Over the past nineteen years, the AFC East has been utterly dominated by one team, one quarterback, and one coach. If you really don’t know who I’m talking about, it’s been Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of the New England Patriots organization that has won division title after division title since 2001. In fact, since that first Super Bowl season for the Pats in 2001, they have won the AFC East crown every year except for two. The first was in 2002 when the New York Jets won and the second came in 2008 with the Miami Dolphins taking the division. But this year, 2020 AFC East predictions may look a lot different.
Moving onto 2020, the AFC East is a completely new division. Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa, Florida to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while the Patriots signed his replacement in Cam Newton to take over under center. With the division wide open for anyone’s taking, I give you my 2020 AFC East predictions.
2020 AFC East Predictions
Ah, yes. Coming in first place I have the pride of Western New York, the Buffalo Bills. Bills Mafia has been waiting a long time, for some even a lifetime, to see their beloved team win the AFC East. The last time they took home the division crown was in 1995 when Bills legend Jim Kelly was still their quarterback. I know Buffalo fans will hate to hear this, but, the Indianapolis Colts, who are now in the AFC South, have won the AFC East more recently than the Buffalo Bills. The Colts won it in 1999 before moving to the South in 2002.
The Current Team
Enough with the past, I’m here to talk about the team Buffalo has now and how they have continuously gotten better over the past five years or so. Last year, I thought the Bills had one of the better teams in the AFC and had the potential to create some noise in the playoffs. Even throughout the first half of their Wild Card game against the Houston Texans, they looked like a tough team to beat with a stingy defense. That was until Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson did what he does best and that is making some magic out of plays that everyone thinks are dead.
For example, the game went to overtime and the Bills got the ball first and ended up punting. When the Texans got the ball, Watson avoided a sack by two different Bills defenders and dropped it off to Taiwan Jones. Jones then ran it all the way down to the 10-yard line to set up the game-winning field goal. I am sorry Bills fans for making you relive that again, however, I just had to prove how close they were to a Divisional Round matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Major Offseason Acquisition
As for this past offseason, what is one of the main things that the Bills have been lacking for so many years? I can tell you, it’s a definite number one receiver to give their quarterbacks a consistent threat. And that’s just what Buffalo got. The Bills traded for wide receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for some picks. The veteran Diggs will help out quarterback Josh Allen tremendously as he enters his third year in the league. With already having one of the top defenses in the entire NFL, I truly believe this Diggs move could be the one that finally puts the Bills back on top of the division. That is why I have the Bills coming in first in my 2020 AFC East predictions.
New England Patriots
The kings have been dethroned! At least in these predictions, they are. What seems like 100 years, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have been given one of the easiest division schedules in the entire league. Yes, I recognize their greatness that has been the staple their franchise for the past twenty years, but their easy division opponents also helped tremendously.
From One Former MVP to Another
With Brady leaving in free agency to join the Buccaneers, Bill Belichick and company had to finally figure out who the successor would be to the greatest quarterback ever. After some speculation that the Patriots would stick with their young QB in Jarrett Stidham, they ultimately signed former-MVP Cam Newton who had been released by the Carolina Panthers earlier this offseason. Not to toot my own horn or anything but in my article “Three Ideal Landing Spots for Cam Newton” I had the Patriots as my number two pick behind the Pittsburgh Steelers to land Newton.
Anyway, before the Newton signing, many Pats fans were predicting a rebuilding season in hopes of landing Clemson star QB Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 NFL Draft. Those predictions have now been thrown out the window. One can only think that if there were one coach to bring Newton back to his MVP-self, it would be Bill Belichick.
The Patriots didn’t lose many players on the offensive side of the ball this offseason. That means Newton will get to work with weapons such as Julian Edelman, Sony Michel, James White, and more. On the defensive side of the ball, they suffered a pretty big loss in Kyle Van Noy as he stays in the division to go play for their rival Miami Dolphins. However, even with the loss of Van Noy, and multiple losses because of opt-outs, I still fully expect the Pats to be a defensive-minded team with a ranking in the top 5. Although I don’t have them winning the division (again), I see the Patriots making the playoffs as a Wild Card in my 2020 AFC East predictions.
