Are you ready for some football?
The 2016 NFL season is days away and that means brisk fall Sundays, mom’s famous chili, friends heckling each others favorite teams and a lot of beer.
This season, unlike others, is extremely wide open. To put it simple, there is no clear cut favorite to win Super Bowl LI.
The offseason brought many headlines which put kinks in several different organizations plans for the season.
But forget about those headlines because it’s time to buckle up your chinstraps, lace up the cleats, tighten up the shoulder pads, and mold your mouth pieces for this incredible season we’re about to endure.
The 2016 AFC East preview
New England Patriots:
The Patriots will have a different quarterback under center to start a season for the first time since 2001. Tom Brady’s four game suspension for deflategate, means it’s time for Jimmy Garoppolo. He, and the rest of the Patriots, will need to get off to a fast start if they want to continue their AFC East dominance. If the Patriots find themselves starting the season 1-3 or 0-4, it will be hard for Brady to come back and nearly run the table to win the division. However, history has shown that you can never doubt Bill Belichick. He will make sure this team is ready under any circumstance.
The Pats have other question marks entering the season that could derail them a bit.
The offensive line was abysmal at times last season and one can argue that was the true reason why they didn’t represent the AFC in Super Bowl 50. The Pats did bring back Dante Scarnecchia as the offensive line coach and that should help boost production. Another question mark is the overall health of offensive playmakers Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis. We saw what the offense looked like without these dual threats on the field, not great. Edelman, coming back from a surgically-repaired foot and Lewis coming back from an ACL tear, will be key if the Pats offense wants to be the most feared in the league.
Even with Brady missing a quarter of the season and the offense having other question marks, this team should be fine in their journey to another AFC East crown.
New York Jets:
Like the Patriots, the Jets will also have a new quarterback starting under center for them, for now anyway. The J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS have yet to sign Ryan Fitzpatrick and it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Fitz, who had a career year for New York last season, apparently has Geno Smith being favored over him. Even though the Jets have dual threat wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker the loss of Fitzpatrick is going to be huge. Has Smith shown flashes of being pretty good? Yeah he has. However, he has shown more flashes of being poor which leads me to believe that the Jets are in trouble this season.
How can they avoid a detrimental season?
Their defense will still be one of the better ones in the NFL. Head Coach Todd Bowles, who is heavily defensive minded, will have his unit prepared week after week. If the Jets need to win a game on the defensive side of the ball (circa 2015 Denver Broncos) they can. Their defensive line is one of the best in the NFL and with shaky offensive lines in the AFC East, this might be just what the doctor ordered for New York.
It’s not going to be easy for Gang Green this season but if they want to dethrone the Patriots they are going to need their defense to be elite.
Has Rex Ryan guaranteed a Super Bowl appearance for Bills Mafia yet?
The 2015 Buffalo Bills vastly improved from previous seasons but will that transfer into 2016? Last season the Bills plugged in Tyrod Taylor under center and it payed off for them. With little to no expectations for the Virginia Tech product, he was able to put the the Bills in the playoff picture. This season, the Bills will only go as far as Taylor takes them. Everyone knows the defense will be solid and the fact they got younger will only help them improve for the long haul.
Where are the Bills question marks?
Can the defense be explosive week after week? This young unit will have to be the difference. Buffalo is going needs to rely on first and second round picks Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland to give the defense the extra spark or two it’ll need during the season. The wide receiver corps is also a huge toss up. Sammy Watkins is the only “real threat” Buffalo has to catch the ball and he’s had his injury concerns. Robert Woods, coming off his worst season in the NFL, must be a viable number two option for Taylor. If the Bills’ pass game isn’t consistent, than it’s going to be a long season.
The Dolphins are always the team in the AFC East that is picked by many to be the one who competes with the Patriots, but that simply hasn’t been the case. Something always happens to knock this team off and derail them for good. New head coach, Adam Gase, may be the jolt of fresh energy this franchise needs to get over the hump. Jarvis Landry, has solidified himself as one of the best up and coming receivers in the game but that won’t be enough. This team, in it’s entirety, doesn’t has the offensive fire power or defensive stability that’s needed to compete in this division.
In order for the Dolphins to improve on last season, Ryan Tannehill will have to show that he’s worth the money the organization gave him. Tannehill has shown flashes but he doesn’t have enough help to be consistent with his play. The running game is near extinct and the departure of Lamar Miller puts the offense in an even deeper hole. The team just signed former Houston Texan Arian Foster to a one-year deal, but he’s been a shell of himself over the last few years.
The Dolphins are a work in progress and they won’t be a factor in the AFC East this season, but they do have the right coach in place to help get this team back to competing year after year.
Final AFC East Prediction:
New England Patriots (11-5)
Buffalo Bills (9-7)
New York Jets (6-10)
Miami Dolphins (5-11)