The AFC East is ready for someone new to represent the division in the playoffs. For 17 out of the last 19 years, the New England Patriots have held that honor. With Tom Brady headed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it may end up being a three-team race for the first spot, and the New York Jets have an excellent opportunity to take it.
Now without a starting quarterback, for the time being, the Patriots find themselves, at least, behind the Jets and Bills. However, the Dolphins have somewhat of a surprise factor in their process right now. So, what should be expected from the rest of the division?
Defense. The Bills’ defense is the backbone of the team. They gave up the second least amount of points last season with 259, trailing only the Patriots. This stingy defense has seemed to have become stronger with some of their free agency signings this week. Perhaps the biggest of names was Josh Norman, who joined Buffalo for a one-year contract worth up to $8 million. Norman hasn’t been his All-Pro self since 2015 but could be a solid option lining up opposite Tre’Davious White.
The Bills’ offense hasn’t been flashy as of late, but with the significant addition of Stefon Diggs via trade, they now have a key playmaker on the outside. Diggs reeled in 63 receptions for 1,130 yards and 6 touchdowns last year with the Vikings. With Josh Allen now having another option to throw to, the Bills pose a threat to the Jets’ hopes for the upcoming season once again.
The Dolphins may have brought in the largest sum of talent for their defense in the entire league. Shaq Lawson came over from Buffalo, as mentioned, and Emmanuel Ogbah joined to take over the other defensive end spot. These two additions should bolster the defensive line for this upcoming season.
Kyle Van Noy signed a four year, $51 million deal to come over from the Patriots earlier this week as well. Van Noy adds a veteran presence and postseason experience to an otherwise unexperienced Miami defense.
The big deal was the signing of Pro Bowl cornerback Byron Jones to a five year, $82.5 million deal. Jones was a highly sought after free agent, and rightfully so. Adding him to a cornerback group already including Xavien Howard could give them a very strong secondary.
As far as the quarterback job goes, all signs are pointing towards them drafting Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama. He was expected to be the number one overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft before an injury sidelined him. Now, with the possibility of him falling to Miami, they may have their quarterback of the future. However, this is the major question mark for their team. If he is drafted, and starts, the Dolphins’ potential success can’t be guessed, it will have to be dealt with in stride.
New England Patriots
For the longest time, Tom Brady was the face of the Patriots. He brought them to nine Super Bowls, winning six, and held complete control of the AFC East. Now, with him gone, New England has come back down to reality.
Jarrett Stidham is currently the number one quarterback on their depth chart, though they may look to bring in someone else. Other than that, most of their roster has remained the same, minus a few departures such as Kyle Van Noy.
The possibilities are endless for New England as long as Bill Belichick is the head coach, so they still should not be taken lightly.
So what does this all mean?
In a division where 12 to 13 wins was necessary to have a chance at dethroning the Patriots, only 8, 9, or 10 may be needed now. It should be expected to be a competitive division with no clear-cut favorite. Coming off a seven-win season last year with a strong second half, the Jets have every chance to take the division right in front of them.