While NFL regular season action won’t take place until early September, it’s never too early to get into a debate about the upcoming campaign. While one team will place in first, the question suddenly becomes which franchise will hold that division title. Some teams may have the edge over others, but here is the case for each East team to represent their respective division in the 2018-19 season:
The Case For The New England Patriots
Anytime Tom Brady is on the active roster, the New England Patriots need to be given the favorite in terms of odds to win the AFC East. The Patriots were able to secure the division by a total of four games last year, as the next best team was the Buffalo Bills, who barely made it into the postseason with a record of 9-7.
The difference this time around is that Brady will be pinned against two of the more promising rookie quarterbacks in the league. The New York Jets selected USC’s Sam Darnold, while the Buffalo Bills bet on Wyoming’s Josh Allen in the first round of the NFL Draft.
If the New England Patriots win the AFC East once again, it’s because Tom Brady played a full season, and the outside competition might be as weak as ever before. The Jets don’t have virtually any offensive weapons, the Bills will struggle at times with Allen, and there is no telling how healthy Ryan Tannehill will be in the upcoming season.
The Case For The Buffalo Bills
For the first time since the 1999 season, the Buffalo Bills found themselves back into the postseason picture. Although their exit against the Jacksonville Jaguars was forthcoming, the Bills showed a lot of promise throughout the season. Without Tyrod Taylor on the roster any longer, Buffalo is taking a huge gamble.
Running back LeSean McCoy is set to turn 30-years old in July, and receiver Kelvin Benjamin is on the last year of his contract. If things head south for the Bills, could the franchise see themselves in hot water?
With a defense such as theirs, Buffalo may be able to steal a few wins on their upcoming schedule. On the other hand, I don’t have a whole lot of trust in Allen to be the franchise corner piece that Buffalo needs.
Even with AJ McCarron as the starting quarterback instead, the Buffalo Bills will need efficient quarterback play in order to get themselves back into the postseason. The second-most quarterback sacked in 2017 was Tyrod Taylor, so this offensive line needs to make serious changes if the franchise wishes to remain in contention.
The Case For The Miami Dolphins
After Ryan Tannehill was on the IR for all of last season, the Dolphins leaned on veteran Jay Cutler during a season that was less than appealing. With a record of 6-10, I actually expected the Dolphins to win fewer games during the regular season. By signing Brock Osweiler and claiming Bryce Petty off of waivers, it’s obvious that the trust in Tannehill is minimal.
The addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick will certainly help against two rookie quarterbacks in the division, and may even trouble the accuracy rating of Tom Brady at times. During free agency, the franchise added running back Frank Gore, who is coming off of a season with 961 rushing yards, his lowest total in a full season.
If Miami pulls off the upset and clinches the AFC East, it’s because of changes made on both sides of the ball. This was a franchise that was 28th in scoring last year, and allowed the fourth-most points per game. If Tannehill can bring Miami back into the playoffs, it will be his first postseason start, as well as his first full season above .500.
The Case For The New York Jets
After what was an embarrassment in 2017, the New York Jets went out and selected Sam Darnold with the third overall selection in the NFL Draft. This was their best option, even though the roster also contains veteran experience in Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.
Signing wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. was a high risk for the franchise, considering 2017 wasn’t a season to remember for the former Redskin. Starting in just two games, Pryor was nowhere near the same receiver he was the year prior.
If the Jets go on to win the AFC East, it’s because Sam Darnold was the best overall rookie quarterback in this draft, and the defensive adjustments made have placed New York back on the NFL map.
Prediction: I would be insane to bet on any team outside of the New England Patriots this year. I have them winning another 11+ games this season, while the rest of the division is on the outside of the playoff picture. The only swap I would make would include the Miami Dolphins, who I believe are a better suited team than the Buffalo Bills this season with Ryan Tannehill under center.