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2017 NFL Preview: AFC East

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

New England absolutely owns the AFC East, winning the division in 13 of the 14 previous seasons. The Patriots won 14 regular season games last year in route to another Super Bowl championship. Miami also earned a wildcard bid with 10 victories during head coach Adam Gase’s first season.

This is a straightforward division to forecast, as New England is the clear-cut Super Bowl favorite while the Jets are the longest of long shots. Cross conference pairings with the capable NFC South and intra conference matchups against the AFC West should preclude the AFC East from producing a wildcard team in 2017. Final division standings predictions:

1. New England Patriots

Head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia comprise the best coaching staff football, both schematically and in terms of player development. On the heels of another Lombardi trophy, their roster looks even better. Tom Brady will have a stable of running backs a his disposal, as well as newly acquired speed receiver Brandin Cooks and possibly a healthy Rob Gronkowski.

New England’s secondary may be the best in the league this season after they added free agent signee Stephon Gilmore to fellow lockdown corner Malcolm Butler and underrated safety Devin McCourty. Dont’a Hightower was re-signed to anchor the front seven, along with breakout end Trey Flowers and a bolstered defensive line. The lack of an elite edge rusher is truly the only weakness on this Patriots squad. Barring injury, a team will have to execute a near flawless gameplan to dethrone New England in 2017.

2. Miami Dolphins

Offensive guru Adam Gase coaxed a solid season from Ryan Tannehill last year. Miami is expecting big production from young running back Jay Ajayi, wideout DeVante Parker and steady slot man Jarvis Landry.

The Dolphins focused their draft on the defensive side of the ball, landing Charles Harris, Reakwon McMillan and Cordrea Tankersley, who should all be early contributors. The strength of the unit resides up front with Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, while the return of injured safety Reshad Jones should help Byron Maxwell in the secondary. On paper, the Dolphins have a well rounded roster, but they will remain pretenders until proving otherwise.

3. Buffalo Bills

The Bills are basically treading water. Sean McDermott, a defensive minded coach from Carolina, was brought in to replace Rex Ryan at head coach. Buffalo does possess a strong run blocking offensive line and Tyrod Taylor has some explosive weapons to work with in Sammy Watkins, LeSean McCoy and rookie receiver Zay Jones.

However, their defense is declining. Nose tackle Marcell Dareus has never lived up to his generous contract. Second year front-7 defenders Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland were stunted by injuries as rookies. Rookie corner Tre’Davious White merely replaces the departed Stephon Gilmore. Unfortunately for the Bills, a ball control offense paired with a below average defense is not a formula for success in today’s NFL.

4. New York Jets

After purging their roster of several quality veterans, the only notable players that remain are defensive ends Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie safety Jamal Adams. Head coach Todd Bowles is squarely on the hot seat. And rumors have already surfaced that star USC quarterback Sam Darnold does not want to be drafted by the Jets.

It is not a good situation in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Vegas oddsmakers have set the Jets win total at 4.5. Double or triple down on the under.


How many AFC East teams will make the playoffs?

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