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Jets flying high you know how I feel…
Tua letting it fly, you know how I feel…
Patriots and Bills window breezin’ on by, you know how I feel…
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, its a new season for the AFC East!
After what seemed like forever the tides seemed to shift away from the norm in the AFC’s eastern division. The New England Patriots are now a team trying to recapture what once was, and the rest of the division has come into their own.
The Buffalo Bills have now taken over as the central power, leaving the Miami Dolphins and new look New York Jets to play usurper. Will 2023-24 see a changing of the guard or will it be more of the same? Only time will tell.
Record in 2022: 13-3
Key Player: Running Back – Damien Harris
Player to Watch: Running Back – James Cook
Buffalo comes into 2023-24 with all the confidence on their side. They have been the best team in the division, and still have arguably the best quarterback in the division under center. The big question is can they overcome some of the issues in the locker room to salvage what could be a successful campaign?
The Bills can try to appease their wideouts by passing the ball, but should utilize their running backs to soften the opposing defenses. They added Damian Harris from the division rival New England Patriots, and also have second year back James Cook. They also strengthened the offensive line, which should allow the run game to flourish. Giving Josh Allen the one thing he hasn’t had in his career could also help him have a more efficient game, and vaunt the Bills into a championship.
Buffalo’s defense is going to be the complete unit they have been under Sean McDermott. With the emergence of players like Ed Oliver and Greg Rousseau, they should be able to stop the run effectively and get to the quarterback.
If the Bills can combine both units with the added dynamic on offense they should have another successful season. Prediction: 11-6
Record in 2022: 9-8
Key Player: Edge Rusher – Bradley Chubb
Player to Watch: Safety – Jevon Holland
Miami came out the gates hot in 2022-23 before injuries robbed them of a promising season. Despite having a high-powered offense, the Dolphins will need to find ways to win in a tough division.
The good thing for the Dolphins is that their starting signal caller, Tua Tagovailoa, is healthy coming into this season. They have had some injuries, namely rookie running back Devin Achane, but they still have one of the most potent stables in the league. If McDaniels can capture the early season success of last year and take it into this season, they can compete with any team.
The defense for Miami has added a lot of pieces but the injury bug has struck them some. Veteran defensive back Jalen Ramsey could miss significant time but they still have some young pieces that can fill those roles. New inside linebacker David Long Jr. has shown his value and if he can stay healthy can bolster the run defense for the Dolphins.
There are high hopes for the Dolphins but the top of the division got a lot better. Miami will be a tough opponent but are still a couple of pieces away this season. Prediction: 9-8
New England Patriots
Record in 2022: 8-9
Key Player: Running Back – Rhamondre Stevenson
Player to Watch: Wide Receiver – Kayshon Boutte
The 2023-24 season will be one that is going to test the resolve of this young Patriot roster. They are fighting an uphill battle, but have pieces that have potential to change the tide of their season if they pan out.
Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien will be tasked with playing to the strengths of their roster rather than a scheme. This could look like more play action and vertical routes to keep defenses at bay. Running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott will be the engines that make the car run. The beneficiaries will be veteran receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and rookie Kayshon Boutte. Boutte especially, as he has the skillset to pop the top off the defense at any moment.
The defense has overall promising talent but they are young. Belichick will have them in the right place at the right time, but situational awareness could get away from them. If they don’t keep games close they could see themselves spiraling with a difficult back half of the schedule.
The Pats are tough but aren’t quite where they would like to be as a roster. This season will be one to build on as they go forward. Prediction: 7-10
New York Jets
Record in 2022: 7-10
Key Player: Linebacker – Quincy Williams
Player to Watch: Cornerback – D.J. Reed
The Jets will look to build on a strong finish to their 2022-23 campaign and take a leap into 2023-24.
Head Coach Robert Saleh has built a solid unit lead by veteran linebacker C.J. Mosley and stud defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. The offense is also now lead by veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a revamped stable of weapons.
The offense will be more balanced and will now look to be more steady than in years past. Rodgers has won two MVP awards with less talent and he can still spin it. Adding veteran running back Dalvin Cook also helps bolster the Jets’ attack and will help keep defenses honest. Garrett Wilson will look to have a breakout year and could possibly catapult himself into superstardom with one of the best deep ball throwers under center. New York has the kind of offensive firepower that can overwhelm opposing teams, and should win games by simply out scoring teams.
The Jets defense will be formidable and should improve on what was a strong outing a year ago. Sauce Gardner will come in as the incumbent shutdown corner and will make life easier for everyone else. One player in particular, D.J. Reed, will need to have a big year for this team to realize its true potential. The middle is just as strong as the boundaries for this defensive unit. Quincy Williams had a strong campaign a year ago, and now has the chance to become one of the best inside backers in the league.
If Saleh can get both sides of the ball to the same level the Jets will be one of the top seeds in a tough AFC. Prediction: 12-5