Will the New England Patriots be exposed without Tom Brady? Our Matt Temple-Marsh says there could be a new AFC East champ for the first time in 12 years.
Predicted AFC East finish:
- Buffalo Bills
- New England Patriots
- Miami Dolphins
- New York Jets
Last season: 10-6
Coach: Sean McDermott
A shadow has been lifted from the AFC East, Tom Brady’s reign is over. The Patriots have won eleven straight division titles but with Brady taking his talents to Tampa, the AFC East is finally up for grabs.
Enter: the Buffalo Bills. Primed with the third best defence in the league, Sean McDermott’s men are in pole position to take the crown.
With the shrewd additions of Steffon Diggs & Josh Norman the Bills look even more dangerous, but their potential success ultimately comes down to the quarterback.
Josh Allen, an exciting, young, mobile quarterback – unpredictable and error-prone. In 2019, 26% of Allen’s passes were deemed uncatchable, ranking dead last for quarterbacks with over 200+ pass attempts. The Bills seem eerily similar to the 2018 Chicago Bears, a raw & exciting quarterback paired with an elite defence - we all saw how that one turned out.
Allen’s mobility offers more upside to Mitch Trubisky, but a clear comparison can be made between the two. If McDermott can keep it simple for Allen, provide a powerful run game (with Devin Singletary & rookie Zack Moss) and continue their defensive production, then the AFC East is theirs.
New England Patriots
One half of the Hall of Fame duo is gone, but importantly, the more crucial half remains. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in the history of the National Football League, but another division title may be too much to ask.
The loss of Tom Brady is painful, but add to that huge free agency losses on both sides of the ball, and more Covid-19 opt-outs than any other team. If any other coach in the league was in this situation the season would already be over, but history has taught us too many times to never write off Belichick.
And don’t forget who’s the new starting quarterback - former MVP Cam Newton. Age and injuries will affect his play, but the prospect of Newton coached by Belichick & Josh McDaniels is exciting to say the least. However, a running back committee of Sony Michel, Damien Harris, James White and Rex Burkhead will form a crowded quartet as the Patriots’ focal point on offence, with a struggling wide receiver group desperately in need of help.
On the opposite side of the ball Stephon Gilmore (the reigning defensive player of the year) will spearhead a barren defence, due for a major come down from 2019. This roster is severely lacking in talent to be competitive, but Belichick will inevitably find a way.
For more than half of last season the Miami Dolphins looked like the worst team in football, destined for an 0-16 record. However, the brilliant coaching by Brian Flores was clear to see, as they closed out the season with three wins from their last five – including that memorable victory against the Patriots. The culture has been set, and now with a host of free agency talent & fresh faced rookies the Dolphins can kick on.
Tua Tagavailoa is at the forefront of the new look Dolphins, as one of the most intriguing quarterback prospects in years. Sadly that excitement must be put on hold, with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick set to keep his starting job, for now at least. On the opposite side of the ball, Byron Jones & Kyle Van Noy headline a defence due for an upgrade, as the Dolphins finished 30th in total defence last season.
There are still an abundance of issues on this roster - with a brand new offensive line bound to go through some growing pains, two key wide receivers opting out, and a 37-year-old Fitzpatrick controlling the offence. The Dolphins will certainly be more fun and more competitive, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
New York Jets
For Adam Gase to keep his job, the Jets need a miracle. Jamal Adams couldn’t have been happier as he left New York for Seattle, leaving a gaping hole in that defence. To make matters worse, line-backer CJ Mosely has opted-out of the season, leaving what looks to be on paper one of the worst defences in the league.
The jury is still out on Sam Darnold, after two seasons with limited production but flashes of promise. If Gang Green are to have any success we’d need to see a breakout year from the quarterback, who the Jets are finally investing in. First round pick Mekhi Becton will provide some much needed protection, whilst Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims are Darnold’s new toys at WR.
And the icing on the cake for the Jets? Le’Veon Bell. At his best he is arguably the most dynamic running back in the league, but niggling injuries have limited his production. Add a relationship with Gase that seems to get worse every day, and you’re left with a huge question mark going into the season.
Gase never wanted Bell at New York, and he recently acquired Kalen Ballage to help the backfield. Come 2021 it’s hard to see Bell still on this roster. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this team battling for the top pick in the 2021 draft.
Touch wood, the Patriots’ reign is finally over – fans of the other 31 franchises can rejoice. It has been 25 years since Buffalo won their last division title, and the stars have aligned once more. The division is in their hands, but will Josh Allen be able to deliver?
The lack of talent in this division is jarring when looking at years gone by - it will likely just take nine or ten wins to seal the AFC East crown, more than feasible for the Bills. As for the other three teams, we can expect them all to have top ten picks in next year’s draft (yes, even the Patriots!).