1. New England Patriots– It seems to be the same results with them each and every year. They win the division, they make the playoffs, they usually have a week off in the playoffs and they get to the AFC Championship game. We can pretty much pencil them in to be a contender each season. After the 10-0 start last season, the Patriots won just two of their final six games and lost out on the one seed and the road to the Super Bowl would’ve traveled through Foxboro. The Patriots biggest issue was that offensive line and the AFC title game showed us that. Tom Brady was hit a total of 23 times in that game. As always, the Patriots were busy again this off-season. They traded Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals for offensive guard Jonathan Cooper and acquired Martellus Bennett from the Bears giving the Patriots another dynamic tandem at tight end with Gronk and Bennett. The Patriots also signed Chris Hogan from the Bills and added a nice veteran receiver in Nate Washington. The defense also made its moves by signing Chris Long, Shea McClellin and added Terrance Knighton to the interior of the defensive line. The beginning of the year will have the football world wondering who will be the starting quarterback for the Patriots come week one.
2. New York Jets– The Todd Bowles era got off to a nice start in East Rutherford. They won ten games but the only downfall was missing the playoffs and all they had to do was win just one game and you’re in and they failed to do that in week 17 last year in Buffalo. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall established themselves as a very explosive wide receiver tandem and the defense got back to playing the style of football we’ve been accustomed to seeing. Revis returned back to where everything started and there were times when he looked like an old Darrelle Revis instead of the Revis of old. The Jets offense this year will have a new face. They signed Matt Forte when the free agency period started and he joins a group with two prolific receivers. The big question is who will be the starting quarterback? Ryan Fitzpatrick had a good year in 2015 but he’s not worth a max deal. This is the biggest threat to the Patriots in the division.
3. Buffalo Bills– The start to the Rex Ryan era was an inconsistent one. The offense was the biggest strength of the entire team and Rex made a great choice by starting Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. He’s a duel threat quarterback that can hurt you with his legs and throw the ball from the pocket. The defense, which is Rex Ryan’s specialty ranked 20th in the league in total defense at one point but I see that improving now after a full year together. The talent is there for the Bills to finally make the playoffs for the first time since 1998. Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy along with Tyrod Taylor add to Buffalo’s offensive core and the defense has playmakers across the board but now, we need to see it all come together. The schedule won’t definitely be easy. They open it up in Baltimore, a tough place to play, then battles with the Arizona Cardinals and the New England Patriots.
4. Miami Dolphins– The Joe Philbin and Dan Campbell era is finished in South Beach and the Adam Gase tenure is set to begin. He was a very sought after candidate for many head coaching jobs and now he’s set to enter his first year as a head coach. The expectations are always high for the Miami Dolphins and they always disappoint. The offense will be looking to take major strides in 2016 especially with Gase being an offensive minded guy. The tandem of Jarvis Landry and DaVante Parker can be an exciting but overall, this offense will come down to what Ryan Tannehill will we see. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this Dolphins defense will do this year. With Suh entering year two in South Beach and Cameron Wake will be back after missing the rest of the 2015 season with a torn Achilles. The Dolphins also signed Mario Williams to a two-year deal and acquired Byron Maxwell from the Eagles.
1. Patriots (11-5)
2. Jets (9-7)
3. Bills (8-8)
4. Dolphins (6-10)
Once again, the New England Patriots will be the kings of the AFC East for the fourteenth time in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. If the suspension for Brady does indeed remain, the Patriots will build the running game up for Jimmy Garoppolo so it’s not all on him. The offensive line has to be better this year. A frustrated Tom Brady in the pocket is not a good thing. The defense made key moves to improve and Matt Patricia will work with what he has. I’m expecting another top record in the league, another playoff appearance and first round bye in the AFC playoffs. Hopefully, they do get home-field because it truly does make a difference.