AFC East Preview


Jarrett Bailey, Sports Writing

With the AFC halfway done, It’s time for me to head East with the Pats, Bills, Dolphins and Jets.

  1. Patriots (12-4): With Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension lifted, the Patriots’ future is looking as bright as ever. They have a solid group of receivers with Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman out wide and Danny Amendola in the slot. And if those three options fail, Rob Gronkowski is always a viable option at tight end. We all know Gronk’s abilities, as he’s proven to be maybe the best tight end in all of football, as last year he accounted for 82 receptions for 1,124 yards and 12 TDs. Defensively is where the Pats may struggle. Rob Ninkovich is a very good defensive lineman, but other guys that had high expectations have struggled during the Pre-season, such as Jerrod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower. In the secondary, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are both good options at safety who will lead the group. Even though everyone in America hates the Patriots at this moment (unless your a Pats fan), expect good things to come from Foxboro.
  2. Dolphins (10-6): The Dolphins made a huge splash (no pun intended) during the off-season when they signed Ndomokung Suh from the Lions through free agency. Not to mention, they locked up Ryan Tannehill with a 6 year deal earlier in the year. Their offense got another huge boost as they brought in Greg Jennings at receiver and Jordan Cameron at tight end as some new toys for Tannehill to play with. Defensively, I already mentioned the acquisition of Suh, which turned their front four into one of the best in the NFL, with Cameron Wake flanking Suh to his left and the tandem of Earl Mitchell and Oliver Vernon to his right. Leading this secondary is Brent Grimes at cornerback. Grimes is a dynamic player and one of the top cover guys in the NFL. I think the Dolphins make some noise this year and clinch a wildcard birth.
  3. Bills (9-7): Looking at the Bills this season, they definitely have some upgrades on offense. They acquired LeSean McCoy at halfback from the Eagles. With McCoy being arguably the best back in the NFL, this is huge for the balanced attack of the Bills. It also seems that they will go with Tyrod Taylor at QB, rather than EJ Manuel or Matt Cassel. At receiver, they brought in Percy Harvin to compliment the young dynamo Sammy Watkins. Defensively, the Buffalo front seven is a very talented unit. Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, and Jerry Hughes are one of my favorite groups of D-Linemen to watch. Their combined talents attract enough attention to open up holes for guys like Nigel Bradham, Manny Lawson and Preston Brown to make plays in the backfield. In the secondary, they have two of the best in the business at their respected positions with Stephon Gilmore at corner and Corey Graham at safety. I think the Bills have a successful season, and depending how they an handle their tough schedule, maybe crack a wildcard spot.
  4. Jets (6-10): I see a little improvement from the Jets this season, but nothing spectacular. They did add Brandon Marshall at receiver during the off-season, and putting him opposite of Eric Decker is a good combo. The only problem is that they don’t have a quality QB to compliment their talents. Geno Smith turned out to be a disappointment, so now it’s on to Ryan Fitzpatrick to try to lead this offense. Fitzpatrick had a stretch of three good years with the Bills from 2010-12. Many people also see Chris Ivory as a sleeper at halfback, so be on the watch for him as well. On defense, we all know about Darrelle Revis coming back at corner, so that is a huge boost to this Jets team to have him and Antonio Cromartie back together. I do like Muhammad Wilkerson at defensive end and Quinton Coples at linebacker, as well. Although the Jets acquired more talent in the off-season, I think it will take a while to develop a chemistry together, and I am not sold on Fitzpatrick at QB. I think they improve by a few wins, but it may take another season until we see them in a playoff chase.