With Brady’s Departure, Which Team Will Win the Dog Fight in the New AFC East?
After 12 years of complete dominance in the AFC East by the New England Patriots, there will be a dog fight in a Brady- less division that could leave the fans in Buffalo finally getting some sleep at night.
There were too many changes during this NFL offseason to even count on one hand and it could change the entire outlook of the league going into 2020. This offseason was a roller coaster of emotions for a lot of different teams in the league and caused a complete shift in competition for multiple divisions.
Most notably the AFC East, due to the division experiencing a major shift in competition since Tom Brady left the “division ruler” New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This move left the Patriots without the Greatest Quarterback in NFL History under center and put the top spot of the division wide open for the taking.
Patriots: Let’s first start with how the Brady- less Patriots are looking going into the 2020 season. This team has been controlling the AFC East since 2001 when Tom Brady first stepped foot in the NFL by winning 17 divisional titles including 11 straight. The last time a Patriots team didn’t have a divisional title was in 2008, when Matt Cassell was the starter due to Tom Brady tearing his ACL during the season opener. Since then, New England has cruised to the divisional title with ease by dominating Buffalo, New York and Miami in most season match ups.
This next season will be a completely different test for the Patriots as they looked to their 2019 4th Round selection in Jarrett Stidham to take the reins of the beloved quarterback. There will be an immense amount of pressure on the former Auburn quarterback to perform at a similar level as Brady once did. The reigning divisional champions were very quiet during free agency on the offensive side of the ball by only signing wide receiver Damiere Byrd to help the very thin receiver core. Throughout the 2019 season, the Patriots had a lot of issues driving the ball down the field due to the lack of weapons and the amount of inexperienced wide receivers. This caused a lot of drops and incompletions for Tom Brady and the main reason why the team ranked 24th in Completion Percentage among the NFL.
This will be a very interesting season for the former ruler of the AFC East and will be a preview of what’s to come for a Brady- less Patriots team for years to come.
Prediction: Patriots go 9-7 and miss the playoffs
Bills: This new and improved Bills team took the NFL by storm last season with a 10-6 record that would lead them into the playoffs. They had a huge comeback performance by their former 2018 No. 3 draft choice in Josh Allen when he was able to help the Bills each week find ways to win either by his arm or his legs. Now this Bills offense has a completely different identity in Stefon Diggs, after he was traded from the Viking at the beginning of the offseason. With the addition of Diggs, it makes Buffalo’s wide receiver core one of the most elite in the NFL alongside Cole Beasley and John Brown. Diggs was able to complete 63 catches for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns during 2019 per Pro Football Focus. He will look to not only repeat this performance but also use his insane talent to help Josh Allen develop into a more accurate passer.
The Bills are a very interesting team going into 2020 because they’re coming off a very exciting season in 2019 and gained a lot of talent on both sides of the ball in players other than Stefon Diggs like cornerback Josh Norman and linebacker A.J. Klein. These new defensive weapons will look to help the Bills repeat a very impressive defensive season by being ranked 3rd in the NFL in Yards per Game and were ranked just under defensive powerhouses like the Patriots and 49ers.
Buffalo will look to break their 24 year drought of not winning the AFC East and take the reigns from the Patriots as the new ruler of the AFC East.
Prediction: Bills will go 12-4 and win the AFC East
Jets: The 2019 season was one to forget for the New York Jets, after they finished with a 7-9 record and wasn’t able to produce the improvements that fans were looking for. Going into this past season, there was a lot of excitement and high expectation going into the season after the Jets signed Le’Veon Bell to a huge contract worth $52.5 million over four years to give the former 2018 No. 2 draft choice in Sam Darnold a versatile weapon. The Jets also had a newly hired head coach in Adam Gase, who was bringing a new offensive minded culture to New York that a lot of fans were excited to see how the team would perform. This felt like a fresh and exciting start to a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs 2010 and have had a draft choice in the top 3 picks over the three years.
The 2019 season started in the worst way for the Jets, after Sam Donard went down during training camp with mono. This sickness would keep their young quarterback star on the bench for the first few weeks. The Jets encountered a bevy of injuries throughout the first few weeks and caused them to look to their third string quarterback in Luke Faulk to lead the charge. This move didn’t pan out for the Jets after they started the season 0-3. The situation continued to go downhill after New York got embarrassed by New England Patriots in Week 7 when Sam Darold threw four interceptions to cause a 33- 0 loss. This was the wake up call the team needed but after that game it seemed like New York was in the headlines left and right after something Adam Gase would say.
Last season was a complete embarrassment for the entire franchise and the Jets look to improve going into 2020, but didn’t make a lot of moves to help add talent to the roster. We could the Jets be in the top 5 of the draft for the fourth year in a row if Gase and Darnold don’t find wats to get on the same page.
Prediction: Jets go 7-9 and miss the playoffs again
Miami: The Miami Dolphins are in an interesting position going into the 2020 season, after they started 2019 “Tanking for Tua” but ended up finishing with a 5-11 record and beating the division leading Patriots during Week 17. Miami is going into this season as the most improved team in the NFL, after they signed a lot of talented players in free agency and are going into the 2020 draft with 14 picks, which is the most in the league. The Dolphins were set up for success during this offseason after they went into “full rebuild mode” during last offseason and traded a lot of their high priced veterans for draft picks to not only free up cap space but add to their chest of draft picks. Going into the 2020 offseason, they had the highest available cap space with $88,520,426 according to ESPN and were looking to spend a lot to help improve both sides of the ball. The Front Office of the Dolphins went on a spending spree giving $236,610,000 to bring free agency on the roster like cornerback Byron Jones, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah, plus left guard Ereck Flowers. All of these signings drastically changed the competitiveness and talent level of this Miami team.
As I stated before, the Dolphins own the 2020 draft with three picks in the top 10 with #5, #18 and #26 but also have 14 total draft picks to help give them a lot of new young talent. They could go a lot of different directions during the 1st round but they’ll 100% draft a quarterback with one of their top three picks in the opening round. Brian Flores will have a new and improved roster on both sides of the ball going into 2020, but nobody really knows who will be under center starting the season: Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert
Prediction: Miami goes 8-8 and comes in third in AFC East
The AFC East will be one of the most interesting and competitive division’s in the NFL during not only the 2020 season but for a long time to come.