NFL 2018 – AFC East Season Preview

Jimmy McGinty previews the AFC East.

AFC East

New England Patriots

2017: (13-3) 1st in Division and Super Bowl runners-up. Fortunate enough to beat the Jags in the AFC decider and well beaten by the Eagles on the big day.

Cooks to LAR, Amendola to MIA, Lewis to TEN and Edelman suspended for the first 4 games. Brady has lost plenty of targets but hey it’s the Patriots, they’ll still be very good. My only worry for them now is if Chris Hogan, Rex Burkhead or, most importantly of all, Gronk get injured. Then they’ll struggle against decent teams. Malcolm Butler, Nate Solder and even DC Matt Patricia all left as well so there’s plenty of change to bed in.

With more talent on defense - Clayborn, Shelton, McCourty were added whilst Donta Hightower returns from injury (was a big loss at times last season), and less attacking options, and Brady hoping to save himself as much as possible, I think we could see a slower paced run heavy Patriots in 2018. Ala the Saints in 2017. Burkhead is the key man for your fantasy team. Last year he was injured regularly yet was still second to only Alvin Kamara in yards per route run. With Dion Lewis moving on and Sony Michel injured we should see more game time for Burkhead and he can put up big figures.

They’ll stroll the division (BUF, MIA & NYJ – amazing all three can be so bad at the same time) and have a home game starting the AFC playoff run but at the moment I feel they’ll be bettered by someone late in the season. The AFC South teams all look to be getting it together, the Chargers too and of course the Steelers will be good again.

Road games in DET, CHI, JAX, PIT as well as home clashes with GB, MIN & HOU will ensure the Pats drop at least 3 or 4 games

Best bet: I don’t have one to be honest. But I am against them in AFC and Super Bowl markets and against Brady in MVP and passing yard markets – all outlined in future previews.

Buffalo Bills

2017: (9-7) 2nd in Division and scraped into playoffs where they were promptly beaten. A 6-2 record in one score games, 30th in yards per play and a negative score difference tells you just how poxy the Bills were. About as talented as a 6 win side.

This year it’s all change in Buffalo. And it’s not good. They’ll still be attempting to run the ball but without a dual threat QB that won’t be as successful. And having a talented throwing QB is pointless with this bunch of receivers. Kelvin Benjamin is desperately overrated & Zay Jones could be even worse this season, if that is possible, after off-season surgery. Whether it’s passing or running it’ll all be done behind a bad offensive line (top 10 last year, bottom 5 now –  I can’t stress how much of a difference this will make). They’ve lost Wood and Incognito (retired) and Glenn (to Bengals).

Game script will generally dictate this run first team won’t get to run as often as they’d like and for good measure - they face a really strong run defense schedule. LeSean McCoy is likely to be suspended which is obviously another big loss if it occurs. Cornberback EJ Gaines signing for the Browns is another negative move for the Bills.

A bad roster; where can they win games? Well facing the Jets and Dolphins twice gives them hope but the schedule is actually brutal. I think both the NFC North and AFC South are really strong divisions and these AFC East teams must play both. The Bills could start 0-8. Seriously. 5 road games in the opening 8 weekends. And the first 3 home games are the Titans, Chargers and Patriots – playoff calibre sides. I like Miami this year and see slight improvement in NYJ so the Bills aren’t winning more than 4 games.

Best bet:

6pts Season Total Under 6 wins 5/6 PaddyPower

2pts Worst regular season record 5/1 PaddyPower (Browns are going to improve, Cardinals are the danger)

Interested in them to finish 4th in AFC East (6/4 with redzonesports) also

Redzonesports are new to me but seem to have the most markets available of the NFL currently. It’s hard to find some of the markets, oddschecker isn’t much help currently so use the info and shop around.

Miami Dolphins

2017: (6-10) Six wins wasn’t bad a return for a side who lost their starting, and only, QB a few weeks before the season opener. Retired Jay Cutler was deemed the best option. He was bad. And then due to a hurricane they had to play the 16wk season without a bye. It included a trip to London – a rotten schedule.

On the average games lost through injury stat they were 3rd last so really should get better fortune with injuries compared to last season. They were also amongst the worst teams in both turnovers and penalty yards; things that are improvable and will bring about more winning opportunities if improved upon. Based solely on 2017 I like the Dolphins to be far better in the coming season. Remember they made the playoffs with 10 wins the year before in HC Adam Gase’s first year in charge.

Tannehill will be a massive step up on Cutler and he’ll be behind an OL that has improved drastically. Josh Sitton is the key addition, it’ll still only be average but yet far better than it was. Jarvis Landry is gone to Cleveland but MIA will be just fine. Landry racked up the receptions but his yards per catch were behind every other receiver in the top100 last year. Parker, Stills, Wilson, Amendola, Gesicki and Drake are all talented options in offensive skill positions. Drake actually measures up very well on many analytics and now gets a chance to show it as the main starting running back. They scored a league low 4 rushing TDs last year so there’s definitely room for improvement there!

By not needing to go QB in the draft, like many of the bad teams did, it allowed them add a talented tight-end and some talent on defense also. I’ve read previews that include MIA CB Xavien Howard as a rising star and CB Minkah Fitzpatrick as the best defensive rookie, so the secondary should be solid. Suh is a big loss to the defense but he was considered a problem in the locker room so perhaps it’s best he’s gone. Robert Quinn will be missed in LA but he’ll be a force for the Fins passrush. There is plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.

Schedule - Bills and Jets twice means it won’t be too bad anyhow. Home clashes with Chicago, Detroit and Oakland will be winnable also. Tennessee on the opening weekend and at Bengals in wk5 will be other opportunities. Then they’ll just need to pick off a few wins against the better teams to have a very good season.

Best bet:

4pts Season Total over 6.5wins EVS Paddy Power

New York Jets

2017: (5-11) The roster looked awful but they surprised most pundits with 5 wins. Looking a little closer; they limped past the miserable Browns, beat an awful Cutler led Dolphins, beat the Jags who were on the road coming from London and the Chiefs were on a big losing streak when the Jets toppled them. Perhaps they were more like a 2 or 3 win team who got lucky.

A bit like 12mts ago the roster still looks a bit garbage. One of the few bright spots, tight-end Seferian-Jenkins has signed for the Jags. But there is hope. Rookie QB Sam Darnold does look to be a decent talent. Likely starter for the first few games Josh McGown looked better than expected last season. Enunwa is back having missed all of 2017 and well you could kind of say the same of talented Terrelle Pryor who was awful in WAS last year. Robby Anderson is a decent receiver once he’s not suspended. Whoever is QB will have some options with those three on the field. I’ve no idea who the starting running back will be but I guess the best of Crowell, Rawls or Powell will be an ok option. If they had a tight-end I’d be more in their camp.

And the defense was decent enough and getting Trumaine Johnson to play in the opposite corner to Morris Claiborne is now a really good secondary CB pairing either side of the talented Jamal Adams. Todd Bowles is a good coach and he looks to have a little more talent at his disposal this year, so they shouldn’t be worse than last year’s 5 wins.

With MIA improving and the Pats there as well it’s not going to be easy. They also face the AFC South and NFC North, two divisions who could win loads of games between them. Some of the perceived easier games (CLE, CHI, DET) are on the road which makes it a little harder. Personnel wise I like the Jets to be better than the 2017 version but looking at their schedule I just don’t see where 5+ wins come from.

Best bet:

No bet. For Dolphins and against Bills is enough of an involvement here.

2018 AFC East prediction:

Pats                      12-4

Dolphins              8-8

Jets                        4-12

Bills                        1-15