2022 looks to be much of the same for the two-time defending AFC East champion Buffalo Bills.
With Head Coach Sean McDermott entering his sixth season, quarterback Josh Allen primed to challenge for his first MVP trophy and Super Bowl aspirations at an all-time high, this could be the year for Bills Mafia. While the Bills remain the talk of the AFC East, three teams remain on the divisional totem pole with aspirations to dethrone one of the current powers in the AFC.
In order, here is how I envision the AFC East shaping out below the Bills this fall.
Man, South Beach is going to be fun all year long. With wide receiver Tyreek Hill now in the fold to pair opposite Jaylen Waddle, the Dolphins intend to nip at the heels of the Bills until Week 17 comes to a close. While it remains to be seen just how impactful the hiring of Head Coach Mike McDaniel will be towards the overall success of this impressive Dolphins roster – everything starts and stops under center with Tua Tagovailoa. A product of the Shanahan-McVay coaching tree, McDaniel’s philosophies align nicely with the skill set of his young quarterback. Pound the rock, pick apart teams in play-action and blow the roof off with speed. All three boxes – on paper – look to be bolded as we approach training camp.
The fastest man in football, Hill is much more than a gadget weapon with world-class speed. He’s well-rounded, sure-handed, can run every route in the book and win the tight areas, not just 40 yards downfield. His addition will open up grass not just for the second-year standout in Waddle, but for Cedrick Wilson and tight end Mike Gesicki. Hill’s alignment alone will bring extra bodies out of the box for running backs Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel and Raheem Mostert, too.
Offensively, the Dolphins are well-rounded with the necessary bodies up front to keep Tagovailoa upright. It’s a group headlined by Terron Armstead, who Miami paid handsomely this offseason to protect their signal-caller’s arm-side, and if the Dolphins can mesh in all facets, the duo of Hill and Waddle progress into one of the more dynamic tandems the league has to offer and their defense continues to improve, don’t count out Miami when scribbling in your playoff brackets in the next few months.
New York Jets
Still in the thick of their rebuild, the Jets will compete for a division crown in due time… just not this fall. However, I’m extremely excited to watch this Jets team compete with talent in an overwhelming abundance on both sides of the football. Zach Wilson, Elijah Moore, Michael Carter, Garrett Wilson, Sauce Gardner, Jermaine Johnson II, Jordan Whitehead, Alijah-Vera Tucker, Breece Hall, need I say more?
These are all talents that have been added in just the last two draft and free agency cycles, so a tip of the cap goes out to General Manager Joe Douglas. There’s been little for the Jets to hang their hat on since their last playoff appearance over a decade ago and six consecutive seasons of sub .500 football have turned them into the annual basement occupants of the AFC East. Keeping in mind that a rebuild is an intricate, detailed process, New York is on their way up and if it were my guess, their youth-infused core won’t take too long to assert themselves as a group to become familiar with in due time.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have one of the worst rosters in the AFC, plain and simple. This isn’t the New England of old, where AFC titles and Super Bowl appearances were as common as a Foxboro Dunkin’ Donuts. Bill Belichick and Co. have a long way to go if they ever look to recapture the division crown in the coming seasons.
Yes, I understand they won 10 games last fall, made the big dance, quarterback Mac Jones is expected to improve in year two and you have a chance as long as Belichick is calling the shots. But they have a ton of aging bodies that remain worrisome, have not drafted well the last few cycles, and comparing their potential 53-man unit to the Dolphins, and Jets – on paper – they simply aren’t in the same stratosphere. Veterans matter, of course, but the Patriots lack talent at a multitude of positions, and although years of experience under live fire presents a relatively high floor, this roster just fails to move the needle for me right now outside of their ability to run the football.