It’s almost that time again, on September 8th, there will be a Super Bowl 50 rematch to kick off the new NFL season. This series is being used to go through each division to do a preview of each team and where each team is going to place within each of their divisions.
This division has essentially been a one team division for the last fifteen years and it hasn’t even been close. This year might be more interesting, the New York Jets made some really good progress last season. Adam Gase and Ryan Tannehill should be an interesting coach and quarterback dynamic for Miami. Rex Ryan and his brother Rob could help the Bills defense improve in year two. Finally, Tom Brady will miss the first four games of the season. All of this could cause another team to take New England’s crown, but the Patriots still have a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball.
The Miami Dolphins have an interesting team. Ryan Tannehill seems like he has been on the verge of being a really good quarterback every year since he has been drafted, but hasn’t really made that step yet. Fortunately for Tannehill, he has a new head coach in Adam Gase, that has an excellent track record of making quarterbacks better. He helped Denver make the playoffs when Tim Tebow was their quarterback, Peyton Manning has had high praise for him, and he got a lot out of Jay Cutler when everyone thought he was washed up. All of those things should give Miami fans a little hope that Tannehill could take that step.
The Dolphins had a little luck this offseason when Laremy Tunsil plummeted to them in the draft last year. A lot of people though Tunsil was the most talented player in a last year’s draft, but there were just a lot of questions about his character and had an unfortunate video pop up just minutes before the draft. He will be the starting left guard this season and is the future left tackle as long as he keeps his head on straight. The rest of the line was regarded as one of the worst last year and hopefully they can bounce back and be better this year. They have a solid receiving corps with DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry and tight end Jordan Cameron. They also replaced Lamar Miller with a really good running back in Arian Foster, and if Foster doesn’t stay healthy, Miami still has Jay Ajayi to back him up.
The Dolphins did lose Olivier Vernon to free agency, but they still have a pretty decent defense without him. Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, and newly acquired Mario Williams make for one of the scariest defensive lines in the league. They acquired two players from Philadelphia that were a little underwhelming for Eagles fans. Kiko Alonso has the talent to be a really good linebacker, but has suffered two knee injuries since coming in the league. Byron Maxwell was given a large contract after having success in Seattle, but didn’t live up to the contract once he arrived in Philadelphia. He will benefit from having that really good defensive line this year. They also brought in Xavien Howard via the draft, who has all the physical tools to be a really good cornerback, but needs to develop this year first. Hopefully the rest of the back seven can really help the line and make the defense a true strength of this team.
The Buffalo Bills had eight wins last season and it’s hard to imagine that they will win more than that this year. Tyrod Taylor is the starting quarterback for now and they have EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones as their backups. Taylor isn’t the best quarterback in the league, but if Manuel or Jones has to play this season, the Bills are in a lot of trouble. They do have a really good receiver in Sammy Watkins, but he broke his foot in May. It seems like he will play at the start of the season, but this is a tricky injury to come back from. Dez Bryant and Julio Jones have both had the same injury and it took a while for either of them to come back to form. This team does have a two good running backs with LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush, but they both need to stay healthy to be effective. The other good thing that they have as a good offensive line. That should help Taylor, McCoy, and Bush make it through the season healthy and make this team healthy.
The Buffalo defense has a good secondary, but the pass rush could be an issue for the Bills. They lost their best player in Mario Williams and their two big defensive draft picks Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland will miss most if not all of the season. That isn’t good for a team that is lacking in defensive depth. Not only do the Bills lose them for most or all of the season, but that also stunts their growth for the 2017 season. Hopefully they can get healthy sooner so they can start to really develop and adapt to the pro game. They do have a good secondary which will help this defense out immensely. Ronald Darby had a good rookie campaign and should be better going into his second season. Stephon Gilmore has been very consistent for the last two seasons and should improve even more this season. They also added Sterling Moore, who is a very good backup that will also be competing for the starting slot corner spot.
New York Jets
The New York Jets made a huge jump last year under new head coach Todd Bowles and has the chance to be good again this year. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played really good last year and they ended up re-signing right before training camp. He should be better this year as he gains more chemistry with his receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. They also replaced Chris Ivory with Matt Forte, who is better, but is aging as well. Forte had a few nagging injuries last year, but if he is healthy then he can help this Jets offense be better at running at passing than they have been in the last few years. Their offensive line is one of the biggest problems with this offense. They are just too old and need some new pieces to get better. If they allow Fitzpatrick to get hurt and have to use Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, or Christian Hackenberg for an extended period of time then this team won’t win a lot of games.
The Jets defense starts and ends with Darrelle Revis. He probably isn’t as good as he was a couple of years ago, but he is still a top corner in the NFL. The other corners are a little concerning, Buster Skrine, Marcus Williams, and Dee Milliner all have their own individual issues between injuries, poor play, and limited play that should concern New York fans. Luckily, their safeties, Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist, are both pretty good and might be able to cover up some of the cornerback faults. The strength of this team is going to be the pass rush. Muhammed Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams are all studs on the New York Jets defense and they should only get better this season. Williams is going into his second season and should make this line very intimidating going forward. They should be able to help cover some of the issues with the secondary.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have been the most consistently good team in the NFL for the last fifteen years. They have won their division all but one time in the last thirteen years thanks to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Brady will be out for the first four games, but Pats fans get to see what life might be like when Brady decides to hang it up. Jimmy Garoppolo will benefit from having a really good team around him. They already had receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, running back LeGarrette Blunt, and of course tight end Rob Gronkowski. They then added a very good second tight end Martellus Bennett. That sets up for a good situation no matter who the quarterback is this season. Brady will also come out on fire starting in week five, last season when his suspension didn’t happen he came out with something to prove.
The Patriot defense is still a very good defense. Malcom Brown is coming into his second season and should make a big jump. The addition of Chris Long makes this defensive line even better than it was before. Malcolm Butler should make a jump entering into his second season and Dont’a Hightower is a really good linebacker that will be a benefit to this defense. This secondary is really good as well and should make the front seven even better. Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan are one of the best cornerback duos in the league. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are one of the best safety tandems in the league and help create a top five secondary. This defense should help the Patriots stay competitive even if Garoppolo isn’t stellar in Brady’s absence.
4th Place: Buffalo Bills
This team doesn’t have enough playmakers other than an injured Sammy Watkins and a returning LeSean McCoy. The secondary should be good enough to keep the Bills in some games, but they probably won’t win them many games. The quarterback play and pass rush will hold this team back and will have to add some more pieces for the 2017 season. Buffalo will probably win somewhere around four or five games this season.
3rd Place: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins should be better than they were last year, but won’t compete for a playoff spot. The hope for Miami is that Adam Gase can really get Ryan Tannehill going in the right direction. He should be able to build some good chemistry with all of his offensive weapons as long as the offensive line can keep him upright. Their defensive line and decent secondary should be able to help them win a couple of games this season. The Dolphins will win either seven or eight games and be on track for the future.
2nd Place: New York Jets
The New York Jets should be about as good as they were last year because there wasn’t a lot of change in the offseason with the exception of the running back position. If the offense can stay healthy, their defensive line lives up to their potential, and the secondary doesn’t make a lot of mistakes this team could make a run at one of the playoff spots. The Jets will probably win nine or ten games this upcoming season.
1st Place: New England Patriots
It is hard to pick anyone other than the Patriots when they have been the most consistent franchise in the NFL for the last fifteen years. If the Patriots can win two of the four games while Brady is gone, they will run away with this division. The defense and offensive weapons should be able to hold this team up in Brady’s absence. This New England Patriots should win at least twelve games and this division for the eighth stra
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