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NFL Kickoff: The 2020 AFC East

The AFC East is up for grabs for the first time in twenty years. Who takes the crown?

Josh Allen by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

NFL Kickoff: The 2020 AFC East

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

The status of the 2020 NFL Season seemed to hang in the air, drifting wide of the uprights for months. As we all watched with bated breath as the league hurdled towards disaster, the league sat back and came up with a plan of changes to ensure that players and coaches remain safe and healthy.

The NFL miraculously split the uprights and now we’re playing football in 2020.

So we’re looking at each of the NFL divisions and diving into how they fit into the new NFL landscape and how they’ve spent the offseason prepping for a run at the Lombardi trophy this season.

Let’s dive right in and talk about the AFC East.

The Miami Dolphins – 5-11 in 2019

Miami may be the most interesting team to watch this year in the AFC East. After starting the season 0-7 (including an 0-2 while being outscored by 92), former New England Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores seemed to get things on track in the latter half of the 2019 season. They lacked the explosiveness on offense to keep up with all the points that their D was giving up. But will Tua wrestle the starting job from Fitz-magic and breathe some life into the offense?

Probably not, but it’s fun to dream right? The Dolphins simply don’t have the talent to compete in the AFC right now but with a haul of draft picks, they’re rebuilding under Flores. I’m excited to see what happens at QB once Fitzpatrick has his inevitable 4 Interception game. Do they let him ride out the season or does it become Tua’s team? With speedy Devante Parker and the signing of multi-purpose back Jordan Howard, Tua should have some safety blankets to get his feet under him in this offense.

At the end of the day, I’m guessing the Dolphins will float somewhere between 6 and 8 wins in 2020. 3rd in the East.

The New York Jets – 7-9 in 2019

Ohhhh the Jets – how will you break your fans hearts this year?

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In his third year, Sam Darnold and this Jets team have a lot to prove. If he can avoid Mono/Covid, he and Le’Veon Bell should crease the AFC East’s highest-scoring offense. Admittedly, that’s a low bar this year. Supplement that with a stodgy front-7, the Jets SHOULD be in playoff contention.

But c’mon – these are the Jets! After losing Jamal Adams, their best player the past 2 years, expect the defense to take a step back and for opposing QBs to carve up the secondary. The Jets lack talent in their receiving corps and will (again) be heavily reliant on an aging Bell and sub-par offensive line. Defenses will stack the box and make Darnold throw. The major question – can he make the leap in his third year?

My bet is no – at least not enough to get this team over the hump. Similar to the Dolphins, expect a(nother) sub-.500 season. 4th in the East

The Buffalo Bills – 10-6 in 2019

The Bills rode a dominant defense into a playoff berth in 2019. While mistake-prone, Josh Allen used his legs to create plays for an otherwise anemic Buffalo offense. Buffalo’s front office looked to address the lack of consistency by trading for Minnesota malcontent Stefon Diggs. Can he bring the same big play ability to Buffalo with playing opposite a world-class receiver? If he can, Buffalo is poised to make some noise in the AFC.

Assuming a healthy season, Buffalo should be the favorite to dethrone New England in the East. The reality is these teams all face a tough 2020 schedule, as they drew the NFC and AFC West. Their defense will definitely be tested so Allen will need to limit his mistakes to give Buffalo a fighting a chance. I expect Buffalo to float in the 9-10 win range, barring a major injury to one of their key skill players. 1st in the East, 4-seed in the AFC.

The New England Patriots – 12-4 in 2019

Alas, all good things must come to an end…

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We’ll miss you, Tommy…

The major story of the New England offseason needs no repeating. For the first time in 20-years, there’s a legitimate QB-battle in Foxborough. Despite the Stidham-hype train, it appears Cam Newton is running away with the job in camp.

But that’s not the only turmoil the Pats faced this offseason. They saw more players opt out due to Covid than any other team, including their defensive general, Dont’a Hightower. Losing both your offensive and defensive captains is a tough pill to swallow. A step back for the Pats has to be expected in 2020.

But they still have Bill. They have a fired-up Cam Newton with a chip on his shoulder. There’s no doubt we’re going to see a very different New England team than we’ve seen in years past. But they are still returning one of the NFL’s best secondaries, who should give them a chance in every game. With the league’s toughest schedule, expect New England to take a step back but remain competitive for a playoff spot. 2nd in the East, final WC spot in the AFC.

Division Winner:

The reality is that the AFC East is as open as it’s been in over two decades. With a combination of a little luck and health, there’s a legitimate chance ANY team takes the East. But if I were a betting man, I’d be putting my money on Buffalo to take the East.

Ryan grew up outside of Boston in Waltham, MA watching the Pats, Celtics, Sox and Bruins. Despite now living in the vastly inferior sports city of NYC, he remains a die-hard Boston sports fan and is often "that guy" in the bar ridiculing NY sports. Ryan works in tech and is the Co-Founder and President of the recently incorporated Emergent TheaterWorks in NYC, a non-profit theater company focused on producing new and underdone works.

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