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For the better part of twenty-first century, the AFC East has been dominated by one team, the New England Patriots. For all but two years in this millennium the Patriots have won the division title. However, with each year comes the hope that this will be the year that New England’s empire will fall.
This year however, things could get interesting: the Jets retooled and built something special, the Buffalo Bills have a higher upside with their younger talent and the Dolphins could be a team that could do something at any point. Could this year be the year the Patriots are dethroned?
Record in 2018: 6-11
Key Player: Running Back -LeSean McCoy
Player to Watch: Quarterback -Josh Allen
Two years removed from their first playoff appearance since 1999, Buffalo took a bit of a step back. Opting to go with a youth movement with players like quarterback Josh Allen, and wide receiver Zay Jones cost some short term wins.
This year, they’ve made moves for veterans weapons like wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley and running back Frank Gore. If Allen can improve his accuracy, then the talent that’s been put around him can take him the rest of the way. It’s just a matter of getting the ball to them
Meanwhile the defense looks like it could do some serious damage with additions like rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver, and cornerbacks E.J. Gaines and Kevin Johnson. The Bills defense was a strong point last year, finishing second in yards allowed and first in passing yards allowed. Since Buffalo didn’t lose anything on defense, they have the potential to be just as destructive as last years. Especially now that they have a potential run stopper in Oliver. Prediction: 8-8
Record in 2018: 7-9
Key Player: Cornerback -Xavien Howard
Player to Watch: Runningback- Kalen Ballage
It’s not a question of “if” quarterback Josh Rosen will take over for the aging Ryan Fitzpatrick but a question of when. With receivers like DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Allen Hurns, as well as running backs like Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake, there’s hope this offense can get rolling. The problem is, hope doesn’t always earn wins.
The real struggle for this team though is their defense. With former Patriots’ defensive coordinator Brian Flores taking over as head coach and appointing Patrick Graham the defensive coordinator, Miami’s defense should perform better. It will probably be another hard year for the Dolphins but they’re taking steps in the right direction. Prediction: 5-11
New England Patriots
Record in 2018: 11-5
Key Player: Defensive End -Michael Bennett
Player to Watch: Wide Receiver -N’Keal Harry
To say the Patriots offense will be different is a bit of an understatement. After Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement, they went out and signed three tight ends: Benjamin Watson, Matt LaCosse and Lance Kendricks. Add wide receivers K’Neal Harry, Demaryius Thomas and Dontrelle Inman and quarterback Tom Brady is bound to have another quality year.
The big question mark for the Patriots will be their defense since they don’t have a defensive coordinator at the time of this article. The defense finished in the bottom half the NFL in most categories last year, so this could be a recipe for disaster. Still, until proven otherwise, the New England Patriots are the masters of the NFL. Having won Super Bowl number six last year, they’re a threat to do it again. Prediction: 12-4
New York Jets
Record in 2018: 4-12
Key Player: Linebacker -C.J. Mosley
Player to Watch: Runningback -Le’Veon Bell
The New York Jets are the division’s ultimate wild card. Adding a running back like Le’Veon Bell can be a great asset, if he stays healthy. The one thing that will make or break this offense is new head coach Adam Gase. If he can live up to his “quarterback guru” nickname, watch out. If not, they may stall.
New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, fresh off an interim coaching stint with the Cleveland Browns, may have more pep in his step. However, despite a year where the Browns lead the league in defensive turnovers, their defense was abysmal: giving up 137.8 rushing yards and 24.5 points per game.
While the Jets have the type of tools that Williams loves in the front seven, it’s the secondary that was a problem for both sides last year. This could go either way. Historically, it usually doesn’t go the Jets’ way. Prediction: 6-10