1. New England Patriots (12-4): The entire world was against them. Tom Brady defeated the NFL to nullify his four game suspension and the biggest revenge tour was set to begin. Brady was off to a fast start and the Patriots won their first ten games of the season. Injuries began to set in for the defending Super Bowl champs. Sebastian Vollmer, the anchor of that offensive line was sidelined, Dion Lewis tore his ACL, Julian Edelman broke his foot and Gronk was out for a game with a knee bruise. After the fast start, the Patriots faltered in their last six games going 2-4 down the stretch and would end up as the two seed in the AFC playoff picture. They would defeat the Chiefs in the divisional round and advance to their sixth straight conference title game and would fall short to the Broncos.
2. New York Jets (10-6): The Rex Ryan era was over and the Todd Bowles tenure was set to begin in East Rutherford. The Jets had quite the offseason as two familiar faces returned. Antonio Cromarite and fresh off a Super Bowl victory, Darrelle Revis decided to return back to where it started as contract talks fell through with the Patriots. They were a pleasant surprise at the beginning of the season. Chris Ivory was on a tear running the ball, Brandon Marshall got off to a fast start and he along with Eric Decker became a receiving tandem to watch and the defense was back to its usual self. They had the world in their grasp as week 17 approached. Win and you are in the playoffs. That didn’t happen as they lost to the guy they fired the year before. The talent is there to compete and Bowles will only improve as a coach.
3. Buffalo Bills (8-8): There were a lot of high expectations for them as the season approached. They hired Rex Ryan as their new head coach and traded Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles for LeSean McCoy. Rex also decided to name Tyrod Taylor the starting quarterback over E.J. Manuel. At first, I didn’t know what to make of this move but when I saw him play, I was convinced. He had a solid season and Sammy Watkins became that go to receiver. The defense had a lot of hype surrounding them especially with Rex in town. They weren’t even ranked in the top 15 in total defense. They were top 20. The Bills need to finish games out and close them while they can. They haven’t made the playoffs since 1998, the longest drought in the NFL today.
4. Miami Dolphins (6-10): They landed the top free agent in Ndamukong Suh to bolster their pass rush and when draft time came around, they selected DaVante Parker. This was another team that was expected to compete and take that next step. Miami got off to a 1-4 start and fired Joe Philbin during the season. Dan Campbell was promoted to head coach and team showed a little more fight and toughness both physically and mentally. Every year, the Dolphins have been predicted to get to the playoffs but it hasn’t happened. They finished with a 6-10 mark in the basement of the AFC East.