Ell and Mike’s NFL AFC Division Predictions 2018-2019
1. New England Patriots
The Patriots will win another division title easily, with every team in the division constantly in transition. The Patriots could get off to a slow start, as they sort out their offensive weapons with a skeleton crew at WR after the suspension of Julian Edelman, but the defense will be much improved from last season with a lot of smart additions. Expect a lot of work for the RBs, as they have running backs of all styles, sizes, and skill sets that should help the team balance more, as they shouldn’t rely fully on Tom Brady at the age of 41. Expect the Patriots to continue their division dominance with big seasons from Gronk, Edelman, Chris Hogan, and my favorite RB from the draft Sony Michel, while a healthy and more physical defense leads the way. The few weak spots of pass rushing, nickel CB, and offensive line have all been addressed in the offseason, but the WR position does make you wonder which veteran will be added to the unit.
2. New York Jets
The Jets found a lot of success on offense under veteran Josh McCown and should be even better with rookie Sam Darnold who should have been #1 QB off the board, outside of the Browns’ surprise. Darnold has a solid tutor and replacement, if he shows signs that he isn’t ready, but he appears to have all the tools to be a starter. The offense is built around consistent power runners and WRs with speed who can make plays in space which should serve well for a balanced offense. The offensive line isn’t great, but can be physical run blockers and the TE group doesn’t scare anyone. The growth of the defensive unit will be key, as the secondary has been heavily invested in and the team is hoping to see its’ young playmakers in the front 7 provide a consistent pass rush. Young DE Leonard Williams and LB Darron Lee are expected to lead their respected units, but are the players around them willing to step up? In this weak division, the tough secondary and balanced offense should be too much, but they will fall short of the Patriots, even if the games could be competitive. If this defense, doesn’t improve or there is any regression in the play of Darnold, expect HC Todd Bowles to be out of a job.
The Bills had something good going last season, but saw the short term value in the situation and didn’t see it as ideal. However, now they are staring back at being bottom dwellers, unless Josh Allen can put it together this season, which is asking a lot of a player people knew would need some time before you killed his confidence. The Bills continue to have a good young defense, led by a solid young secondary and that should keep them competitive and in a lot of games. However, offensively they lost their best two lineman to retirement and traded out their LT to acquire a QB, which should make it tough on any of their QBs, as well as, LeSean McCoy who basically ran the team to wins last season. The Bills will have a lot of growing pains, but the goal will be to have Josh Allen developed to be the long term QB and find chemistry along the O-line and WR core, while improving on last year’s defensive success.
4. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are a team going through a transition, which is never good when you’re trying to be a winning team. The main strength of the team will come from the running game of Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore, and Kalen Ballage who should all be capable of productive carries; I expect Drake to learn a lot from Gore to have a big season. However, the passing game is a big question mark with the return of Ryan Tannehill and no real competition to take over or even challenge him. The WR core has added some productive players, but nothing to take them over the top, although Danny Amendola may become a favorite target of Tannehill, as a well-seasoned vet, as they will miss Jarvis Landry’s long term production. The defense has some talent at every level, but the growth of the young players will be the key, as the pass rush relies too much on older veterans and the run defense could be in question with young DTs in place. The CB position doesn’t excite me at all, but hopefully rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick helps.
New England Patriots
Let’s get this part of the way now, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are an automatic 12 wins. I know they don’t have any wide receivers and Edelman misses the first 4 games. I don’t care about any of that; Brady still has plenty of running backs to throw to, including a rookie with fresh legs in Sony Michel. And let’s not forget maybe the best tight end ever when he is on the field in Gronk. Their O-line did look to be fine after losing Nate Solder to the Giants because they drafted Isaiah Wynn but he will miss the season after suffering a torn Achilles. No matter what deficiencies this team faces they always find a way to make the Super Bowl or at least the AFC Championship. So pencil them in for 12 wins and a trip to the AFC Championship in late January.
Season Prediction: 12-4
The Dolphins did not win their offseason in my opinion. They lost the NFL’s leading receiver from a year ago in Jarvis Landry. They also lose one of their best defensive players in Ndamukong Suh and their best offensive lineman Mike Pouncey. They did add the best defensive back in the draft, Minkah Fitzpatrick and one of the highest rated tight ends, Mike Gesicki. The addition of Robert Quinn will be great combined with Cam Wake on the other side. The Dolphins get their starting Quarterback back this year in Ryan Tannehill and he will need a big year for the Dolphins to make the playoffs. Danny Amendola joins his receiving crew and will be a solid compliment to DaVante Parker. A young but talented offensive line should provide some good blocking for Frank Gore. My only question would be how much does Frank Gore have left in those legs? Because he has a lot of mileage, the future Hall of Famer failed to average 4ypc for his third straight year last season and he turned 35 in May. I believe the Dolphins will lack a balanced offensive attack and it will prove to be their downfall. If Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake can provide a solid running attack to go with Tannehill spreading the ball to Stills, Parker, Amendola and the new rookie tight end Gesicki then it could lead to a playoff berth because I believe their defense is good enough.
Season Prediction: 8-8
The Bills had a very interesting off season. They have chosen to go the risky route on offense instead of the safe route. They lose quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the Browns and acquire A.J. McCarron. It’s funny that the Browns were trying to give up 2 draft picks for McCarron last year who went 13-34 156 yards in the final preseason game for the Bills. The Bills also drafted strong arm QB Josh Allen. Allen has promise but will take some grooming and I would not be surprised if he sat the whole year, however he may be trusted into the starting lineup if A.J. McCarron does not perform well. The Bills did improve their defense with the additions of Tremaine Edmunds, Trent Murphy and Star Lotulelei. The secondary may struggle because they are depending on Vontae Davis to be their stud and he can be that if he is not insured. His best ability is not availability. The worse unit on this team has to be the offensive line. With the losses of Richie Incognito and Eric Wood, this unit will take a huge hit. Some young players will need to step up to fill the big holes left by those two veterans. A playoff team from a year ago, looks like the Bills will be gone fishing early this year. A healthy LeSean McCoy may will them to some wins this year.
*Update A.J. McCarron has been traded to the Raiders, Nathan Peterman named starter*
Season Prediction: 5-11
New York Jets
The Jets have a huge uphill climb this year. The Jets did draft their quarterback of the future in Sam Darnold. He showed some signs of promise in the preseason but he does not have many weapons to throw to on offense, besides free agent pickup Terrelle Pryor, combined with an abysmal offensive line should make for a long rookie season for the former USC QB. The Jets’ defense however should be solid with the additions of CB Trumaine Johnson to an already strong secondary and LB Avery Williamson. I’m looking for their high draft pick from a few years back, Leonard Williams to finally have that big year he is capable of. Still I don’t think that would be enough to change the Jets’ misfortunes.
Season Prediction: 4-12
Division Winner: New England
They have dominated the division for over a decade and nothing will change this season