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AFC East Breakdown

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Editor’s Note: Gary Bart joins the pro football handicapping roster this season. Don’t miss out on his selections on VI. Click to win!

It has been a wild offseason for the AFC Eastern Division. Free agent signings, trades and two coaching changes, has brought a lot of attention to this Conference.

Beside the fact that the New England Patriots are coming off their fourth Super Bowl victory in the past 14 years and sixth appearance overall in the big game during that period, the division has had a number of other interesting twists.


Odds to win AFC East - per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
New England Patriots 5/9
Miami Dolphins 7/2
Buffalo Bills 9/2
New York Jets 10/1

AFC East Win Totals - per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
New England Patriots - 10 (Over -180, Under +160)
Miami Dolphins – 9 (Over +105, Under -125)
Buffalo Bills – 8.5 (Over -130, Under +110)
New York Jets – 7.5 (Over -120, Under +100)

Odds Subject to Change – Updated 7.23.15

The Patriots are dealing with the deflation controversy that has potentially left them without the services of Tom Brady for the first four regular season games. Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone opted out of his contract. In the process, Marrone picked up a four million dollar payment because of an unusual clause contained in his contract. The Bills replaced Marrone with former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, whose Jets were an unimpressive 4-12 last season.

If that wasn’t enough, the Jets hired their third general manager in the past four years. Add to the mix a very average Miami Dolphins team and who knows how this division will turn out.

Listed below are my notes on all four teams and predicted order of finish.

1) New England Patriots

The New England Patriots have been the class of the division during the past 12 seasons, winning six straight and 11 of the past 12 division titles. Bill Belichick is one of the best coaches in NFL history. He always seems to find a way to put his team in contention. The Patriots will be without Tom Brady for the first four games of the season.

He will be replaced by second-year quarterback, 2014 second round selection Jimmy Garoppolo, who passed for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns during his senior season at Eastern Illinois. Belichick has a knack for replacing aging veterans that are asking for a lot of money, with serviceable veteran replacements or younger players.

The Patriots remain the class of the division and should be able to find a way to win their seventh straight division title. Look for the football genius Belichick to have Garoppolo ready for the first four games of the season. I’m not going out on a limb, but I like New England to win the division regardless of the Brady suspension.

2) Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills were 9-7 in 2014 and have high hopes for the upcoming season. They have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. The Bills were fourth in total team defense, third in pass defense and eleventh in rushing defense last season. They upgraded at the skilled offensive positions with the additions of all-pro running back LeSean McCoy and controversial wide receiver Percy Harvin. The big question remains at quarterback. The Bills reached for E J Manuel with the 16th pick in the 2013 draft. This was a terrible and surprising pick. Manuel struggled with accuracy at the college level and continues to do so at the pro level.

The Bills have brought in veterans Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor to compete for the starting job. Cassel 33, should be an upgrade over last year’s starter Kyle Orton. Taylor spent the first four years of his career with the Ravens as a backup and has thrown just 35 passes during his career. The Bills would be a serious threat if they had a quarterback. Their defense should be better with new head coach Rex Ryan, but this will not be enough to overcome their deficiency at the quarterback position. That problem will be compounded by a poor offensive line. The Bills should have enough to contend for second place in the division and a Wild card spot in the playoffs.

3) Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins are coming off another average season. They finished third in the conference with an 8-8 record. Starting third year quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a very good season, passing for 4,045 yards with 27 touchdown passes with only 12 interceptions. The Dolphins finished 14th overall in team offense.

The defense finished 12th overall. They struggled against the run, finishing 24th in that category. The addition of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh should help this unit and ownership is hoping for him to pay immediate dividends since they invested millions in the All-Pro player this offseason.

The Dolphins were lucky to pick up former Louisville wide receiver Devante Parker with the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft. Parker should help improve Miami’s 17th ranked passing attack. Miami finished close to the middle of the pack in overall offensive and defensive statistics last season. They will need to improve on both sides of the ball if they hope to compete for a playoff spot. I expect the Dolphins to finish third in the division. The Fins could surprise but I’m not buying them in what could be the final season for head coach Joe Philbin.

4) New York Jets

The New York Jets are coming off a terrible 4-12 season. They fired head coach Rex Ryan and replaced him with former Arizona Cardinals defensive guru Todd Bowles. Mike Maccagnan takes over for John Idzik as general manager. The Jets are a team in disarray. Maccagnan is their third general manager in the past four years. They have brought back cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, after a two-year absence and Antonio Cromartie who played with the Cardinals last season. The Jets released Percy Harvin and acquired all-pro receiver Brandon Marshall from the Bears to replace him. The nine-year veteran has over 100 receptions in five of his nine seasons.

This is a transition year for the Jets. They could be in for a long season because of their weakness at quarterback. New York drafted Gino Smith in the second round of the 2013 draft. Smith was recently ranked last out of 32 starting quarterbacks in a NFL opinion poll of coaches and talent evaluators. Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick has been brought in to compete for the starting job, although the Jets will probably want to see if Smith can be a starting NFL quarterback. Bryce Petty was drafted in the fourth round and is probably a few years away from being ready to compete for the starting position. The Jets have made some upgrades, but I cannot see them being competitive in a strong AFC conference with Smith as their starting quarterback. Despite having arguably the best secondary in football, I still expect the Jets to finish last in the AFC East due to the unanswered question mark behind center.

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