The NFL preseason got underway last week meaning that there are just a few weeks remaining until regular season football is back on our TVs and back in our lives. It’s an exciting prospect for fans who have been waiting since February for NFL action.
While fans waited with anticipation, their favorite teams were making moves to prepare for a run at the Super Bowl this year. It’s been several busy months in the offseason and to help you keep it all straight, USAbetting plans to preview each NFL division with predictions of where teams will finish as well as the best betting picks for each. To kick off, we start with the AFC East division that produced last year’s Super Bowl Champion, the New England Patriots.
New England Patriots
- Last year’s regular season record: 11-5; 8-0 at home (won AFC East)
- 2019-20 Super Bowl Odds: +700
- 2019-20 Conference Odds: +325
- 2019-20 Division Odds: -400
The 2018-19 season saw the New England Patriots return to the pinnacle of championship greatness as after finishing runner-up the year prior, everyone’s favorite team to hate (outside of the greater Boston area), won their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history and third in the last five years.
Winning every even-numbered Super Bowl since 2014, the Patriots seem destined to continue their dynasty so long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain at the helm. At the very least, their run of winning 10-straight AFC East crowns should continue this year. That’s not to say that the Patriots improved that drastically in the offseason. In fact, in some ways, there are still some significant questions with this team.
For the first time in nearly a decade, they will be without the services of Rob Gronkowski, who announced his retirement a few months ago after one of the most successful careers ever for a tight end. While not on Gronk’s level, the Patriots did bring in Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Benjamin Watson to fill the role. Perhaps their biggest acquisition however, comes in the form of wide received Demaryius Thomas, who likely will be tasked not only with picking up some of Gronk’s production but with Chris Hogan’s as well.
Their receiving corps does feel like a weakness however but it is not something that New England is unaccustomed to. Over the last decade-plus, Brady and Belichick have worked magic, turning unknown receivers into legitimate weapons. Look for the same to be the case in 2019-20, as New England and Brady will test out rookies, N’Keal Harry and Damien Harris in key roles. The biggest player however, will be Julian Edelman, who looks to play a full season for the team after missing several games last year. If Edelman stays healthy, he is a great veteran presence to introduce these new players to the winning ways of the New England Patriots.
The Patriots didn’t set the world on fire this offseason but it’s hard to look at them negatively given what they have proven historically. Considering the dominance they have had over the AFC East, it’s still pretty difficult to see any of the other three teams overtaking them. If you need to question that, just look at the odds with the top American-friendly sports betting sites. The Patriots are a prohibitive -400 odds to win the AFC East. The next best are, believe it or not, the New York Jets, at +600 (6/1). There’s no real money to be made on betting the Patriots to win the AFC East but if you’re looking to go with a winning pick, the Patriots are it. The 11th time won’t be the charm for the rest of the division as the Patriots will win their 11th consecutive crown.
New York Jets
- Last year’s regular season record: 4-12 (last in AFC East)
- 2019-20 Super Bowl Odds: (+8000)
- 2019-20 Conference Odds: (+4000)
- 2019-20 Division Odds: (+600)
The New York Jets were not a good team in 2018-19. At 4-12, the Jets finished tied with the Oakland Raiders for the worst record in the AFC and had just one win more than the Arizona Cardinals, who had the worst record in the NFL.
While the team made solid offseason additions to avoid another last-place finish, it’s hard to believe they will overcome their struggles in one year. Just to illustrate how rough the AFC East is, the Jets are a distant second behind New England in divisional odds at 6/1.
In the offseason, the Jets brought in Adam Gase as their new head coach. Sounds like a good move, right? However, Gase comes to the Jets from a career with the Miami Dolphins, who didn’t exactly light the AFC East on fire during his tenure. In just a few months with his new team, Gase hasn’t earned many friends. He has already had issues with the general manager and had to make public apologies to two of the team’s players.
On the positive side, the Jets spent most of their offseason making improvements on the offensive side of the ball. Looking to rebuild around Sam Darnold at the QB position, the Jets went out and grabbed Le’Veon Bell, one of the best runningbacks in the NFL.
Bell is a real difference maker but unfortunately, the Jets will need more than that to try to stake a claim at the AFC East. A significant win upgrade could see them finish the year .500 but winning the division and reaching the playoffs still feels like a long way away.
- Last year’s regular season record: 6-10 (3rd in AFC East)
- 2019-20 Super Bowl Odds: (+10000)
- 2019-20 Conference Odds: (+5000)
- 2019-20 Division Odds: (+1000)
Outside of the Patriots and maybe the Jets, the AFC East falls off tremendously starting with the Buffalo Bills. In fact, even with the Jets, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Patriots go 6-0 in the division. In some ways, it would be surprising if they didn’t. That’s how bad the Bills and Dolphins are, that the first paragraph of this Bills’ preview, is all about the Patriots.
Buffalo has been building around second-year quarterback Josh Allen, who they truly believe is going to be their guy of the future. But Allen isn’t there yet and unfortunately, the pieces around him aren’t exactly A+ level NFL talent. The Bills brought in NFL veterans, Frank Gore, TJ Yeldon, Cole Beasley and John Brown, which at least gives Allen weapons of some extent. It’s not a huge improvement but anything is better than what the rookie had to work with last season.
Defensively, the Bills held onto many of the pieces that made them a semi-formidable unit in 2018-19. However, most people have already acknowledged that this is definitely a building block or stepping stone season. The team’s best moves came in the draft as they really brought in some guys who could play significant roles in the future. As for 2019-20 however, don’t expect much from Buffalo as this is just year one in their improvement process.
- Last year’s regular season record: 7-9 (2nd in AFC East)
- 2019-20 Super Bowl Odds: (+15000)
- 2019-20 Conference Odds: (+6500)
- 2019-20 Division Odds: (+2500)
The Dolphins weren’t awful last year and they even appeared early on, like they might give the Patriots a run for their money. Then the team fell apart and now, Gase is elsewhere and so is longtime quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Much like the Bills and Jets appear to be doing, Miami tried to build around the hard throwing Tannehill as their QB of the future. The team even had some success with it as for the last few years, they have been New England’s only real competition in the division. Things didn’t work out and Tannehill ends up just another AFC young hotshot QB that didn’t survive the Brady-era.
Moving on from Tannehill, the Dolphins did go out and get Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason, but beyond that, it’s hard to pinpoint any move they made that is going to move the needle for them. They lost more than they replaced, both on offense and defense.
In some ways, this is more than just a rebuild as Miami is almost starting over from scratch. New QBs, new coach and a look at potentially the #1 pick in next year’s draft. It will be interesting to see what that means for this season but the USA sportsbooks all seem to think the Dolphins will be the NFL’s punching bag in 2019-20.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.