We can all take a breath and just say it together: the Buffalo Bills aren’t going anywhere. With Josh Allen entering the rising point of his peak – that’ll bring free agents to the cold north in a way that Green Bay can’t seem to – and with Brandon Beane clearly demonstrating the ability to consistently draft and develop defensive prospect to cover for his occasional mechanical mishap and what has been at points an underwhelming offensive line, all fingers point to Bills Mafia being the AFC East favorites for the next five to seven years.
But the wildcard remains static, and no amount of 47 point performances and broken tables can change that.
The Miami Dolphins under Mike McDaniel are exciting to many, yet still a mystery. We’ll treat them as such.
Outside of a safe, predictable, yet focused swing at Mac Jones at 15th overall in 2021, the Patriots have spent the last three drafts taking bizarre reaches at positions that they don’t need. Set aside Cole Strange who was taken a round too early. Bailey Zappe from WKU is a production slinger quarterback who has concerns about the competition he’s faced, and Pierre Strong Jr. from South Dakota would have been taken outside the top 200 if not for his combine. Not only can Mac Jones have a pillered argument to feel discouraged, but the production of Damien Harris and Ramandre Stevenson make Strong look like a waste of draft capital at 127.
It doesn’t stop there. As of right now, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, both of whom were perceived as failures as head coaches in Detroit and New York respectively, are both preparing for the possibility of being the offensive play caller. Patricia specializes in defense and Judge specializes in Special teams – as a result, both hypotheticals are causing a growing concern within the New England roster.
Joe Douglas is now coming off his third home-run draft in what many people believed was the best first round of 2022. And as a result, today there are many positions rooms in MetLife Stadium that have arguable talent advantages in comparison to Foxborough.
Assuming Breece Hall is who everyone who knows anything about football thinks he is and Michael Carter continues his trends, the RB room between them on one side and Harris and Stevenson on the other could be held about even.
But here’s the reality: the Patriots don’t have a wide receiver that is distinctively better than any receiver on the Jets. In their second year of Mike LaFluer’s, Corey Davis and Elijah Moore should expect to create more explosive moves in the open space we all know LaFluer loves to create. N’Keal Harry continues to disappoint and Nelson Agholor looks more and more overpaid each game. In terms of receiving ability, the Jets Tight End room is far superior to the Patriots – C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin can both realistically have 600 yard seasons, and Jeremy Ruckert will be able to develop into an effective blocker as the season goes on.
While the Patriots offensive line continues to be up there with the Colts, Eagles and Lions as best in the NFL, the signing of Lankin Tomlinson and the emergence of Alijah Vera-Tucker have likely shortened the gap more than many might realize. Expect them to finish the year in the middle of the pack with teams like the Vikings, Broncos and Ravens.
A healthy Shaq Lawson to go alongside an exciting Jermaine Johnson should be able to generate consistent pressure just as easily as Matthew Judan and Christian Barmore.
With the loss of J.C. Jackson on the side of New England, plus the Jets drafting Sauce Gardner and signing both D.J. Reed and Antoine Whitehead, the better secondary, would appear to resign in New York. Malcolm Butler’s age is showing and Jalen Mills, like Agahlor, looked more and more overpaid as the year progressed. The Jets will have a mix of postseason experience and athletic, versatile youth to make a variety of plays in both man and zone.
If the Belichick coaching staff manifests to be as much a disaster as we all perceive it will be, don’t be surprised if the third place 8-9 Jets finish one spot over the last place 7-10 Patriots.