2021 NFL: AFC East Preview

by Wayne Root

In a division long dominated by the Tom Brady led New England Patriots, the GOAT-less AFC East now seems to belong to the surging Buffalo Bills or perhaps the Tua-rich Miami Dolphins, so we look at the predictions, odds, and picks of which of these developing teams could run away with this division. The Buffalo Bills are just a few roster tweaks away from going deeper into the playoffs, so expect them to post yet another productive season with QB Josh Allen rapidly developing on the job.

 Buffalo Bills -150
 Win total: 10.5

Remember this is a 17 game season

The team’s salary cap in 2021 will be lower than expected, so GM Brandon Beane will be forced to get clever this offseason if he expects to use free agency and the upcoming draft to fill in the roster spots he is currently lacking.

This includes another edge rusher and some linebacker depth, both of which could help Josh Allen’s offense get back on the field with the talented playmakers he now has as targets, including WRs John Brown, Stefon Diggs, and Cole Beasley, plus soft-handed tight end Dawson Knox.

Is this possible? Go two years without losing a division game.  (Probably)

Miami Dolphins +325
Win total: 9

Given that the 10-6 Dolphins almost made the playoffs last season, they seem to be just a few rosters moves away from getting themselves to that next level, but that is assuming they are happy with Tua Tagovailoa as their franchise quarterback.

In his rookie season, Tagovailoa went 6-3 under center, completing 64.1 percent of his passes for just over 1,800 yards and 11 touchdowns with 5 interceptions, numbers that could see improvement as he continues to learn Miami’s offense and adjust to the NFL level.

The Dolphins had the third overall pick in the draft and selected Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle.

Because of a strong early schedule, the Dolphins will be 1-3 after four games.
Week 1 at New England
Week 2 Home vs Buffalo
Week 3 at LV Raiders
Week 4 Home vs Indianapolis

New England Patriots +350
Win total: 9

With Cam Newton starting at quarterback in New England last season, the team posted their worst record since the 2000 season and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the type of failures that do not sit well with GM and HC Bill Belichick.

Now Newton is a question and the Patriots’ starting QB job is open, with backups Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer next in line, though chances are the team’s front office is looking to bring in some more veteran help at QB using free agency the way they did last offseason.

For the first time in head coach Bill Belichick's 21-year tenure, the New England Patriots have drafted a quarterback in the first round. The Patriots selected Mac Jones from the University of Alabama with the 15th overall pick during the 2021 NFL draft.

But there are plenty of holes to fill in New England’s roster, including in a defense that is historically excellent, so the Patriots used the draft to snag some young and affordable defensive talent to begin rebuilding the team on that side of the ball.

The Patriots will be 3-0 entering their Week 4 matchup against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, who will also be 3-0 entering the game -- further heightening the hype and excitement for what promises to be one of the most memorable nights in Gillette Stadium history.

 New York Jets +2000
 Win total: 6.5

The Jets’ front office was able to land the highly coveted Robert Saleh as their new head coach, the former defensive guru, and coordinator for the 49ers who was destined to lead his own NFL team at some point.

Saleh has inherited a mess in New York, his Jets roster as holey as Swiss cheese on both sides of the ball. Sam Darnold had become QB non gratis after failing to ever lead the Jets to the postseason and was traded to Carolina for draft picks.

The Jets took BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the second pick overall.

New coach, new quarterback, new offensive scheme, new defensive scheme, pretty much new everything -- and that's a good thing because the old way stunk.

The Added 17th Game 
The 17th game for AFC East teams that was implemented by the NFL for 2021 comes at home against the NFC East:
 Washington at Bills
 Giants at Dolphins
 Cowboys at Patriots
 Eagles at Jets

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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