The NFL AFC East 2020 Division Preview

Buffalo Bills against New York Jets at New Era Field on December 29, 2019

The September start for the NFL is almost upon us, and fans are wondering how the rankings for each division will work out. Here’s our preview for the AFC East Division.

The NFL AFC East 2020 Division breakdown

The AFC East Division is looking to be a close battle between the top two and bottom two teams. Sports betting fans who want to know more about our predictions for the NFL East standings, as well as the odds and team breakdowns in this close showdown can find out more below. 

4 – New York Jets

Sam Darnold of New York Jets during NFL game against Buffalo Bills at New Era Field

Division winner: +800

At the end of the day, the Jets still lack the overall roster talent required to compete for the AFC East title in 2020. 

Head Coach Adam Gase may have delivered a respectable 10-6 in 2016 with the Dolphins, but things only got worse from there. The following two years with Miami resulted in an even worse 6-10 in 2017, and only a slight improvement of 7-9 in 2018. The switch to the Jets in 2019 didn’t improve things, with Gase matching his 2018 record of 7-10.

It doesn’t help that former Jets player Jamal Adams leveled a string of criticisms at Gase, adding further support to the idea amongst Jets fans that Gase may not be the right man for the job. 

Speaking of Adams, the stand- out safety and leader of the Jets defense was traded to the Seattle Seahawks after a prolonged campaign to secure a move away from New York, stating his ambitions were not matched by the Jets roster moves. This leaves impressive second-year quarterback Sam Darnold the lone ray of hope for Jets fans,  and there is reason for optimism.  As a starter, Darnold has a record of just 11-15, with 36 touchdowns, 28 interceptions, and a completed pass percentage of 59.9. However, he has looked like a star at times and has held his own despite serious deficiencies both along the offensive line and at wide receiver.

Now though, the Jets have invested heavily to sure-up the O-line, adding Louisville’s giant tackle Mekhi Becton and Charlotte lineman Cameron Clark in the draft while signing four free agent O linemen to compete for starting jobs. 

Darnold’s individual performance aside, the offense still lacks playmakers. His receiving core may be slightly improved with the additions of rookie Denzel Mims and speedster Breshad Perriman and The Jets will be hoping for a resurgence from former rushing champion LeVeon Bell. However, there are still more questions than answers and as a result, the Jets are our pick to finish in the AFC East basement.

3 – Miami Dolphins

Ryan Fitzpatrickof Miami Dolphins during game against New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium

Division winner: +800

This team has put a lot of focus on the addition of rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who ended his college career with a ridiculous pass completion percentage of 71.4. However, he needs time to develop as a pro, and with a shortened offseason we’re unlikely to see him make the starting lineup in week 1. 

This leaves the Dolphins with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as the incumbent starter. With 20 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions in 2019, Fitzpatrick actually had a decent year and led the Dolphins to some remarkable wins down the stretch. The 37-year-old QB also, unfortunately, led the entire squad in rushing yards with just 242, highlighting some of the struggles Miami will need to correct this year. The additions of RBs Jordan Howard and Matt Breida should give the ‘fins a strong one-two punch at the position, so they will certainly have an improved running game. But the Dolphins may be rolling out three rookies along the offensive line which surely limits the upside of an offense that also returns star WR DeVante Parker and dominant TE Mike Gesicki.

The Dolphins should be better equipped on defense after free agency. With the additions of Kamu Grugier-Hill, Byron Jones, Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts, they’ve definitely plugged some of the holes they had in their defense. 

From the coaching side, the Dolphins have new defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander, who helped develop talent like Ashtyn Davis. Josh Boyer, who had previously served as the defensive backs coach on the team, has moved up to defensive coordinator. This hopefully means the Dolphins are far less likely to give up as many points as they have in previous seasons. 

While this new team is undoubtedly stronger than it used to be, at this point the Dolphins need more time for these changes to make a noticeable difference.

2 – New England Patriots

 Tom Brady of New England Patriots during game against Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium

Division winner: +130

Tom Brady, the cornerstone of the Patriots, is gone, and many are left wondering how this will impact the team that has taken home the AFC East title every year for more than a decade.

To make matters worse, other changes to the team including the loss of Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, and Kyle Van Noy, as well as opt-outs that include Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, and six other players, further reinforce the idea that if there was ever an opening for another team to step up and take the AFC East Division, now is the time.

That being said, quarterback Cam Newton could make a difference to this drastically different Patriots lineup. Newton has dozens of records behind his name, including:

  • Most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history
  • First player in NFL history with 4,000+ passing yards and 10+ rushing touchdowns in a season
  • First quarterback in NFL history with multiple seasons of 20+ passing touchdowns and 10+ rushing touchdowns in a season
  • First quarterback in NFL history to rush for 100+ yards and pass for 300+ yards with 5 touchdowns in a single game
  • Most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in his first four seasons

But he spent most of the 2019 season out of action due to an injury. With only two games played last year, Newton is definitely going to have to bring his A-game if he’s going to fill the very big shoes that Tom Brady left behind; not to mention avoid the wrath of Coach Belichick, a man who’s not known for sugar coating things.

It’s not all on Newton’s shoulders though, as outside linebacker Brandon Copeland is also likely to help the team reach the top two in the East Division. 

1 – Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen scrambles in the AFC Wild Card Playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Texans

Division winner: +125

After losing to the Texans in the wildcard round a year ago, the Bills entered the offseason on a mission to finally capture the AFC East title for the first time since 1995. The Bills, whose 10-6 regular-season record was their best in 20 years, showed real promise on defense, sporting one of the league’s very best units throughout the 2019 season. However, the offense sputtered at times as QB Josh Allen struggled to complete passes consistently and the run game was slowed by facing loaded box after loaded box as opponents enticed Allen to try and beat them.

To give Allen every chance to develop into a strong starting QB, the Bills went out and completed a blockbuster trade with the Vikings for star receiver Stefon Diggs, and then waked away from the NFL draft with three new offensive pieces, including 3rd round RB Zack Moss.

The Bills may have not been able to take the number one spot from the Patriots in the past 25 years, but as we just discussed above, this new Patriots team has lost a number of key pieces, including arguably the GOAT, Tom Brady. If you include the fact that the Bills’ roster has been fairly stable, with most 2019 starters returning to play, and that their performance was not that far behind, the Bills definitely look like a more solid pick than the Patriots for the number one slot.

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