New England Patriots (10-6) (4th seed; Wildcard Round)
Buffalo Bills (10-6) (6th seed; Wildcard Round)
Miami Dolphins (9-7)
New York Jets (5-11)
For the first time in a long time, the AFC East is going to be a very competitive division. I see three of these teams finishing with winning records, with a wild, down-to-the-wire finish likely to occur.
Let’s face it, until the Patriots get “overthrown” in the AFC East, you’d be crazy to pick against them. And deflated balls or not, Brady suspension or not, New England will once again be the favorites in the division. Not so with the AFC East overall, however, as the departure of Darrelle Revis will have a major impact on New England’s defense and the ridiculous DeflateGate scandal has rather clearly been a distraction to Patriots.
I have the Buffalo Bills making a significant jump up this season, but consider this: They have a great attacking defense, one of the best running backs in the NFL, an above-average receiving corps, and a group of total question marks at quarterback. Rex Ryan has gone to the AFC Championship game with less.
This will likely be a make-or-break year for the Dolphins and (sorry Miami!) I have them falling short. Their defense will be ferocious, and they don’t have a big question mark at quarterback. But the problem is Ryan Tannehill — he isn’t a question mark, but he’s not an exclamation point either. He’s just there, and I don’t think he’s enough to elevate the Dolphins quite high enough.
Bringing up the rear are the hapless Jets, who wanted to at least answer the remaining questions about Geno Smith. Consider Smith’s getting himself punched in the face for being an asshat all the answer you need. This guy is a marginal talent at best. Having a head full of manure does not drive up his stock price.
In the postseason, I have New England falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Bills losing to the Denver Broncos in the first round of the playoffs, but the show in the regular season should more than make up for a lack of postseason heroics.
Games to Watch:
Week 1 – Pittsburgh @ New England: Brady’s suspension is lifted! He’s going to come out angry, and this will be a fun one to watch. Plus, it’s the first game of the season. Watch it.
Week 3 – Buffalo @ Miami: The Dolphins’ first six weeks are games against the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, and a bye week. Week 3 they host the Bills. If they win it, they could start the season 5-0.
Week 7 – Buffalo @ NY Jets: Rex Ryan’s return to New York. All you need to know.
Week 12 – New England @ Denver: It seems like I say this every year, but you’re only going to get so many more chances to see Brady vs. Manning. Don’t miss even one of them.