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The Team To Challenge The New England Patriots In The AFC East Is(?): 2017 Division Preview
Photo courtesy of USA Today

The Team To Challenge The New England Patriots In The AFC East Is(?): 2017 Division Preview

In the AFC East, things should remain status quo for the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. The AFC East is usually just a cake walk for them. However, the Miami Dolphins should challenge them a little bit with Jay Cutler at the helm in a fresh start and their defense is not too shabby. The Buffalo Bills are in rebuilding mode again. They traded Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams and the sudden retirement of Anquan Boldin didn’t help matters much. The New York Jets are the same old Jets, cellar dwellers once again as their roster is in disarray.

 

 New England Patriots

Record in 2016: 14-2

Key Player:  Inside Linebacker- David Harris

Player to Watch: Wide Receiver- Brandin Cooks

Outlook: New England has won the AFC East eight straight years and 13 of the last 14. The only stumble came in 2008 when Brady tore his knee ligaments in the season opener. Don’t think for a second the defending Super Bowl Champions are taking anything for granted, even with the rest of the division entering the season with major flaws. The loss of Julian Edelman, who has caught 356 passes over the last four years, will certainly hurt the Patriots’ high-powered offense. New England has enough talented pass catchers to replace him with. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is healthy again, and newcomer Brandin Cooks joining Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell in the receiving corps. One thing is for sure, Tom Brady remains a constant for the Patriots. Although he is getting older at 40, it will be intriguing to see if Brady can keep up his prolific production, especially without Edelman. He’s feeling good though and that’s a good sign for New England. It’s also a bad one for opponents, who have to wonder if he’ll ever slow down. Prediction: 13-3

 

 Miami Dolphins

Record in 2016: 10-6

Key Player: Quarterback- Jay Cutler

Player to watch: Wide Receiver- DeVante Parker

Outlook: Jay Cutler retired after last season and was set to be an analyst for Fox’s NFL broadcasts. After Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season, Cutler stepped out of the booth and back into the huddle to be Miami’s quarterback. As long as Cutler doesn’t revert to his old gun slinging ways, Miami can keep close to New England. The move made lots of sense for the Dolphins, who are hoping Cutler will have the same kind of success he had in 2015 when Miami coach Adam Gase was Chicago’s offensive coordinator. Cutler’s familiarity with Gase and the Dolphins’ playbook along with a budding star in wide receiver DeVante Parker could make for a seamless transition. Prediction: 9-7

 

 Buffalo Bills:

Record in 2016: 7-9

Key Player: Quarterback- Tyrod Taylor

Player to watch: Wide Receiver- Brandon Tate

Outlook: The Bills overhauled their roster this offseason. New general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott are beginning a process they hope ends the franchise’s 17-year playoff drought. That likely won’t happen this year with the trades of top receiver Sammy Watkins (to the Rams) and starting cornerback Ronald Darby (to the Philadelphia Eagles) on the same day in August. Both trades were a sure sign that the focus is on the future. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is back but his status beyond this season is uncertain and he sustained a concussion last weekend. The Bills added Jordan Matthews in the Darby trade but of the eight players who caught a touchdown pass last year, only two returned; tight end Charles Clay with four and running back LeSean McCoy with one. The Bills are hoping new addition Brandon Tate can help make up for some of that lost production. Prediction: 7-9

 

 New York Jets:

Record in 2016: 5-11

Key Player: Running Back- Bilal Powell

Player to Watch: Outside Linebacker- Freddie Bishop

Outlook: Much like the Bills, the Jets are in full rebuilding mode after general manager Mike Maccagnan cleared out several big names with big contracts. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold and David Harris are all no longer with the team. What’s left for coach Todd Bowles’ team is a roster filled with fresh faces and inexperience. That combination has some wondering if the Jets will even win a game this season. Their dismal quarterback situation, with 38-year-old Josh McCown expected to start over youngsters Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, has only added to the grim projections. Expect lots of growing pain for the Gang Green in the New York this year. Prediction: 2-14

About Yusuf Nakhooda

Ontario, Canada

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