By: Jason Gandhi
The AFC East is a very intriguing division this year. The New England Patriots, starting a new quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo for the first time since 2001 and fighting to get back to the Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills, who had high expectations for their defense last year that ended up being a major letdown but did find a bright spot in Tyrod Taylor. The Miami Dolphins, expected to take a huge step forward but instead regressed dramatically, looking to now take that step this upcoming year. And lastly the New York Jets, who just signed Ryan Fitzpatrick FINALLY and are hoping to crack the playoffs this season. This division has a lot of question marks, and if the four teams play their brand of football they could all be legitimate contenders for the playoffs.
New England Patriots-
The first time since 2001 Tom Brady will not be under center week one for the New England Patriots. He will end his 112 consecutive start streak as well. The Patriots are going to be relying on their 2nd rounder from 2014 Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy has only played in eleven regular-season games and thrown 31 passes in his career. He will face the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans and Bills in the four weeks he is the starter. Besides the quarterback controversy, the Patriots roster is pretty much the same as it was last year. Minor tweaks and changes to the receiving core and to the O-Line but besides that the it is pretty much same old Patriots. When Brady comes back, the Patriots will be back to form and they should make the playoffs without a doubt barring any major injury.
The Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999. That drought is the longest active streak in the NFL. This year the Bills look like maybe just maybe they could go to the playoffs. That will take a lot of things to go right. Tyrod Taylor needs to prove that this past year was not just a fluke, as well as the defense needs to show that they can return to be the team they were two years ago. If those two things happen and the Patriots struggle with Brady not having his normal routine, the Bills might be able to squeak into the playoffs.
Last year was a disappointment to say the least. So many high expectations and high hopes for the 2015 Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill was supposed to take a huge step in his career, Joe Philbin was supposed to get the team to the playoffs, and Ndamukong Suh was supposed to anchor the defense. Instead Tannehill regressed, Philbin was fired and Suh was far from an anchor on the defense. The 2016 Dolphins are going to try to right those wrongs with Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker leading the WR’s and Jay Ajayi takes over the RB position with Arian Foster there as a complement. The offense looks revamped and the defense will be decent as Brent Grimes departed in the offseason but did get Mario Williams from Buffalo. Miami will try to answer a lot of the question marks that were raised after the abysmal season last year, and hopefully try to squeak into the playoffs.
New York Jets-
Ryan Fitzpatrick. First QB in franchise history to throw for more than 30 touchdowns in a season. Yet, he JUST found himself a contract. The two sides had been negotiating forever and it felt as if there would never be a deal done. That is all put to bed now as Fitzpatrick signed the one year twelve million with 3 million in incentives for the upcoming year. The Jets did get Matt Forte from the Bears this off-season but he is going on 30 this year so it was a bit of a gamble by the Jets. The defense for the Jets will be solid like it was last year. Revis Island and Muhammad Wilkerson will headline the squad, and try to carry their team. Now that the Fitzpatrick show is over, the Jets no longer have to worry about Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg being ready for week one against the Bengals.
Division MVP: Tom Brady
Division LVP: Bills RB’s (Lesean McCoy and/or Karlos Williams)
Division Breakout Player: Jay Ajayi
Division Champs: New England Patriots