Updated: Sep 16, 2018
The AFC East, over the two decades, has seen its fair share of fluidity. That being second through last place. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have conquered the division 15 times since 2000. Domination to say the least.
2018 will have a different look and feel to it as the Patriots have lost multiple weapons on offense. Tom Brady's job will be even harder .
The Jets and Bills both drafted hopeful franchise quarterbacks while the Dolphins have theirs returning from injury. 2018 will see the Patriots begin to diminish slowly while the Jets begin to rise in the ranks. Do not expect too much change, especially at the top. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still at the helm and are looking to return to the Super Bowl for fourth time in five years.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The AFC East is Tom Brady's division. He and the Patriots have controlled the East for nine consecutive seasons. If not for a season ending injury in 2008 to Brady, New England could be on a 15 year division title run. What ifs are always fun but reality still says the Patriots will win the AFC East once again.
Brady and Belichick are practically unbeatable boasting a 198-58 record since Brady became a full time starter in 2002. The five Super Bowl victories speak for themselves as well but a loss last year to the Philadelphia Eagles could be a glimpse into the future.
Brady is 41 years old and showing no sign of slowing down coming off an MVP in 2018 but father time has no bounds. It struck Peyton Manning at 39 and Brett Favre was 41. It is only a matter of time before his clock runs out. This is the exact reason why trading Jimmy Garoppolo was heavily criticized.
Even if Brady is playing MVP caliber type of football, New England has lost valuable weapons on both sides of the ball. Trading away top receiver Bradin Cooks and letting starting left tackle Nate Solder and cornerback Malcolm Butler walk during free agency will prove costly, especially early in the season.
New England hopes to offset their offensive subtractions by adding receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and running back Jeremy Hill while beefing up the defense as well. Defensive back Jason McCourty comes over from Cleveland to join his brother Devin in the secondary while Adrian Clayborn brings 30 career sacks to a defense that only touted 14 in 2017.
An improved defensive line will put more pressure on quarterbacks this season and a returning Rob Gronkowski will ease the pain of having a weak receiving core. Week five will mark the return of a suspended Julian Edelman and the start of New England's playoff push.
Beginning the year with a strong 3-1 record, Brady will lead the Patriots to four wins in a row eventually losing to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. A few more losses down the road to the Jets, Vikings, and Steelers will make New England look human but 11-5 record will prove otherwise.
NEW YORK JETS
The New York Jets finally have their franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold. After the Browns drafted Baker Mayfield first overall, the Jets' only option was to take Darnold. At this point it seems like destiny the USC product ended up in the bright lights of New York. Darnold's rookie season has not begun but 2018 could be turning point for the Jets organization if he turns out as expected.
The 2017 Jets were tough to pinpoint. They came close to defeating the eventual AFC champion Patriots and got their second victory of the season against the AFC South champion Jaguars. New York also lost to weaker opponents like Miami and Tampa Bay, who both finished well below .500.
The Jets did not make many big moves this offseason but played it smart by acquiring players for the future. Terrelle Pryor signed a one year deal to prove himself and if a pairing with Darnold catches fire, expect New York to do everything to bring him back.
Isaiah Crowell also joined New York on a three year deal. Crowell, who spent the last four seasons in Cleveland, averaging 902 yards and four touchdowns in his final two seasons as a member of the Browns.
Although not many impactful signings were made, the acquisition of pro bowler Trumaine Johnson adds an elite corner to an already young and talented secondary. Johnson, who signed a five year $72 million contract, will join Jamal Adams as the Jets try to build a Legion of Boom style of defense.
A 5-11 record in 2017 left room for improvement and the Jets will, by one game. Sam Darnold will prove to be the quarterback the Jets have been looking for since Joe Namath. The secondary will look improved and Trumaine Johnson will flourish while helping Adams develop into a pro bowl caliber safety.
Darnold will lead the Jets to a record of 6-10 while showing flashes of greatness. He will dismantle weaker defenses like Miami and Buffalo but hit bumps in the road when traveling to Jacksonville and New England.
A fine 2018 lies ahead for New York but the building blocks are in place for an eventual deep playoff run a couple years from now.
