AFC East 2019 preview: Best- and worst-case scenarios for each team


Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws during the first half against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (Adrian Kraus/AP)

The NFL is back, and Sportsnet is breaking down everything you need to know about each of the 32 teams in the lead-up to kickoff on Thursday, Sept. 5.

Today, we look at best- and worst-case scenarios for the AFC East. (Teams are listed in the order in which we believe they’ll finish in the 2019 standings.)

New England Patriots

2018 finish: 11-5, won Super Bowl

Major additions: WR Demaryius Thomas, WR Cameron Meredith, LB Jamie Collins, DL Michael Bennett, rookies WR N’Keal Harry and WR Jakobi Meyers

Major subtractions: TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Chris Hogan, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, OT Trent Brown, OT LaAdrian Waddle, DE Trey Flowers, DL Malcom Brown, CB Eric Rowe

Best-case scenario: Another Super Bowl for the best QB-coach tandem of all-time. A healthy, newly reinstated Josh Gordon, who averaged an NFL-best 18 yards per catch last year, becomes Tom Brady’s new favourite weapon and wreaks havoc in the red zone. As long Brady is upright, the Patriots have a chance to be the last team standing. Anything but another ring will be a disappointment in Foxborough.

Worst-case scenario: The Patriots end up making more noise in the news than they do on the field. Longtime Patriot Patrick Chung, who was recently indicted on cocaine charge in New Hampshire, is the most recent in a long line of Patriots to make headlines for getting in trouble with the law or breaking NFL rules — a list that includes team owner Robert Kraft.

2019 prediction: 12-4, Tom Brady retires after yet another Super Bowl win

Buffalo Bills

2018 finish: 6-10, missed playoffs

Major additions: WR John Brown, WR Cole Beasley, WR/KR Andre Roberts, TE Tyler Kroft, TE Lee Smith, RB Frank Gore, RB T.J. Yeldon, C Mitch Morse, C Spencer Long, OT Ty Nsekhe, OG Jon Feliciano, OG Quinton Spain, CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Kevin Johnson, rookies DL Ed Oliver, OT Cody Ford and RB Devin Singletary

Major subtractions: TE Charles Clay, TE Logan Thomas, OT Jordan Mills, OG John Miller

Best-case scenario: An improved Josh Allen upgrades the offence and Buffalo rides a stellar defence to the playoffs. The Bills, who were second in the NFL last year in defensive DVOA, make Allen’s life easier by giving him some more offensive playmakers and added depth in skill position players. Even just an average offence means Buffalo will likely be playoff-bound.

Worst-case scenario: Josh Allen continues to struggle with accuracy — his 52.8 completion percentage in 2018 was the worst in the NFL — and the Bills’ new offensive weapons fail to make an impact as a result. New receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley prove ineffective as their small catch radiuses are exposed by Allen’s wild inaccuracies through the air. Sophomore struggles from Allen, who last season registered the highest off target percentage in 23.7 per cent just ahead of two other QBs in the division Sam Darnold (20.4 per cent) and Tom Brady (20.1 per cent), will have the Bills selecting at the top of the draft.

2019 prediction: 8-8, miss playoffs

New York Jets

2018 finish: 4-12

Major additions: RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Josh Bellamy, OG Kelechi Osemele, LB C.J. Mosley, CB Brian Poole

Major subtractions: QB Josh McCown, RB Isaiah Crowell, WR/KR Andre Roberts, CB Buster Skrine, CB Morris Claiborne

Best-case scenario: All goes to plan and the Jets have the best backfield in the division. Pro Football Focus ranked Sam Darnold as the highest-rated QB in Weeks 14 to 17 last season, and he carries that momentum into a new season while being gifted one of the best running backs in the game in Le’Veon Bell. The Jets are rewarded for opening their wallets in free agency (they spent an NFL-high $128.4 million on free agents this off-season) and follow the trend of other big spenders — the last three teams to lead the league in off-season spending saw at least a five-win improvement in their record the next season and also made the playoffs. With upgraded talent on the roster, a playoff run isn’t out of the question for the Jets.

Worst-case scenario: Adam Gase was recently fired by a team in the same division… are we sure he’s a good head coach? Billed as a QB guru for his work with Peyton Manning, Gase wasn’t able to get the best out of Ryan Tannehill and is now tasked with shaping Sam Darnold, who is coming off a 15-interception rookie season (tied for second most in the league). If bringing in Gase compromises the development of Darnold as their franchise QB by forcing the young gunslinger to learn a new offence for the second straight year, it will be a disaster. The Jets are full of question marks and if the answers don’t come out favourable, they’ll be just as bad as they were last year — just with a bigger price tag.

2019 prediction: 8-8, miss playoffs

Miami Dolphins

2018 finish: 7-9

Major additions: QB Josh Rosen, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, CB Eric Rowe, rookies DL Christian Wilkins and OL Michael Deiter

Major subtractions: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Frank Gore, WR Danny Amendola, OT Ja-Wuan James, OG Josh Sitton, DE William Hayes, DE Robert Quinn, DE Cameron Wake

Best-case scenario: A starting QB emerges. The only true QB competition to start the year is in Miami. Fitzpatrick and Rosen are vying to be the Dolphins’ 20th starting QB since Dan Marino retired. Neither were good last year: Rosen had a 26 total QBR, 55 per cent completion rate with 5.8 yards per attempt in 2018 with Arizona while Fitzpatrick had a 63 QBR, 67 per cent completion percentage and 9.6 yards per attempt in 2018 with the Buccaneers. A lack of offensive weapons makes it difficult to properly evaluate Rosen who, at 22, could be the QB of the future with a fresh start in his sophomore year. If he can’t win the job, it’s safe to bet the Dolphins will have their sights set on the next man up as the upcoming 2020 class is loaded with QB prospects.

Worst-case scenario: The Dolphins are relevant again but for all the wrong reasons. The biggest headlines in the NFL this pre-season have been that owner Stephen Ross was throwing a fundraiser for Donald Trump that drew the ire of many, including wide receiver Kenny Stills. Stills, who is one of the many NFL players that continues to kneel during the national anthem, was back in the news when he criticized Jay-Z’s partnership with Roger Goodell. New head coach Brian Flores answered that by playing eight straight Jay-Z songs to start practice. The Dolphins are a reality show and a political pulpit more than they are a football organization. This will become an issue if the off-the-field conversation impacts the on-field production.

2019 prediction: 4-12, miss playoffs

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