New Series Pt. 2: AFC East
By: Jamar Brown (@jamar2698)
I think I’m going to try to do this daily. I’ve been inspired lately, and I figured I probably shouldn’t waste this. Today, we’ll be covering the division that is experiencing a changing of the guard, the AFC East. This is an interesting division for me personally since I have two friends who are serious fans of two of the teams in this division, so here’s a shoutout to Jose and Brandon. Let’s get to it.
You could say I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. I love this team. If I’m any team in the league, this is a team to fear. Josh Allen came into the league as a project and has now had time to get his feet wet. The most significant move on the offensive side of the ball was trading for Stefon Diggs. Allen finally has a legit number one target that pairs perfectly with that huge arm. Diggs, along with John Brown and Cole Beasley, make up a dangerous receiving core. Devin Singletary is primed for a big sophomore year now that he won’t be splitting carries with Frank Gore. The biggest question on offense is that offensive line, specifically on the interior. Those guards scare me. Playing against the likes of Quinnen Williams twice a year (each) is a big cause of concern. If they can fix up those positions, this offense can compete against the big dogs of the AFC. Now, that defense? You’re looking at one of the best units in the league top to bottom. Their defensive line is deep and full of dogs who can stop the run as well as get to the quarterback. Their linebacking core has its flaws, but they can hang with the running backs in this division. The secondary is also second to none. Their safeties play at a high level every year and they have a top-three corner in Tredavious White.
The schedule is tough at places, but this is a team that can handle it. Their toughest games in my opinion are on the road against San Francisco and at home against Seattle, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh. The Niners and Steelers mirror this team a lot, but I actually like Buffalo’s offense a little bit better. Their quarterback is more dynamic and I love this receiving core. It’s hard for me to ever count Seattle out, so I won’t. Kansas City will continue to be on a tear this year considering they really didn’t lose anyone and they’re all healthy. Tennessee is another game to possibly be cautious of. Tannehill is used to playing against Buffalo although I’m not convinced he can do enough with his arm to will the Titans to victory. This seems like it would also be a very difficult game for Derrick Henry considering how good this front seven is. The floor for the Bills is another 10-6 season while their ceiling could honestly be 14-2.
Projected Record: 13-3, AFC Divisional Round
New York Jets
This is such a hard team to project. Is Darnold good enough? Is the receiving core upgraded after losing Robbie Anderson? Can the pass rush generate sacks? Can the corners cover long enough? There are too many negative questions for me to confidently trust this team. And yet, I have them finishing second in the division. The potential is too much to pass up. If this team lives up to the front offices’ expectations, they’ll be a year away from making some serious noise in the conference. They seemingly upgraded the offensive line so that way Sammy won’t be seeing ghosts anymore. They lost Robbie Anderson but added some playmakers in his wake along with the return of Jamison Crowder. They also have Le’Veon Bell who is supposed to be one of the most dynamic backs in the league. If he could return to Pittsburgh form, that’ll advance this offense even more. Looking at the defense, the Jets hold probably the best safety tandem in the league along with two very talented middle linebackers and a monster of a man at defensive tackle. Jamal Adams status is something to look out for in the coming weeks as he’s already requested a trade for the millionth time in the past year. While the middle of the defense is currently elite, the outside is a mess. The pass-rush is subpar at best and the corners are all either unproven, inconsistent, or injury-prone. Those are two very important units and can be what holds this unit back from their full potential.
The schedule is horrendous for this team. They open up against two playoff teams from a year ago and two other up and coming teams. They then have a two-game stretch with the Bills and Chiefs. I think they’ll also split with New England and lose to Seattle on the road. This all means nothing if they fail to live up to expectations. They could finish as low as 4-12. I think their ceiling is somewhere around 9-7.
Projected Record: 7-9, Mid-1st round pick
New England Patriots
How the mighty have fallen. That’s such a weird thing to say about this team. After two decades of pure dominance, the face of the franchise is gone. I’m not saying they’re going to lose every game because they did sign Cam Newton, but wow is the rest of the supporting cast lackluster (still). It’s an even worse receiving core with the same running backs and young, unproven tight ends. The offensive line, however, will be the best that Cam has ever played behind. Still, in terms of talent at the skill positions, it junior varsity compared to what he had in Carolina. When you look at the defensive side of the ball, they got worse. They lost two of their best linebackers who also doubled as some of their better pass rushers. They also lost Danny Shelton and some of their better depth in the secondary. While they do return the McCourty brothers and the best corner in the league in Stephon Gilmore, you’ve got to wonder how Bill’s going to do it. The scariest thing about all of this? Everyone in the division got considerably better except for them.
The schedule also doesn’t help them. They probably play the two deepest divisions in football who also have three teams, each that got considerably better from a year ago. They could genuinely get swept by all the teams in both the AFC and NFC West this year. I do think they’ll pull out the game against Arizona and squeak by the Raiders to avoid that happening. They also have to play the Texans and Ravens, two losses in my (and a lot of other people’s) book. I also expect the Bills to sweep them and a split with the Jets. The floor is in the basement for this team as I could genuinely see them going 5-11. As for their ceiling? Not much better at 7-9. Don’t tell me anything though if they just do Patriot things and go 11-5 and make the conference championship game.
Projected Record: 6-10, Top 10 pick
Another really difficult team to project. They definitely got better… I think? I really have no idea. On paper, yes they did get considerably better, especially on defense. They added key players at all three levels of the defense and on paper, it looks like one of the better units in the league. They also improved their running game and offensive line. Oh yeah, the also happened to draft this quarterback who, before getting hurt, put up some serious numbers in college with a downfield offense. Their receiving core is expecting to be decent with Davante Parker finally living up to expectations and Albert Wilson manning the slot. I’d like to give this kind of unit a year to get used to each other before expecting big things from them.
The record also could hinder any expansive growth the team might be expecting this year. They play a slew of tough teams in and out of their division. It makes you wonder how the young talent will perform. A potential week-12 matchup of the first two quarterbacks taken off the board in the draft could be a big game for this team. This all depends on if Tua starts. They can probably expect more from the team with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting out the gate due to experience (and Tua’s hip). Considering this is a very difficult team to project, it’s hard to project their record. They could finish as low as 2-14 or finish as high as 7-9. The world may never know.
Projected record: 5-11, Top 5 pick