Even if you’re the New England Patriots’ biggest hater out there, deep down, you’d have to admit that they are still poised to rule the division as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are running the team. The AFC East basically has two tiers: the Patriots and whoever is gunning to be second place.
Let’s now get some predictions going as to how the four teams could shape up for the 2017 campaign. Read on!
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2017 AFC East Team Win Total Predictions
New England Patriots
O/U wins: 12.5
Writer’s Prediction: 13
The term “Super team” is getting thrown around quite often in the world of sports as of late, and in the NFL, the Pats are the only club that arguably deserves such a label. They have seven-straight 12-plus-win seasons, eight-straight AFC East titles, and six-straight conference championship games. I mean…
What’s impressive, though, is that it’s not because they have an insurmountable amount of talent; they simply have a bunch of geniuses in their coaching staff and front office that can routinely find some of the best players that will fit their system to a tee, be it in the free agency or the draft. It happens year in and year out that it’s almost unbelievable.
The reinforcements on offense include the nabbing of Brandin Cooks, a number one receiver who’s at the prime of his career, Dwayne Allen, an underrated tight end that has shown flashes of his true potential, and scrappy, pass-catching running back, Rex Burkehead, who’s practically a clone of their ex-back, Danny Woodhead.
Over on defense, they acquired a trio of quality guys, which is scary since the unit is already coming off a year where they led the league in scoring defense (15.6 PPG). Premiere cornerback Stephon Gilmore headlines the list, and he is joined by Kony Ealy, who could’ve easily been the Super Bowl 50 MVP had the Carolina Panthers won (he had three sacks in the game), and Lawrence Guy, an intriguing journeyman pass-rusher – every time the Patriots add an unknown player who has bounced around a lot, remember his name.
All of those additions, coupled with the royal player-coach partnership of Brady and Belichick, and its supporting cast’s consistent elite level of play, should be enough to have the Pats win 13 games.
O/U wins: 7.5
Writer’s Prediction: 8
The Dolphins have a lot to be excited about. They finished the regular season strong – winning 9 of their final 11 games after starting out 1-3 – and it pushed them to break a seven-year postseason drought. Also, second-year coach Adam Gase is a breath of positivity to the once mediocre culture of the team.
Here comes the big “however,” though: despite their noteworthy performance to end the previous regular season, they are still just a Cinderella team of 2016, one that hasn’t really proven anything and will still come in as a big question mark.
The wins could very well be because of a magical run, because the numbers they put up didn’t translate to productive and efficient football. Wins are what matters, obviously, but you also can’t expect the opposition to take you seriously if the majority of those are escape victories (seven of their last nine wins are by one touchdown or less) and you only post below average production offensively and defensively (24th in total yards and 28th in yards allowed).
Jay Ajayi is exciting and experts are eyeing him to continue tallying good yardage, but that’s about it stat-wise. Gase and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, in particular, haven’t lived up to the expectations on offense (26th in passing yards).
O/U wins: 6.5
Writer’s Prediction: 6
“Meh” is a quick take on the Bills. There’s really not much to look forward to on both ends of the field. They went 7-9 this past season, which is simply… well… “meh,” and 2017 is looking to garner such a reaction – maybe worse.
Their defense was a great weapon, but what it did overall was post middle-of-the-pack rankings (14th in scoring defense and yards allowed). They lost Stephon Gilmore, one of their best defensive players, and replaced it with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, who despite being nice additions, don’t appear to suddenly make the group gangbusters.
Rex “I’m only focused when I’m against the Patriots” Ryan got the boot in late 2016 – as he should – and will be replaced by another defensive-minded coach in Sean McDermott, a key architect in building disruptive defensive units during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers. It may prove to be a good upgrade, but again, not much is present to make you excited.
As for the offense, we’ll see if new coordinator Rick Dennison could generate a positive outlook. He had good years with the Houston Texans (2010-2013), thanks to Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster, but will now enter a situation that was similar to his up-and-down offense with the Denver Broncos (2015-2016). Like the Broncos, the Bills do not have a pure passer under center, thus the heavy reliance on two-time All-Pro LeSean McCoy running the ball (30th in passing and 1st in rushing last season).
Six wins this sounds right for the Bills.
New York Jets
O/U wins: 4.5
Writer’s Prediction: 3
…And then we have the Jets. Oh, boy. T-A-N-K – tank, tank, tank!
What is there to say when they appeared to blatantly tank the 2016 season? They had a big 2015 campaign with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, and Erick Decker leading the way, and then just went on a downward spiral this past year. All three have also signed with different teams.
From the woeful 2016, to the undeveloped young nucleus, to the sudden release of beloved linebacker David Harris, to the quiet off-season signings, which didn’t include any big-named players or heralded talents, even a four or five-win season sounds high for the Jets.
The three key acquisitions were the decent at-best left tackle Kelvin Beachum, 38-year-old QB Josh McCown, and the erratic and borderline bust cornerback Morris Claiborne. None of those additions can be expected to provide much help.
The team needed to surround their young signal-callers, namely Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, with weapons and they failed. The team needed more impact players on defense outside Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, and all they got – both in the free agency and the draft – is Jamal Adams. So, yeah, we could be looking at a 3-13 season from the Jets.
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