Is the winner of the AFC East already a foregone conclusion? Most certainly feel that way with the Buffalo Bills installed as significant favorites. Here's a quick look at what to expect from this top-heavy division in 2021.
Odds to win (courtesy BetOnline)
Buffalo Bills -180
New England Patriots +280
Miami Dolphins +360
New York Jets +2410
Josh Allen is back to lead one of the AFC's top contenders this season and there's little reason to expect much of a drop-off in production on either side of the football. The Bills are obviously loaded with talent but if there's a weakness it's in the backfield, where they've done little to improve a ground game that finished in the bottom-half of the league in rush yards in 2020 and features the likes of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and Matt Breida. Buffalo does face a tough schedule out of the gate with three of its first five games coming against playoff teams from a year ago. Key matchups include a home date against the Steelers in Week 1 and a trip to Tampa to face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on December 12th. The Bills will be featured in four primetime matchups this season with the possibility of more to be added as a result of TV schedule flexes.
New England Patriots
Cam Newton has been forced into Covid protocols at the time of writing, perhaps giving rookie Mac Jones a puncher's chance at stealing the starting job in Week 1. Jones has impressed in preseason play, as has the Patriots defense, which should be improved heading into 2021. If New England can get more consistency out of the quarterback position there's reason to believe it can give the Bills a challenge atop the AFC East. That's a big 'if' of course, especially with a subpar supporting cast at the skill positions on offense. Still, it's tough to count out a Bill Bellichick-coached team - especially coming off a down year.
It's Tua-Time in Miami as the second-year man will have the starting quarterback job all to himself with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick out of the picture. The additions of wide receivers Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle should pay immediate dividends for the Fins offense which was relatively punchless a year ago. Of course, injuries are always a concern when it comes to Fuller but all indications are that he will at least be healthy to start the season. Miami will face the consensus eighth-easiest strength of schedule. It won't take long for the Fins to see where they stand in the AFC East as they open the season with a trip to New England followed by a home game against Buffalo.
New York Jets
Zach Wilson has arguably been the league's most impressive rookie quarterback during the preseason. He's likely to encounter plenty of growing pains once the curtain drops on the regular season, however, as he operates behind what is projected to be one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and makes do with a receiving corps that lists Corey Davis atop the depth chart. They do have an opportunity to get off to a positive start with three straight games against non-playoff teams from a year ago to open the season. New York will venture across the pond to London for a date with the Falcons on October 10th.