NFL: AFC East Preview and Predictions

NFL AFC East - New England Patriots

Whispers of an in-house fracture are probably wishful thinking in regards to the New England Patriots. Even with everyone trying to compound a reported schism, the Pats still got to Super Bowl 52 and almost won.

As much as the media wants to derail this never-ending dynasty, New England marches on and whether they all hate each other or not, will very likely be back on the league’s biggest stage again in 2018.

That probably also means Bill Belichick and .co will uncomfortably grin their way through another ho-hum drubbing of the AFC East. Sports bettors don’t want to hear that, but the record hasn’t changed much in the past 16 seasons.

New England has literally taken first place inside the division in each of the last nine seasons. Had it not been for a fluke Tom Brady knee injury in 2008, we may even be marveling at a repulsive 15-year reign atop the AFC East.

It’s gross, I know, but as revolting as New England’s terrorizing run has been, it’s also undeniably impressive.

Some won’t admit as much, especially when all the Pats have to do is finish the year with a better record than lowly franchises like the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

Wouldn’t you know it; Vegas is again in New England’s corner, as top NFL betting sites like already project them to win their division crown (-500 odds) for an amazing 10th consecutive season.

Everyone knows that’s probably the fate of the AFC East, but let’s take a quick look at each team and assess whether or not a better bet exists inside the division:

New York Jets (+1400)

If you want to light your money on fire, betting on the Jets to do anything of merit in 2018 is a pretty good place to start.

Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater team up to form the most fragile quarterback room (you’re a close second, Arizona) in the league, while Sam Darnold figures to see the field at some point in his rookie season.

The Jets stayed fairly competitive in 2017 and were a borderline playoff team the year before, but they still lack high-level talent.

Robby Anderson has displayed truly questionable decision-making and isn’t even an elite wide receiver, yet he’s probably New York’s top passing game weapon by a mile.

Isaiah Crowell is supposed to reform a struggling ground game, too, while Todd Bowles’ expertise is the defensive side of the football and an elite unit, he doesn’t have.

Gang Green could shock as a tough out to start the year and maybe Darnold lights a fire under a lethargic offense to close out the season. But betting on the Jets to win this division is the reachiest of all reaches.

Buffalo Bills (+1000)

I’ll hear your Bills argument, simply because they seem to be well-coached and they did just snap a disgusting 17-year playoff drought last season.

Give credit where credit is due, but the guy who guided them to such an accomplishment (Tyrod Taylor) was cast to the seas and now quarterbacks the Cleveland Browns.

There’s also a fresh batch of ugliness surrounding LeSean McCoy and if that ends up being true the Bills will be heavily dependent (gulp) on Chris Ivory to lead their rushing attack.

That’s potentially a deal-breaker for me, seeing as the Bills will surely be playing a nasty game of musical chairs under center with Nathan Peterman, A.J. McCarron and raw rookie Josh Allen all vying to burn this thing to the ground.

Buffalo, sadly, willed their way into the playoffs last year almost by mistake.

Now they don’t have a proven leader at quarterback, their best offensive weapon may be done with football and their defense – as decent as it can be – won’t be enough to get them back to the big dance.

Maybe the Bills band together, McCoy’s actually innocent and this team sniffs the postseason again.

Perhaps, but it’s going to take a string of miracles and I highly doubt they punch their ticket by dominating this division and leapfrogging the Pats.

Miami Dolphins (+800)

Truth be told, the only real threat in the AFC East to New England’s reign of terror has to be the Dolphins.

Yeah, the same Dolphins that forced Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi all out of town.

Miami does get Ryan Tannehill back and will not longer be pretending to think Jay Cutler is good, but is that enough to lift an offense that has been relatively lifeless under would-be offensive guru, Adam Gase?

It might be, but that doesn’t mean the Fins are ready to glove-slap the Pats and not run off in a hurry out of overwhelming fear.

Fundamentally, they’re just flawed. Kenyan Drake is a very explosive and creative runner, but he’s inconsistent and is suddenly being challenged by a 35-year old Frank Gore.

DeVante Parker could be the stud Jarvis Landry never quite became, or he could be the bust we’ve all realized him to be over the last three years.

Ditto for Tannehill, who was always merely a serviceable starter and he’ll be tasked with savior-like responsibilities – starting with dethroning the Pats and trying to will Miami back to the playoffs.

Miami isn’t necessarily a lost cause. If Tannehill can stay healthy and takes the next step in his development, Gase may actually have an offense to work with.

Defensively, the Dolphins aren’t elite, but they do have some solid pieces.

Overall, Miami isn’t the worst flier bet at +800. They’re just not a very realistic one.

New England Patriots (-500)

There isn’t as much to see here as you’d think.

Tom Brady will be 41 years old when the season starts and seem indestructible, while all of those Rob Gronkowski retirement and trade rumors have largely evaporated.

New England did lost Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, while star slot receiver Julian Edelman will miss the first four games of the year due to a PED suspension.

The Pats have survived worse. Remember when Brady was handed his fateful four-game ban? Yeah, New England went 3-1 and never looked back en route to another championship.

Brady is on hand this time around, Gronk will be too and the Pats beefed up their running game.

I still question if they have the goods defensively to win it all (+700 Super Bowl 53 odds), but there’s little in their way when it comes to this cakewalk division.

Who Wins the AFC East?

It’s going to take something of the post-apocalyptic variety to knock the Pats down, as they stand.

Not only do they still have the best quarterback, the best tight end and the best coach on hand, but they still have a brilliant offensive coordinator and a nice stable of running backs.

That, and this division just stinks of trash.

My apologies if you’re a fan of an AFC East team that doesn’t hail from Massachusetts. Unfortunately, this remains New England’s division and no amount of backing by Vegas is going to convince me otherwise.

If you want to toss flier bets around blindly, then yeah, take a gander at the Dolphins and cross your fingers the Patriots melt before your eyes.

New England is probably going to be fine, though, and as dysfunctional as they may be, it’s awfully difficult to craft an argument around any of these others teams being better off.

The Pats could suffer a severe injury and still coast to the AFC East crown. It’s not the fun, sexy or profitable bet you’re coveting, but it’s almost certainly still the correct one.

Pick: New England Patriots (-500)

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