The Miami Dolphins are directionless. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill looked like a future star leading the team to a 10-6 record in 2016. An ACL tear later and Tannehill's health is constant question mark. Missing all of 2017, Miami turned to a recently retired Jay Cutler to head up the Adam Gase designed offense.
The result was mediocre at best. Conflict between the front office and coaching staff along with egotistical players were the downfall of the Dolphins in 2017. This manifested itself in a 6-10 record, resulting in major changes throughout the season that lingered into the offseason.
The Dolphins traded pro bowl running back Jay Ajayi to the eventual Super Champion Philadelphia Eagles because head coach Adam Gase was not a fan of his work ethic.
“At the end of the day, guys have got to actually take this stuff home and study it,” Gase said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “They’re not going to just learn it all in meetings. We’ve got to find guys that will actually put forth effort to actually remember this stuff and really, it starts with our best players.”
The same went for Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry as they were victims of the "culture change" in South Beach. No one knows what that looks like but 2018 is gearing up to be a tough one for Fins fans.
The additions of veteran defensive end Robert Quinn and first-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick will add intrigue to an average defensive unit. On the offensive side, the only noteworthy pickup comes in the form of a homecoming for running back Frank Gore.
Gore was born in Miami and even played his college career at the University of Miami before being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2005. Gore will attempt to continue his record of 12 consecutive seasons with 1,200 yards from scrimmage while wearing the orange and teal.
2018 will be the beginning of a long rebuild for the Dolphins. A few bright spots will sparkle here and there but uncertainty over Tannehill's health and an average roster behind him will lead to very few wins.
Minka Fitzpatrck and Reshad Jones should be fun to watch in the secondary but a weak front seven will test the rookie/veteran tandem. Subtractions like Landry, Suh, and Ajayi won't help either as the Dolphins will see themselves staring at a 4-12 record by seasons end, sitting in third place in the AFC East.
Unlike the Dolphins, the Buffalo Bills do have direction. Buffalo is in the beginning stages of a rebuild. Trading away last years starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was the spark that lit the flame which eventually burned down any foundation the Bills had on their roster.
Wyoming's strong armed quarterback John Allen was drafted seventh overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Bills think they have "the guy" that can lead them to the promise land. Unfortunately, he was beat out by Nathan Peterman. Remember the guy who through five interceptions in the first half of game against the Chargers? Yup, that's Peterman.
That alone speaks volumes of how Buffalo's season will go. The Bills are better of starting Josh Allen week and riding the wave. Peterman has been chosen to be the place holder for Allen until some point in the middle of the season. That being said, Buffalo should be begging for the season to be over by then anyways.
The returning LeSean McCoy, Kelvin Benjamin, and Charles Clay will play large roles in Allen's eventual development and end some of the agony for Bills Mafia. I would not expect McCoy to stick around for the entirety of 2018 though.
An ongoing police investigation for an alleged home invasion could end McCoy's season and career if found guilty. Either way, the Bills are better off moving the 30 year old former pro bowler for future draft picks.
The Bills should use those potential draft picks to strengthen the front seven or surround future quarterback Josh Allen with the tools to succeed.
Josh Allen was not Buffalo's only first-round pick in 2018. Former Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds will be tasked with aiding the 25th worst defense in the NFL from 2017.
Accompanying Edmunds is veteran corneback Vontae Davis, who comes over from Indianapolis. Davis missed all but 5 games in 2017 with a groin injury which, along with poor play, led to his release. Davis joins cornerback Tre'Davious White and safety Micah Hyde in a secondary that ranked 13th in 2017.
The Buffalo Bills will be the worst teams in the NFL in 2018. Quarterback Josh Allen's big arm will be fun to watch when and if it becomes accurate. We will have to wait and see when Allen gets the green light but until then it is Nathan Peterman's job.
Peterman is a placeholder for Allen and would be a third string quarterback on most teams. LeSean McCoy should not be in a Bills jersey past this season continuing the team on the rebuild path.
The defense will be above average once again but will be on the field more than last season, thus inflating their stats. A tough season lies ahead for the Bills and their fans.
Splitting the season series against the Dolphins and stealing a win versus the Bears at home might be the Bills best bets at wins. The defense is too strong to bet against though and will keep Buffalo in game throughout the season.
A 3-13 record seems upsetting considering the Bills made the playoffs in 2017 but pressing the reset button always has a price.
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