New England Patriots
The kings of the AFC East will be back on top for the eighth straight season. Obviously, New England faces some challenges with Tom Brady being out for the first four weeks of the season, but Jimmy Garoppolo is more than capable of holding down the fort for those games. The addition of Chris Hogan adds depth to the receiving corps, while also adding a nice insurance policy for the oft-injued Danny Amendola. Hogan hasn’t caught more than 41 passes in a single season, but he is only entering his fifth season and first with a solid quarterback.
The Patriots finished 10th in total defense, and they should be around that same spot this season. The addition of rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones should add depth to the position. With Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan as the starting cornerbacks, Jones should get some playing time in nickel packages.
Buffalo finished 8-8 last season, with only one victory, a 30-21 bout with Houston in Week 13, against a playoff team. The Bills should beat who they are supposed to beat and should lose to playoff teams. If Buffalo gets the right breaks, they have a chance to finish with nine, or maybe 10 wins, but it will be difficult. Rex Ryan may be coaching his last season in Buffalo, unless the Bills can make the playoffs.
Tyrod Taylor is a solid quarterback and played well last season in his first full year as a starter; throwing 20 touchdowns to only six interceptions. The biggest issue for Taylor was fumble control, committing five in the 14 games that he started in. Adding Reggie Bush to the running game will help spell LeSean McCoy, but Bush is more of a guy that shouldn’t touch the ball more than 6-10 times a game at this point in his career.
New York Jets
Two of the biggest offseason moves for the Jets were bringing in veteran running back Matt Forte and re-signing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to help solidify the offense. The Jets had the 13th best passing offense and 10th best running attack last season Forte should help bolster both of those rankings. In eight seasons with Chicago, Forte averaged 60 receptions a year out of the backfield.
The Jets have had a solid defense over the past decade, with Rex Ryan and now Todd Bowles being defensive-minded coaches. The defense finished ninth last season in total defense,
After splitting the first 10 games of the season last year, New York won five straight and put themselves in great position to make the postseason before falling to Buffalo in the season finale. The Jets should seem like a better team on the field, but with their schedule, New York should finish with a 7-9 record, losing some close games.
After winning eight games in the 2014 season, Miami dropped down to six last season. The one plus for the Dolphins is they are the only team to win the AFC East since 2002 besides the Patriots. Miami should be improved overall as a team, but the win total will not come with it. The Dolphins have a brutal road schedule this season, with three of their first four games being on the road against playoff teams. Miami travels to Seattle, New England and Cincinnati during the first four weeks of the season.
The Dolphins basically traded Lamar Miller for Arian Foster when the running backs switched teams via free agency. Miami also cut Brent Grimes and then signed defensive end Mario Williams after Buffalo released him. Overall, the defense finished 19th last season. The Dolphins should slightly improve on that side of the ball, but only move up a couple of slots inside the top 15.
The Dolphins should improve the most on offense. With Rishard Matthews gone, it puts Devante Parker, Jarvis Landry, and Kenny Stills as the no-doubt top 3 receivers on the team.
While Foster has a proven track record as a running back in the NFL, Jay Ajayi should emerge as the team’s No. 1 back. Coming out of Boise State, Ajayi had the potential to play a lot last season, but injuries slowed him down. Now that he is fully healthy and Miller is gone, it’s Ajayi’s job to lose.