Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has shown no signs of slowing down in his 40s, and there isn’t much resistance from the rest of the AFC East. The Dolphins get Ryan Tannehill back, but lost some talent as they try to reset the culture under Adam Gase. Meanwhile, the Bills, a Wild Card team a year ago, are poised to slide back after a year filled with fortunate turnovers and maximized efficiency. The Jets are creeping closer, and might have their QB of the future, and the defense has a slew of talented young players who should improve as the season goes on.
Odds to win AFC East:
New England -800
Buffalo Bills +1200
Miami Dolphins +1200
New York Jets +1400
Pick to win AFC East: New England
Best AFC East value: New York Jets +1400
New England Patriots
2018 Regular Season Wins Prop: OVER 11 (-140) / UNDER 11 (+120)
OFFENSE: The genius of head coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady is their ability to change the game plan week-to-week, anticipating their opponent’s approach and exploiting weaknesses. After Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension, the Pats will be well-equipped for a quick-strike passing attack that is almost an extension of the running game. Rob Gronkowski is among the NFL’s all-time great tight ends, and the backfield is full of moveable chess pieces.
DEFENSE: New England’s defense is masterful at the bend-don’t-break philosophy. Last season, it allowed the second-highest yards per play (5.7), but the fifth-fewest points per game (18.5). The return of Dont’a Hightower from injury and the addition of massive DT Danny Shelton should shore up what was a shaky run defense at times last season. The secondary righted itself after a disastrous start to 2017 and is unlikely to have another bad start to the season in 2018.
BOTTOM LINE: The Pats are still in a class far above the rest of the AFC, and it would be surprising if they didn’t go 6-0 in their weak division. The 11-win prop number seems strangely low considering New England has outperformed that number each of the past eight seasons. OVER 11
2018 Regular Season Wins Prop: OVER 5½ (-110) / UNDER 5½ (-110)
OFFENSE: The Bills were the NFL’s most run-heavy team in 2017, and that’s unlikely to change under new coordinator Brian Daboll. LeSean McCoy is still one of the league’s most elusive runners, though he’ll be without three starting offensive linemen from a year ago—plus, his status remains in question as he faces allegations of domestic violence. The passing game is bound to be feeble, as Buffalo has arguably the league’s worst receiving corps and a trio of unproven quarterbacks vying for playing time.
DEFENSE: Buffalo’s opportunistic defense had quite a few bounces go its way last season. The secondary was great, with CB Tre’Davious White making an immediate impact as a playmaking rookie and veteran safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer each intercepting five passes. The front seven failed to generate much pass-rushing pressure, though the arrival of former Panthers DT Star Lotulelei gives the Bills a stout interior defensive line.
BOTTOM LINE: After ending their long playoff drought in surprising fashion, the Bills are likely to take a step back in Sean McDermott’s second season as head coach. The offense lacks talent and the defense’s luck is due to run out. UNDER 5½
2018 Regular Season Wins Prop: OVER 6½ (-130) / UNDER 6½ (+110)
OFFENSE: QB Ryan Tannehill was 8-5 as a starter in 2016, which was head coach Adam Gase’s first season at the helm in Miami. Tannehill will be 13 months removed from an ACL tear, though top target Jarvis Landry was traded to Cleveland. What’s left is an uninspiring group that Gase thinks can win with scheme rather than athleticism. RB Kenyan Drake showed explosiveness late last year but will cede playing time to 35-year-old Frank Gore. The offensive line struggled last season.
DEFENSE: Miami cut Ndamukong Suh but retain a promising young DT duo of Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux. Edge rusher Robert Quinn was brought in to rush the passer opposite ageless DE Cameron Wake. CB Xavien Howard has developed into a legitimate No. 1 coverage guy, while playmaking S Reshad Jones and first-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick round out a solid secondary. The linebacking unit is a glaring weakness.
BOTTOM LINE: Gase cleaned house and jettisoned some of Miami’s top players (including Landry, Suh, Jay Ajayi and C Mike Pouncey) over the past 11 months. He believes his staff can overcome talent limitations with game-planning, but this looks like a double-digit-loss roster nonetheless. UNDER 6½
New York Jets
Regular Season Wins Prop: OVER 6 (+105) / UNDER 6 (-125)
OFFENSE: Despite a better-than-expected showing from the offense in 2017, coordinator John Morton was let go in favor of former QBs coach Jeremy Bates. There isn’t much to like about the offensive roster. Despite a weak O-line, running back Isaiah Crowell has the patience and quickness to be effective and Bilal Powell has value in a part-time role. Robby Anderson has emerged as a lethal deep threat, but the rest of the receiving corps is thin on talent.
DEFENSE: Despite the losses of DE Muhammad Wilkerson and leading tackler LB Demario Davis, the Jets D should take a step forward in 2018. Safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye showed flashes as rookies, and former Rams CB Trumaine Johnson is a huge upgrade in the secondary. Young linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Darron Lee should mature in their third season in head coach Todd Bowles’s system, and DE Leonard Williams has yet to reach his potential.
BOTTOM LINE: Bowles’s young defense (Adams, Maye, Jenkins, Lee and Williams are all 25 or younger) has the athleticism to improve from last season. And while the offense is still rebuilding, it’s certainly not unreasonable to think that the Jets will finish second in this weak division with seven wins. OVER 6