24 October 2020

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New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham throws during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

AFC East Preview

The AFC East should be an interesting battle as we may see a dynasty coming to an end with the departure of Tom Brady. All eyes will be on the Patriots all season long as for the first time in over 20 years Brady is not on the team and is in jeopardy of ending their 11-year streak of winning the AFC East. The gate is open for the AFC East and the Bills may be the front runner to win it but don’t count out the Dolphins and Jets. With that being said here is a preview of each AFC East team with a prediction on who will win the division.

New England Patriots

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The New England Patriots have won the AFC East 17 times in the last 20 years but things will most likely change this year. The Patriots have their goat quarterback Tom Brady along with having their tight end come out of retirement to team up with Brady in Tampa Bay. Luckily for the Patriots Brady didn’t carry the team last year as he had terribly played it was their top-ranked defense that won most of their games. The Patriots are left with Jarrett Stidham as their starting quarterback who basically red-shirted his rookie year as he shadowed one of the best to ever do it in Brady last year. The question for the Patriots offense is will Stidham handle the pressure of having to carry the Patriots Dynasty with big shoes to fill in place of Brady? Many experts thought New England was going to take Jordan Love with their first-round pick but it turns out they are confident in Stidham who was drafted in 2019 with the 133rd pick.

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In Stidham’s final year at Auburn, he recorded 2,794 passing yards on a 60.7% completion percentage, tied his career-high for passing touchdowns with 18, rushed for 3 touchdowns, and threw 5 interceptions. Although the Patriots staff and Bill Belichick believe Stidham can be their starter it may be hard for him to perform at a high level considering the wide receiver depth chart he has. The only way the Patriots can be as good as they did last year is if their defense can perform at the level they did last year as the best-ranked defense. New England has the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore to lead their secondary along with the help of Patrick Chung and the McCourty twins. The Patriots defense did lose two top players in free agency as linebacker Kyle Van Noy joined the divisional rival Miami Dolphins and linebacker Jamie Collins who reunited with former defensive coordinator Matt Patrica in Detroit. The Patriots were able to keep the rest of the core on defense which was a big thing as for the second year they must carry New England into the playoffs with lack of offensive power.

Buffalo Bills 

Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills are finally in the position they want to be as the last time they won the division was in 1995. When Bill fans found out Brady was leaving the division they were filled with excitement as they knew they were the next team up and Gronk leaving was the cherry on the top. The Bills offense is led by Josh Allen who has one of the strongest arms in the league and finally he has a deep threat to throw it to. The biggest concern surrounding the Bills offense last was the lack of receiving power they had on their team but did have notable receivers in Josh Brown and Cole Beasley. So in response, Buffalo went out and traded for speedy receiver Stefon Diggs as they sent a haul of draft picks to the Vikings for Diggs. Many experts questioned if Buffalo gave up too much for Diggs as they gave up their 2020 1st-round pick and three other picks but in the Bills eyes, it was worth it. Buffalo is in win-now mode as Brady is out of the division even with Brady in the division lost year they made it to the playoffs. The Bills weren’t going to add a receiver who is a part of their future plans; they wanted to grab a receiver who in the last two seasons recorded 1,000+ receiving yards.

Allen finally has a deep threat he can throw balls to and he finally gets to show off the cannon arm he has that draft experts talked about when he entered the 2018 draft. The Bills offense does have to be cautious with Brady out of the division they still have one of the best defenses in the league they have to go up against twice a year. Luckily for Buffalo, they have a solid defense led by cornerback Tre’Davious White who had the same amount of interceptions as the DPOY in New England with 6 interceptions. White has been a tremendous player for Buffalo the last three years and could have been considered a DPOY candidate as he the only difference between him and Gilmore’s stats were Gilmore had 3 more pass deflections and had 2 touchdowns. The Bills also added veteran cornerback Josh Norman who for the last couple of years hasn’t played well but he will likely serve as a mentor to the team but could see some good quality playtime. Buffalo did lose defensive end Shaq Lawson who recorded 7 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 13 tackles for loss as he left for the divisional rival Dolphins. Expect the Bills offense that struggles with no star receivers to get even better in 2020 and expect the defense that was ranked the third-best in 2019 to stay the same or possibly have a better year with the additions.

