It’s time to move my NFL season preview onto the AFC, starting with the eastern division and the dynasty that is the New England Patriots. New England once again made the Superbowl last season and, even though they came up short, they figure to be in the conversation for league supremacy again this time around. The other three teams include two first round rookie quarterbacks, with Sam Darnold and Josh Allen leading the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, respectively, into week one. Who will come out on top in 2018? Keep reading to find out.
1. New England Patriots
Notable Additions: Cordarrelle Patterson (WR), Jason McCourty (CB), Isaiah Wynn (OG), Sony Michel (RB)
Notable Losses: Nate Solder (OT), Danny Amendola (WR), Malcolm Butler (CB), Brandin Cooks (WR), Julian Edelman (WR, suspended for the opening four games of the season), Dion Lewis (RB)
New England might actually be as weak across the 53 man roster as they have been for a decade, after the loss of top tackle Nate Solder, leading receiver Brandin Cooks and star cornerback Malcolm Butler. However, due to the rebuilding state of the rest of the division, and the ongoing presence of a certain Tom Brady, it’d be foolish to predict anything but another Patriots AFC East crown. Without Cooks, running back Dion Lewis and the suspended Julian Edelman, Brady will have to be at his absolute best to take New England deep into the playoffs. At the age of 41, it’s up for debate whether he’s capable of that. Nonetheless, Brady was superb as a 40-year-old, and you quite simply don’t pick against Tom Terrific and his mentor, Bill Belichick.
2. Miami Dolphins
Notable Additions: Frank Gore (RB), Danny Amendola (WR), Robert Quinn (DE), Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB), Mike Gesicki (TE)
Notable Losses: Jarvis Landry (WR), Ndamukong Suh (DT), Mike Pouncey (C)
You get the impression that things are coming to a head in Miami, both for head coach Adam Gase and QB1 Ryan Tannehill. After one playoff appearance in nine years the Dolphins are in desperate need of some fresh impetus, especially after the departure of leading receiver Jarvis Landry and mammoth defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. Two 6-10 seasons out of three doesn’t inspire much cause for optimism, and the only reason I’m predicting a second place finish is the youth and inexperience on show in Buffalo and New York. Speaking of which..
3. New York Jets
Notable Additions: Sam Darnold (QB), Avery Williams (LB), Terrelle Pryor (WR)
Notable Losses: Muhammad Wilkerson (DT), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE)
The time is now for Sam Darnold, fresh from USC, to lead the Jets into what appears to be a bright future under head coach Todd Bowles. However, the present could feature more than a few growing pains and 2018 should very much be a developmental campaign. Isaiah Crowell might be one of the more under appreciated running backs in the league, but him aside Darnold will have little help on offence and the defensive unit remains one of the more average, at best, in the AFC.
4. Buffalo Bills
Notable Additions: Josh Allen (QB), Tremaine Edmunds (LB), Star Lotulelei (DT)
Notable Losses: Tyrod Taylor (QB), Richie Incognito (OG)
Tyrod Taylor led Buffalo to its first playoff berth for 19 years and subsequently was shipped off to Cleveland, off all places. In his stead Josh Allen will be tasked with extending the Bills streak of post-season appearances to two, but he’ll have to do so with a porous offensive line and an ageing LeSean McCoy lining up next to him in the backfield. The man known as “Shady” should see plenty of carries, as per usual, but it could be a long season in upstate New York while the rocket armed Allen finds his feet.
Who do you think will come out on top in the AFC East? Leave a comment or tweet @fredjstanley