2014-15 NFL Breakdown: AFC East

Posted on 22 August 2014


With just a week to go until the beginning of another season in the National Football League, here’s how the AFC East shapes up.


New England Patriots (11-5)


Should be the same old song and dance with the Patriots this season.  Tom Brady is still the Quarterback and with him under center, it’s hard to envision this team not winning 10 games by accident.  Even if Brady goes down, New England has Ryan Mallet chomping at the bit to play with second-round draftee Jimmy Garoppolo waiting in the wings.  This offensive line has never gotten the publicity it deserves for routinely keeping a clean pocket, permitting Brady to pick apart defenses year after year.  Danny Amendola should improve in his second year in this offense, and Brandon LaFell, while nothing spectacular, would be a number two wide receiver on almost every team in this league.  And, Brady makes any receiver better.  There should be little question that Darrell Revis returns to form as a lock down corner.  Despite the loss of Aqib Talib (who played very well last season), Revis at his best is an upgrade.  Vince Wilfork is getting up in age and has past injury issues that will make him a question mark.  But, even at 80 percent, Wilfork gets the job done at nose tackle.  The linebackers are solid with Jerod Mayo leading the group, and expect a breakout season from Dante Hightower.  New England doesn’t have a particularly difficult schedule, and no other team in this division is ready to challenge this season.  So, the Pats run will likely continue.


New York Jets (9-7)


The Jets can put themselves in playoff contention if the offense can elevate itself to respectability this year.  To do that, they will need their offseason additions to step up and Geno Smith simply to play at the level of a professional quarterback.  At the time he was released from the Titans, I had written an article explaining why the Jets should sign Chris Johnson.  Now that they have, the move should pay dividends.  Johnson will be just 28 when the season starts.  And, with Chris Ivory to get the hard yards, Johnson should be freed to use his speed and make big plays.  Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is one of the best screen callers in the league and can use Johnson to get  Geno Smith some easy completions and yardage.  Eric Decker, who played with Peyton Manning last season, is considered more of a possession receiver and not a game breaker who will stretch the defense.  As Geno Smith continues to develop, the addition of a possession receiver like Decker should prove advantageous for the the young QB.  While many people believe that Michael Vick should get the nod at quarterback, I would hold Vick back and bring him in only if Smith struggles.  The Jets can’t give up on Geno yet, and they know they have a capable backup if Geno can’t get it rolling.  The Jets defense should be very good this year.  Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Quinton Couples, David Harris, and the addition of Jason Babin make the front seven one of, if not the best in football.  Antonio Cromartie doesn’t get the credit he deserves as one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and his loss means second year man Dee Milliner must step his game up.  Nonetheless, the secondary should be alright.  If everything goes right, the Jets will be on the postseason ‘bubble’ come year’s end.


Miami Dolphins (8-8)


The Dolphins will look to put the disaster of last year and the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin situation behind them in 2014.  Miami used a first round pick on Ja’Wuan James to shore up the holes that those two mistakes left on the offensive line.  Ryan Tannehill has made progress in his first two seasons, and the progress he makes this year will determine how far the Dolphins can go.  Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are good wide receivers.  And, with the addition of Knowshon Moreno complementing second-year running back Mike Gillislee, Miami’s offense should be sound (assuming the line can hold up).  The Dolphin’s defense, however, is nothing to write home about.  Cameron Wake is really their only playmaker and, although he hasn’t played that many years in the league, he is 32 and his best years are likely behind him.  Cortland Finnegan is a tough cornerback who can lock guys down at times.  To compete, they will need him at his best all season.  The Dolphins need the rest of their defense, filled with players unknown to most of us, to do enough to support their offense if they have playoff plans this season.


Buffalo Bills (6-10)


New year, same result for the Bills this millennium, adding another year to their playoff drought since their last appearance in 1999.  Leaving aside concerns about new ownership and a potential team relocation, Buffalo should have an exciting offense this year.  E.J. Manuel enters his second season and, if he remains healthy, should show marked improvement from his rookie campaign.  While Jadeveon Clowney was without question the best talent in the draft, I consider Sammy Watkins a close second.  With an innate knack for game-breaking plays, Watkins is going to make plays all over the field, both on offense and in the return game.  C.J. Spiller has been very good and explosive when he is on the field.  He needs, however, to stay healthy on a consistent basis for this team.  The defensive could be one of the better units in the league this year.  Keith Rivers and Brandon Spikes have always been solid professional players and are nice additions to this defense at linebacker.  For the defensive line to excel, Buffalo will need Marcell Dareus, former third overall pick in the draft, to start playing like a game changer, Jerry Hughes (fresh off a quiet 10 sack season last year) to become the next Dwight Freeney, and Mario Williams to live up to his enormous contract.  Stephon Gilmore is an average corner from whom the Bills will ask a lot this season.  Buffalo’s early schedule, while by no means easy, is far from daunting.  If the Bills can win some of their early games and get rolling, something special could happen this year.  But, if they get off to a slow or average start, it will almost certainly be another long, cold winter for the good people of Buffalo.


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