. Overall, the receiving corps will help boost this offense up from their 25th ranked offense last season.
The new running back committee will have a tough time between the tackles, but should get plenty of touches out of the backfield to make plays. The offensive line holds this offense back, but they should still rank in the middle of the league.
The defense last season was up-and-down. They ranked 15th in total yards while not exceling against either the run or the pass. They added some older veterans to help this defenses rise in the rankings. The secondary is a top five group, with cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Bryon Jones leading the way. That helps an average defensive line, as they are able to be an excellent blitzing team.
The only concern on this defense is the linebackers. Jerome Baker leads the group, and he has yet to show that he is an elite linebacker. Rookie Channing Tindall should get a chance to help this group out. This is a solid defense overall, and I expect them to be just outside the top ten this season.
The Miami Dolphins will be fighting for the playoffs this season, as I believe they finish 10-7 after going 4-2 in the AFC East. It could come down to tiebreakers for Miami, as the loaded AFC will be close.
1. Buffalo Bills
Key loses – DE Mario Addison, DE Jerry Hughes, P Matt Haack, DT Harrison Phillips, C Jon Feliciano, CB Levi Wallace, WR Cole Beasley, OC Brian Daboll
Key additions – OLB Von Miller, DT DaQuan Jones, DT Tim Settle, OG Rodger Saffold, DE Jordan Phillips, WR Jamison Crowder, OT David Quessenberry, P Sam Martin, CB Kaiir Elam, RB James Cook, WR Khalil Shakir, LB Terrel Bernard, CB Christian Benford
Re-signed – RB/ST Taiwan Jones (1-year), OG Ike Boettger (1-year), CB Siran Neal (3-years), LB Tyrel Dodson (1-year)
Extensions – WR Stefon Diggs (4-years, $96 million), FB Reggie Gilliam (2-years, $5 million)
A gut-wrenching loss against the Chiefs last season ended the Bills season one game away from the AFC Championship. This season, they are looking to go the farthest they have since 1994, the Super Bowl. With the addition of two-time Super Bowl Champion Von Miller, they are primed and ready to win back-to-back AFC East titles — and maybe more. Will Buffalo be able to get the job done, or will they have another season that ends in heartbreak?
The Bills finished fifth in total offense last season while being effective in both the passing and rushing game. Josh Allen is back and is looking to have an MVP season with wideouts Stefon Diggs and breakout hopeful Gabe Davis. With Dawson Knox, the Bills have plenty of guys to throw to, and they added another in the draft. Running back James Cook is looking to provide that threat out of the backfield in the passing game, while we’ll see a lot of Devin Singletary in the run game.
All of these weapons make Allen’s, and the offensive line’s, job a lot easier. It’s an offensive line that ranks in the middle of the NFL, with the potential to be a top ten group. New offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will have some fun taking over.
The top defense in the NFL last season got even better. They went out and added future hall of famer Von Miller to help rush the passer. They are hoping he can finally bring an elite pass rush to Buffalo alongside Ed Oliver and Greg Rousseau. Elite depth at the position should help plug up the middle and get after the quarterback.
Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds hasn’t lived up to the hype yet, but is still solid. This creates a duo with Matt Milano that still has the potential to boost this group into the top ten. The secondary is getting corner Tre White back midseason, but in the meantime will have to rely on three young guys to step up. Their job will be easier in Buffalo with the help of the arguably the best safety duo in the league. This defense should be in the top three yet again this season.
It’s Super Bowl or bust this season for the Bills, as the hype is the highest it’s been in two decades. I predict that the Bills will go 14-3 and 6-0 against the AFC East. They have the most talented roster in the NFL and, barring injuries, should compete for the Lombardi trophy.