Throughout the first four games of the 2019 season, the Miami Dolphins were outscored by a total of 163-26… let that sink in for a little. The first two losses resulted in a 59-10 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens and another home blowout loss that resulted in a score of 43-0 against the Patriots. So it was a pretty rough start in South Beach, to say the least. They didn’t earn their first win until week 9 against the New York Jets and even that victory wasn’t something to hang your hat on.
All in all, the Dolphins actually did end up not having as bad of a season as people thought. They finished with a 5-11 record with all five wins coming in their last nine games. In the eyes of some fans, they may have been winning too much and getting a worse draft pick when we all knew they weren’t making the playoffs.
The Tua Era Begins
Before the football season, if you said that Alabama star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t going to be the number one pick, or even top three, I would have called you insane. That was, until LSU stud Joe Burrow had arguably the greatest college football season we have ever seen. On top of that, injuries were a major storyline for Tua as a dislocated hip forced him to sit out the last three games of the season, including the bowl game.
If Tua is able to stay healthy, I think he has the potential to be an all-time great quarterback in this league. Personally, injuries excluded, I would take Tua Tagovailoa over Joe Burrow going into the NFL. However, since injuries are very real, I completely understand the Cincinnati Bengals‘ choice to go with Burrow at one. Tua is one of the greatest college players I have seen, when healthy. I believe the Dolphins made the absolute right choice here and cannot wait to see him play.
Miami Needs to Be Careful
Being Tua’s rookie year and he is already known to be injury-prone, I believe the Dolphins would be very irresponsible to start him at any time before their bye week. They need to understand that they will likely not do much damage this year and should focus on the future. Their future could change dramatically if they send Tua out there too early.
So, instead of Tua starting week 1, it will likely be journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. I mean, who doesn’t love this guy, right? No matter the circumstances, he lays it all out on the line for you and gives 110% each and every play. Assuming we see a mix of Fitzpatrick and Tua this season, I have the Dolphins going 7-9 in my 2020 AFC East predictions. After this year, I see them being a real threat in both the AFC East and the AFC as a whole.
New York Jets
Coming in last we have the New York Jets. Last year, they pretty much lived up to their not-so-high expectations posting a 7-9 record and finishing in third in the AFC East. Jets fans will point to the three games that quarterback Sam Darnold had missed as a big reason they didn’t record a record above .500. The Jets went 0-3 while getting outscored a total of 84-23, in the games he missed. The man who took over for Darnold in his three-game absence, Luke Falk, tallied just 416 yards, threw three interceptions, and not a single touchdown pass. I think it’s safe to say Darnold would have posted better numbers than those, but that doesn’t mean they would have won any of the three games.
Jamal Adams Trade
Earlier this week, the Jets sent superstar safety Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks along with a 4th-round pick in 2022. In exchange, the Jets got back two 1st-round picks, a 3rd-round pick, and safety Bradley McDougald. Some people are saying that the Seahawks are giving up too much in this trade. I would have to mildly disagree with that. Seattle is in win-now mode and has been for the past couple of years. Plus, Jamal Adams is a generational talent and if you have the chance to get a player like him, you take it.
As for the Jets side, I believe they did the best with what the situation at hand was. Adams and the front office clearly had their issues and it was only a matter of time that Jamal would be putting on a new jersey. Guys like running back Le’Veon Bell continued to believe that Adams would stay put, but we all knew that wouldn’t be true. With a player showing that much disdain towards a coach and front office, the Jets were almost forced to get rid of him. They got a pair of first-rounders but they will likely be in the twenty range as the Seahawks are a top team in the NFC. The assets the Jets received in this trade will not benefit a whole lot to the team this year. I have New York in the cellar of my 2020 AFC East predictions.
A Very Different Division
As I stated previously, the AFC East has been a division with some great change during this offseason. Tom Brady and Jamal Adams are gone. Some new faces have arrived in Tua Tagovailoa. One more thing to add on to the craziness of the division, the Bills are actually a strong contender to take the division crown. Bills Mafia has been waiting for a very long time to win the division. If my 2020 AFC East predictions are correct, they will not have to wait much longer.
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