With rosters in place and training camps inching closer, it is time to evaluate what we know about each team. In this series, TGH will predict where each team will land in their division, and whether or not they will be in contention for the playoffs. Today, the AFC East predictions are up.
First Place – Buffalo Bills
The Bills seem poised to take the Patriots’ perennial place atop the AFC East in 2020. Bouyed by great coaching, fearless quarterback play and a defense that is well above average, Buffalo can probably expect to either repeat or surpass their 2019 record of 10-6.
Their 2020 draft was a bit hamstrung by their offseason trade for Stefon Diggs. The Bills gave up their first, fifth and sixth round picks for a speedy receiver with lots of deep ball potential. Considering Buffalo has a strong arm quarterback, but have never given him a legitimate deep threat, the trade makes complete sense.
Defensive lineman were a hot commodity during the offseason, and the Bills were not immune to the shopping spree. They lost three lineman, including Jordan Phillips, who was proving nose tackles can still be relevant in the NFL.
The team supplemented these losses by drafting a defensive end, and signing Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler. They also gained a veteran corner in Josh Norman and some other pieces to ensure offensive depth.
Apart from the Diggs trade, Buffalo had a relatively quiet offseason. But all in all it should inspire confidence in Bills fans to expect a similar level of production in 2020. Even if they do not win the East, expect to see them in the playoffs next season.
Second Place – New England Patriots
No team’s offseason has been followed more closely and picked apart by more people than the New England Patriots’ offseason. Even by today’s media standards, the level of coverage has been unprecedented.
Tom Brady left New England after 20 years, nine Super Bowl apperances, six titles and a host of other achievements this article cannot list in the interest of brevity. The Patriots also lost Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Danny Shelton and Phillip Dorsett, among others.
These losses seem to be exacerbated by the fact that they did not attempt to fill their wide receiver hole. When the lack of receiving talent was most of what the fan base was pleading for the team to fix, the signings of Damiere Byrd and Marqise Lee are only going to make people scratch their heads further. Couple this with the fact that the team traded out of the first round, and the wheels of the dynasty seemed to have finally fallen off.
But, yet again, Bill Belichick and New England pull a rabbit out of their hat and sign former-MVP Cam Newton. Just when it seemed like the Pats would see what they had in Jarrett Stidham, they, instead, decide to roll the dice with Newton and his injury history.
This relationship will absolutely be on a trial basis. The two sides will see what they can get out of each other, but if it works, the NFL is in trouble all over again. Their placement in the division is obviously predicated on the amount of production New England gets out of Cam.
Second place feels right, however. Newton can deliver some wins, Belichick’s skills have not dulled, and the pass defense is still top-tier. If the draft and free agency period had been a bit bigger, the Patriots may be on top again. Instead, look for them to be in the playoff window all year long.
Third Place – Miami Dolphins
Miami’s fire sale approach over the past few seasons finally started to pay dividends in the 2020 draft. Now, Dolphins fans can have nothing but high hopes after achieving a 5-11 campaign last season that was expected to be one of the worst in the history of the NFL.
Starting with the obvious, the Dolphins had six picks in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. Their first selection was their quarterback of the future, Tua Tagovailoa, who Miami had widely rumored to have had their eyes on for years. For good measure, they also snagged one of the best offensive lineman and one of the best corners in the draft in the first round.
Their huge offseason does not stop there, either. In free agency, they grabbed the likes of Jordan Howard, Kyle Van Noy, Byron Jones and Ereck Flowers. Along with them come some other talents with lesser known names, but high profile production.
This will no doubt be a year dedicated to seeing where their puzzle pieces fit. Miami can move players, experiment, and even rest or play Tagovailoa however they see fit due to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick’s commitment to the team.
Given all of these moving pieces, third place is about where the Dolphins should end up. Coach Brian Flores will not let them quit, but rather carve out their niche while still trying to win games. Not to fret, though. Miami still has five picks in the first three rounds next year, even if the entire team falls apart.
Fourth Place – New York Jets
The only thing of note the New York Jets accomplished in the offseason was heavily overhaul their offensive line.
Josh Andrews, George Fant, Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten were all signed by the Jets in an attempt to fix both their pass protection and to open up more lanes for Le’Veon Bell. On top of the free agent signings, the Jets drafted Mekhi Becton out of Louisville, who is a project but has potential to be one of the best tackles in the NFL. They also grabbed another tackle in the fourth round.
Apart from the offensive line, New York just engaged in hole filling without focusing on depth. Their only splashy signing was veteran Frank Gore in an attempt to squeeze the last few yards out of his storied career.
Sam Darnold (probably) will not miss games due to mononucleosis this year, and will have more time to throw. Either way, there is not a lot to look forward to in the 2020 season.
Featured Image courtesy of Associated Press
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