New York Jets (1st) 12-5.
The New York Jets are back.
The 2022 NFL Season saw the long languishing franchise begin to show signs of significant promise. The Jets managed to draft the Offensive Rookie Of The Year (Garrett Wilson) and Defensive Rookie Of The Year (Sauce Gardner) in the same draft. Somehow, they even managed to snag Breece Hall in the second round, who likely would have been in contention for the same award if he had not gone down with injury.
Furthermore, the New York Jets saw the emergence of an absolute game-wrecker along their defensive line. 25-year-old Quinnen Williams emphatically arrived as an elite interior defender in 2022, ending the season with a PFF credited 90.1 overall grade, 52 quarterback pressures,, and 32 stops. The leap that he took was substantial. He contributed 12.0 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and four passes defending, and was named to the All-Pro First Team.
If that wasn't enough, the Jets added the most important piece yet, four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. To think that they won seven games in 2022 with a carousel of Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco and Mike White, gives the notion of unlimited potential in 2023. The former Green Bay Packer will bring a wealth of experience and excellence to a franchise that has been starved for those very traits for a long time.
While there is a plethora of talent in the division, the significant star power and depth of the New York Jets across all phases of their roster will be enough for them to claim the AFC East at the end of the 2023 season.
Buffalo Bills (2nd) 11-6.
Entering the 2022 NFL Season, the Buffalo Bills were viewed as one of the most complete rosters in the entire league. At its conclusion, they felt like an offense carried almost fully by Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, with holes across their offensive depth chart. The lack of support for a top-five NFL quarterback seemed to really hold back Buffalo's potential.
The Bills are still a powerhouse in the AFC, and one of the most formidable foes of the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Josh Allen is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, boasting a sizzling arm and linebacker strength. His talent can completely take over games and he has been truly remarkable in the last three seasons.
The issue is that sometimes Allen and his favorite target Stefon Diggs have to carry the entire offense. Their mediocre offensive line features just one player that achieved above a 62 overall PFF grade, which is 29-year-old tackle Dion Dawkins. Their receiving corps was similarly disappointing, as Gabrielle Davis did not take the expected leap that Buffalo was hoping for after his dominant AFC Championship game against the Chiefs the year prior.
The Bills invested in pass catchers, pairing the dynamic Utah tight-end Dalton Kincaid with Dawson Knox to improve their tight end position. Buffalo hope that Davis can take the leap that they expected in 2022, and Khalil Shakir can become a consistent contributor after just ten receptions last year.
Conversely, the Bills are brimming with talent all over their defensive depth chart. Matt Milano emerged as one of the league's best linebackers, while Gregory Rousseau showed superstar potential in his sophomore campaign. While Tre'Davious White has struggled to stay on the field, he pairs with Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde to form a formidable secondary. The Bills also have significant depth across all three phases of the defense, and should be a tough unit to score on.
Despite their thin offensive depth chart, Buffalo figure to be one of the most formidable teams in the AFC East, and are certainly a fantastic chance to win not only their division, but their entire conference.
Miami Dolphins (3rd) 10-7.
It feels wrong to put a team with the talent of Miami third in divisional rankings. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, that is just how loaded the AFC East is.
The Dolphins had a truly exceptional off-season. They made a sensational trade for Rams CB Jalen Ramsey, widely regarded as the best defensive back in the NFL. He will be paired with star cornerback Xavien to make one of the scariest coverage units in the league. Miami also has an amazing young pass rusher in Jealan Phillips, who had a phenomenal 87.7 overall PFF grade and 70 total quarterback pressures in the 2022 season. Moreover, the Dolphins' front office snagged an absolute bargain in solid linebacker David Long.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Dolphins truly said fast is first. Miami snatched up Devon Achane in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, who will join Tyreke Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Raheem Mostert to make on the fastest NFL rosters in recent memory. The Dolphins' offensive line is really solid, with the excellence of Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, and Robert Hunt balancing out the struggles of Liam Eichenberg (39.8 PFF overall grade) and the average play of Austin Jackson (57.9 PFF overall grade). This could be an underrated unit with their development.
So why third in the AFC East?
Simply put, Tua's health. The talented youngster was in the midst of a breakout campaign in which he threw 3,548 yards in just 13 contests, but made multiple concussions, creating concerns for his longevity as a football player and long-term health. Tua has all the talent to be a top-ten quarterback, but his health is a major concern. Juxtaposing that with the seeming certainty of excellence with Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen, Miami must simply put in third place in the division.
New England Patriots (4th) 7-10.
Sorry Patriots fans.
Bill Belichick is an amazing coach, and a 7-10 record prediction is not an indictment of his ability in the slightest. In fact, with another person at the helm, New England would likely be five wins or lower in this absolutely terrifying division.
New England has plenty of underwhelming parts of the roster and has easily the worst quarterback in the division. Mac Jones had a terrific rookie season, in which he made the Pro Bowl, had 3,881 yards passing and led the Patriots to a 10-7 record. He was seemingly the future of the storied franchise under center and had a ton of promise as a solid, reliable signal caller.
Unfortunately, Jones' sophomore campaign was disappointing, to say the least. He failed to throw for 3,000 yards and had just 14 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. His play had fans clamoring for rookie fourth-rounder Bailey Zappe who won both of his starts, and had 781 yards in his four total games.
Furthermore, Jones' support is extremely limited. The Patriots have a very underwhelming skilled position group, with a wide receiving corps of Juju Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, and Tyquan Thornton. While not catastrophic, it is certainly not talented enough to elevate a mediocre quarterback. New England has Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki as solid security blankets for Jones, but they do not provide a super dynamic pass-catching option. Fortunately, they do have a good offensive line, so there will be plenty of time to throw.
As a defense, the Patriots do have some significant talent. Matthew Judon is a force as an edge defender, posting 69 total quarterback pressures in 2022 and 35 stops per PFF. He was tied as the fourth best 15.5 sacks. Christian Barmore has shown significant flashes as a pass rusher on the inside. Moreover, Christian Gonzalez fell into the lap of the Patriots at 17th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft and should contribute right away opposite Jonathan Jones to make a terrific cornerback tandem immediately.
The Patriots would probably be bordering on a ten-win team in the NFC, with their coaching advantage alone. Unfortunately, the AFC East is so powerful that it will likely swallow New England whole.
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