New York Jets 

Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

The Jets season was haunted by injuries as everyone was getting injured from their starting quarterback to the offensive line and to the linebackers. The Jets last season showed some signs that they were better than what their record showed as they won against the Cowboys, blew out the Raiders, and won an impressive game against the Bills. The Jets were able to keep up with the Bills winning one game by seven and losing the other game by one point but did show they need a lot of work. The Jets selected what they needed the most as they took offensive tackle Mekhi Becton who will make an instant impact with much-needed help in the passing and running game. Quarterback Sam Darnold will be entering his third year where he may need to prove he can be a franchise quarterback for the Jets but to be fair he hasn’t been surrounded with pieces to have success as the Jets ranked as the worst offense in 2019. The Jets have consistently failed to get Darnold some weapons since he has been on the team as  Robby Anderson has been his best receiver along with a solid Jamison Crowder.

Although the Jets did add one of their biggest needs in the addition of Becton they failed to address their other needs on offense. The Jets failed to add a top receiver in free agency although the market for receivers this year was quite small. One top receiver that was available was Anderson who was a part of the Jets for the last four years but they failed to re-sign him as they did not want to give him the money he was asking for. The Jets did make an effort to boost up their receiving core as they added wideout Denzel Mims in the second round who is a solid player and will be a favorite target for Darnold. The Jets defense is led by strong safety Jamal Adams who all of last year was mixed in trade rumors but the Jets know better to not trade their best player on defense. The Jets still have defensive end Quentin Williams who had a disappointing rookie season as he only recorded 3 sacks but showed great potential towards the end of the season. The Jets will finally be getting the linebacker they hope would be the leader in C.J. Mosley who only played two games as he dealt with a groin injury. The Jets will rely on their defense to stay in games throughout the season.

Miami Dolphins

Credit: Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images. Pictured: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Miami Dolphins reacts with teammates

The Dolphins had one of the most productive off-seasons in recent history as they needed a lot and had the most money headed into free agency and had three first-round picks in the draft. Miami may have had the best off-season by any team this season other than a few teams as they added help on defense. The Dolphins snatched up the best cornerback available in free agency as they made Byron Jones the highest-paid corner in the NFL. The Dolphins also added linebacker Kyle Van Noy, defensive end Shaq Lawson, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, and a few other solid additions. The Dolphins’ main focus was boosting up their defense that was one of the worst last season and saved the offense for the night of the draft something Dolphin fans were waiting for since “TankforTua” became a trend. Miami would go on to complete the tank for Tua as they selected quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick which completed the tank for Tua.

Tagovailoa suffered a dislocation that forced him to miss the rest of junior year at Alabama and concerned many teams as he was not allowed to participate at the combine. Despite what other teams said the Dolphins believe they have their quarterback for the future in Tagovailoa. But the only reason the Dolphins might have taken a risk and selected Tagovailoa maybe since they have quarterback Josh Rosen as a backup who is still young entering his third season. The Dolphins took offensive tackle, Austin Jackson, as they needed much help as they gave up the most sacks in 2019. With their final first-round pick the Dolphins took cornerback Noah Igbinoghene who now joins a cornerback room that includes Jones and Xavien Howard some of the top corners in the league. The Dolphins will definitely have more success this year than what they did last year as they have added great players on both sides of the ball. Miami can most definitely become a contender to win the AFC East as the only realistic team that can beat them are the Buffalo Bills who made it to the playoffs. It will be interesting on who will be the starting quarterback for Miami week 1 of the season as they have a rookie coming off an injury, a quarterback who got traded to the Dolphins after just his rookie season, and a quarterback who goes by the name of Fitzmagic.

Prediction

The Bills will win the division with ease as they are the best overall team in the division with no competition despite the improvement made by Miami. The Patriots have the hardest schedule in 2020 and they have no offensive power but have an elite defense that can carry them to a wild card spot. The Jets lack of wide receiver depth will come back to haunt them as Mims was the only good player added to their offense. The Dolphins may come close to winning the division as they did everything they could to improve both sides of the ball and showed they could win towards the end of the last of the 2019 season.

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