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AFC East Predictions and X-Factors

AFC East

1. Bills

The Bills should once again win the AFC East for the 2nd year in a row led by Josh Allen and a loaded offense. With Allen locked in for a 6-year extension, the Bills could be atop the division for years to come. If the running game can find more consistency between Devin Singletary and Zack Moss or they can challenge each other to be a top speed and power duo, then this offense could be very hard to stop. The combination of Allen to WR Stefon Diggs proved to be one of the top connections and there should be much more to come, behind a deep WR unit with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders.

X-Factor – TE Dawson KnoxKnox proved to have solid pass catching TE and showed good chemistry with Josh Allen, but he needs to be more consistent this season.  

The Bills defense is still led by a strong veteran front 4 with solid depth of high draft picks allowing them to stop the run or pass multiple ways. The Bills were able to bring back most of their defense and should continue to be one of the top units. However, the young secondary could be a concern despite having top CB Tredavious White and Safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, so adding a veteran CB would put this team at the top of the AFC.

X-Factor – DT Ed Oliver – Oliver was compared to Aaron Donald coming out which shows his potential. While he has been a force in the middle, he needs to show a lot more consistency.

2. Patriots

The Patriots will have a tough time taking the division back, but there should be a lot of growth with the players returning from opting out and the new additions in free agency. The Patriots should continue to have one of the top rushing attacks in the league behind Damien Harris and Sony Michel along with the help of Cam Newton. Of course, the key to the season will be the play of Newton, but with the added weapons, TEs Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and WRs Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, Newton will have to produce or be replaced, but I believe that he will be better than last season.

X-Factor – TE Jonnu SmithSmith was a solid TE for the Titans and proved to be a solid pass catcher and blocker who can be used multiple ways. The Patriots love TEs and this could be an ideal situation.

The Patriots defense have a solid CB duo in Stephen Gilmore and J.C. Jackson after deciding not to move on from Gilmore which should make them dangerous against any passing attack. The return of MLB Dont’a Hightower and OLB Kyle Van Noy should be major upgrades to a young defense from last season that played well and received a lot of experience, but these veterans can teach the way. The defense has a lot of pieces built to the mode they prefer and there should be no questions on that side of the ball this year.

X-Factor – CB J.C. JacksonJackson filled in nicely as one of top CBs in the league while Stephen Gilmore was out, but with Gilmore healthy again, if Jackson can play up to his level from last season, the Patriots will have the top CB duo and No Fly Zone.

3. Dolphins

The Dolphins added a lot of speed in the offseason in Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller to help Tua as he adds more long throws to his game, so the key to their season will be the growth of their QB. The Dolphins’ running game has been interesting after using multiple backs last season, but Myles Gaskin seems to be the favorite to be the feature back. TE Mike Gesicki is growing into a solid pass catching TE and should only get better. I expect the Dolphins to show nice balance on offense, but there will be growing pains for Tua in his 2nd year.

X-Factor – QB Tua TagovailoaTua’s growth in his 2nd season will be the key to how far this team can go which will be based on his ability to improve his overall game and take more shots downfield.  

The Dolphins defense should be led by their long secondary at both CB and Safety led by top CB Xavien Howard, but he appears unhappy about his contract so that is an issue that will need to be resolved. The young front 7 should be a year better, but they could struggle to generate a solid pass rush outside of Emmanuel Ogbah and Andrew Van Ginkle. The addition of MLB Benardrick McKinney should help against the run.

X-Factor – DT Christian WilkinsWilkins is good player at this point with great size, versatility, and potential who they are expecting to only get better in year 3 under a new position coach.

4. Jets

The Jets should be last in the division again unless rookie QB Zach Wilson pulls off a miracle. The positive sign is that the Jets are under a new regime with new HC Robert Saleh to lead the defense and the offense has been totally rebuilt. The addition of WR Corey Davis from the Titans should help along with a healthy Denzel Mims in his 2nd season. The offensive line should be improved with the last two 1st round picks on the left side together in LT Mekhi Becton and rookie LG Alijah Vera-Tucker. The running game lacks a true impact back and should once again be led by committee with newly added Tevin Coleman as the veteran in the group.

X-Factor – QB Zach WilsonWilson will determine the direction of the Jets as the clear-cut starter, so playing in New York he will be judged early and often.

The Jets defense still lacks the top talent but under Saleh and with the offseason additions of DE Carl Lawson, DT Sheldon Rankins, DE Vinny Curry, and LB Jarrad Davis the unit should be improved and competitive. The return of LB C.J. Mosley should help as a veteran presence in the middle for play calling duties and leadership. The young stars of the defense DT Quinnen Williams and S Marcus Maye should be a year improved, as well.    

X-Factor – DE Carl LawsonLawson was a big pickup for the Jets as a young pass rusher the Bengals didn’t want to lose, so they are hoping he can be even better going forward.

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