AFC East Preview

The Buffalo Bills comfortably won the AFC East last season with a 13-3 mark and are the clear favorites in the division again this season. The Miami Dolphins ended a six-year playoff drought after going 9-8. The Patriots and Jets brought up the rear with 8 and 7 wins, respectively. It’s not difficult to be enamored by the division this year since Aaron Rodgers has taken over in New York. Having said that there are still questions surrounding each team in the division with the exception of the Bills.

Josh Allen leads the charge in Buffalo. He is coming off a season in which he produced nearly 5000 yards in total offense with 42 touchdowns. Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, and tight end Dawson Knox gives Allen plenty of weapons at his disposal. Add in running backs Devin Singletary and James Cook and the Bills have one of the most potent attacks in the NFL.

As good as the Bills are offensively, they are just as dominant on the defensive side of the ball. They allowed only 18 points per game, had 40 sacks, 17 interceptions, and 24 forced fumbles. The Bills will be without Von Miller for the first four games but have enough depth across the board to compensate. In Jordan Poyer heads the secondary and is coming of a season in which he intercepted four passes. In addition, the remarkable return of safety Damar Hamlin, no matter the capacity, adds more fuel to the first for the Bills this season.

Look for the new look Jets to finish second behind the Bills. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers still has plenty left in the tank after throwing for 3695 yards and 26 touchdowns. Joining him from the Packers is wide receiver Allen Lazard to go along with Garrett Wilson, and Mecole Hardman Jr. Running backs Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook, over from the Vikings, provide a dual threat to keep defenses guessing. The Jets will significantly improve upon their woeful 17.4 points per game output from last season.

Defensively, the Jets were surprisingly good, allowing just over 18 points per game. The strength comes from the right side of the line where Quinnen Williams and Carl Lawson combined for 19 sacks. Jordan Whitehead (3 interceptions) and Sauce Gardner (2 interceptions) lead a secondary that allowed only 15 touchdown passes last season. Kicker Greg Zuerlein has a big leg but connected on only 15-of-22 from beyond 40 yards last season.

The Dolphins have their own problems, mainly keeping quarterback Tua Tagovailoa healthy. In addition, cornerback Jalen Ramsey will start the season on injured reserve recovering from a surgically repaired knee. When Tagovailoa is on the field, he’s been productive. He threw for 3548 yards and 25 touchdowns in 13 games. Tyreek Hill is the main target after 119 receptions and 1710 yards last season. Jaylen Waddle is a home run threat (18.4 yards per catch, 8 touchdowns), while running back Raheem Mostert has 1000-yard potential are 891 yards last season.

The defensive secondary of the Dolphins was expected to improve upon their poor 27-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio against, but that takes a temporary hit with Ramsey sidelined. The pass rush was solid, but mainly from linebackers Jaelen Phillips and Melvin Ingram, who is currently a free agent. Although the defensive line was relatively inept at rushing the passer, they were solid against the run, allowing a mere 103 yards per game last season. Kicker Jason Sanders was reliable with the exception of beyond 50 yards where he hit only 2-of-6 in 2022.

It’s difficult to imagine a Bill Belichick led team in the basement, but that is a distinct possibility this season. Quarterback Mac Jones needs to improve upon a mediocre 14-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio from last season. Gone is last year’s top receiver Jakobi Meyers, so the Patriots will need added production from JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, and Kendrick Bourne. Tight end might become a go-to guy in the red zone. A bright spot on the offense is Rhamondre Stevenson, who surpassed 1000 yards on the ground, averaging five yards a pop. In any event, work needs to be done to improve upon last season's 21 points per game.

New England was stellar in terms of pass defense. Matthew Judon and Josh Uche combined for 24 of the team’s 54 sacks. Kyle Dugger and Jonathan Jones are big playmakers in the secondary, coming off a season in which they intercepted seven passes for three touchdowns. Chad Ryland, 4th round pick out of Maryland this year, takes over the kicking duties with Nick Folk now in Tennessee.

The division goes through Buffalo, who is among the top three teams in the AFC, along with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets have finished last in the division six times in the last seven years but could return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Dolphins and Patriots have too many question marks to seriously contend. A .500 season for either will be a major accomplishment.

As for the Patriots, defense won't be a problem for them, as they have a unit that is good enough to rank among the best in the league. However, they haven't been a truly dangerous offense since Tom Brady left town. New offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien isn't going to change that overnight.