After rolling to their 11th division title in 13 years last season, the New England Patriots start 2014 as heavy 1/3 favorites to once again win the AFC East.
The Patriots are also among the Super Bowl betting favorites at 15/2 odds, trailing only those of the Denver Broncos.
Led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots cruised to a perfect 8-0 home record in 2013, finishing the season at 12-4. But four of those wins came by three or fewer points against teams well out of playoff contention, raising concerns about New England's ability to compete against legitimate contenders.
Those concerns were realized in a lopsided 26-16 loss to Denver in the AFC Championship Game. The Pats enter the new season a 5/7 favorite to win over 11 games in 2014, while Brady is a solid 9/1 bet to take home NFL MVP honors.
New England’s closest competition in AFC East futures betting are the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, both with odds of 13/2 to win the division. The Patriots visit Miami to open the season as 4.5-point favorites, looking to win their 11th straight opener. However, they are just 5-4-1 against the spread in Week 1 over the last 10 seasons.
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During a 2013 NFL campaign marred by injuries and scandal, the Dolphins managed to stay in control of their playoff destiny as late as Week 16 before losing their final two games in shocking fashion to finish 8-8, missing the postseason for the 11th time in 12 seasons.
With two Dolphins, Dion Jordan
and Reshad Jones
, already suspended before the season has started, the Dolphins are expected to endure another losing season, with 4/5 odds favoring a regular season win total below 7.5. Dolphins coach Joe
Philbin is also a favorite to be the first NFL coach fired, with odds of 7/1.
It was a roller coaster 2013 NFL season for the Jets, who failed to string together back-to-back wins until the last two weeks of the season, finishing 8-8 and out of the NFL playoffs for a third straight year.
New York enters the season shrouded for uncertainty and pegged for seven regular season wins in NFL props betting and as a 7/2 long shot to return to postseason action. After finishing 29th in the NFL in points scored last season, the Jets have taken a risk on Michael Vick, bringing in the veteran quarterback to push incumbent starter Geno Smith, who threw just 12 touchdowns against 21 interceptions in 2013.
The best Jets bet may be on coach Rex Ryan, who owns 10/1 odds to be the first coach fired in 2014.
The Buffalo Bills round out the pack as 9/1 longshots to win the AFC East. The Bills recorded their ninth straight losing season in 2013, finishing 6-10. But with six of their games settled by three points or less, including a pair of losses in overtime, the situation in Buffalo may not be as dire as it appears.
The big news in Buffalo is the arrival of rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Taken fourth overall by the Bills at this year’s NFL draft, Watkins will be relied upon to connect with second-year quarterback EJ Manuel and ignite a Bills offense that produced just 21.1 points and 193.9 total yards per game last season.
With Watkins receiving Offensive Rookie of the Year consideration early on, the Bills are a 20/33 bet to finish the 2014 regular season with over 6.5 wins. They open against the Bears in Chicago, where they have not won in the past 40 years, but they are 7-2 ATS in their past nine openers.
2014 NFL division preview: AFC East
Sports Illustrated's Don Banks previews the AFC East for the 2014 NFL season.