When One Falls, Another Shall Rise
A lot of NFL fans would agree that the NFC West is the most competitive division in the league right now. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are consistently winning double digit games although they lack pro-bowl talent at many position. Jimmy G and the 49ers defense are loaded and pending a complete collapse, should be Super Bowl contenders for two years in a row. The Cardinals have Kyler Murray primed and ready to take the league by storm with Larry Fitzgerald, Deandre Hopkins and Christian Kirk catching passes. The Rams are kind of an enigma right now, but Aaron Donald is still a game changer at the DT position.
Wait, this is an AFC East blog right? Yes. Sorry, The NFC West might be the most competitive, but the AFC East has been in the headlines all off season.
The Patriots lost Tom Brady and half of their defense to free agency along with Gronk coming out of retirement just to go play with TB12 in Tampa Bay. The Bills acquired Stefan Diggs from the Vikings to add to one of the best route running WR core in football with Cole Beasley and John Brown. The Dolphins tanking worked to perfection and brought in a slew of talent in free agency and also have their QB of the future in Tua Tagovailoa. The Jets are the enigma of the AFC East just like the Rams are for the NFC West. Sam Darnold has talent but can’t stay healthy, Bell has not preformed like he did when he was in Pittsburgh and the defense is below average except for Jamal Adams. If it clicks for them at some point, they could be dangerous.
This division could end up being the most competitive in a year or two once the Dolphins get Tua going and the Jets build an offense around Sam. The Patriots will have to play without Brady, but they still have Belichick who is one of the best Head Coaches in NFL history. He will have to prove he can do it without TB12, but we won’t know if the winning was because of TB12 or Bill until the season starts/ends.
That brings up the main point of this blog. Will we finally witness the collapse of the Patriots dynasty or can Bill keep it going? With the departure of TB12 and many key pieces of the Patriots defense, records like 9-7 and 8-8 have bee thrown around for this team since they do have the toughest schedule in the NFL this season. Even if Bill can keep the Patriots in the playoff race with Jarrett Stidham, the Bills looked primed and ready to take over the AFC East.
Stefan Diggs takes this offense to a new level with his speed and elite route running ability. Devin Singletary quietly had an amazing season last year and the defense of course is a top 3 unit. The only question is can Josh Allen be more accurate down field? He has WRs that can get open and can spread a defense out every week and every play. He just has to hit them. I still hold the opinion that if Josh hit more of those early deep passes against the Ravens last season, the Bills would have won that game. Go back and watch it if you do not believe me.
It all looks like it is lining up perfectly for the Bills to be the first AFC East division winners other than the Patriots in over a decade. If they cannot win the division, it will be a major disappointment. That is the bare minimum expectation for them this year. Win the division and make a deep playoff run. Anything less will have Bills fans and the rest of the NFL scratching their heads about “what is missing?”. I can tell you already, if they do not meet expectations, Josh Allen will be the first man on the hot seat.
Some would want to put the coach/GM on the hot seat, but Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have been the best HC/GM duo of the past 2 or 3 years. They took a team that was in cap space hell, had no cohesiveness and lacked leadership and turned it into the well oiled machine built for success now and for years to come. They have built what Belichick and Kraft did in New England but they just lack the GOAT-like talent of a TB12 at QB. If they need to look elsewhere for that talent if Allen struggles, they will without
New England Patriots:
At Best: 10-6
If the defense can somehow come together under the leadership of Stephon Gilmore and play better than expected and Jarrett Stidham plays at a pro-bowl level, they can pull off some surprising wins. I would take them still beating the Bills in New England in week 16 and they also take care of the Broncos in week 5, also in New England.
At Worst: 8-8
If they fail to reach the playoffs or even double digit wins, I would put it on the defense. With the losses of Kyle Van Noy, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton, and Elandon Roberts the revamped offenses they have to face will tear them apart. Some of the more shocking losses will come from the Denver Broncos in week 5 in New England, Week 13 loss to the Chargers in LA and a season sweep from the Buffalo Bills. A weakened offense won’t be able to keep up with the points the defense lets up.
At Best: 12-4
This might seem aggressive, but AT BEST they sweep the Patriots if they struggle and the defense can have some teams with less experienced QBs make mistakes. I am referring to the Cardinals in week 10, the Broncos in week 15, and weeks 4 and 5 against the Raiders and Titans, although both are on the road.
At Worst: 9-7
If Josh Allen has an awful year and the defense has major issues with it’s run defense, as it did at times last season, we could see a different outcome in some close games. They drop the week 5 road game against the Titans, the Cardinals win at home in week 10 and they split the series with the Patriots. Another game in question would be the Chargers in week 12, although it is a home game for them.
New York Jets:
At Best: 6-10
It might be mean to say at best, the Jets hit 6-10, but they have a top 5 toughest schedule this season. I give them the week 3 match up with the Colts if the Phillip Rivers addition does not seem to be working. I also was generous and gave them a season sweep of the Dolphins and a win in week 16 against the Browns.
At Worst: 4-12
If Bell continues to get nothing done out of the backfield and Sam Darnold is sacked more often than he completes passes, this can be a rough year for them. One that could result in the firing of Adam Gase. I basically give Cleveland the win in week 16 if they are motivated and closing in on a playoff spot. The Rams get the week 15 win with the game being on the west coast. They also lose to the Dolphins in Miami week 10.
At Best: 6-10
Some of these game I give the Dolphins the advantage that some west coast teams have to travel a long ways to play in Miami. Games like the Rams in week 8, the Raiders in week 16 and the Cardinals in week 9. I think it will take a Brian Flores coaching miracle to get to 6-10, but this team did show spunk last year near the end of the season.
At Worst: 3-13
If this team does not gain traction from it’s free agency draft class, it will be another tank season. This project in Miami did look like a two year job so don’t be surprised if we see this. Losses to the Cardinals in week 9, the Jets in week 10 and the Bengals in week 13 would be the games I would point to.
At The End of the Season
The Bills will be division winners. They look like one of the most complete teams in the league and should be considered a top 6 maybe 5 team in the NFL. The Patriots fight for a wild card spot and the Jets and Dolphins keep rebuilding.
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All Hail the Jock Strap King!