It was quite the offseason in the NFL, one that perhaps will have its biggest impact on the AFC East. Continuing our NFL preview series, we travel from the NFC East to the AFC East, a division that may find a brand-new champion for the first time in over a decade.
Home to the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, the AFC East has long been a one-team division. The Patriots have won the crown 11 years in a row and it seemed for a while that their dynasty would have no end. However, then the offseason happened and there were some huge shakeups made in New England.
Now, the Patriots are still quite fancied with the chief online oddssetters to win their astonishing 12th straight title, but this year they have got some real competition in the form of the Bills and to a lesser extent, the Jets and Dolphins. In some ways, the race to the AFC East 2020 title is wide open for the first time in a long time but USAbetting does have an inkling about who can claim the crown.
Read on for our AFC East predictions and full preview with concluding pick. All betting lines quoted are with Bovada Sportsbook.
New England Patriots (+2500 to Win Super Bowl; +1200 AFC; +150 AFC East)
It has been quite a long time since the Patriots, who last won the Super Bowl in 2018-19, have found themselves with odds this low to win the Lombardi Trophy. New England has claimed six championships since 2001 including in each of the even numbered seasons dating back to 2014.
This being the 2020-21 season, the Patriots could see that pattern continue. Though the road won’t be quite as easy as it’s been in the past as for the first time in 20 years, the team is without Tom Brady. Brady helmed the six Super Bowl winning squads and New England’s offense is vastly different without him. Now, Brady had started to show signs of aging but he still was one of the better quarterbacks in the league. New England without Brady will be interesting but Bill Belichick is still there and if anyone can build up the next great QB in town, it’s him.
The Patriots lost a lot more than Brady in the offseason however. Not to mention, they did little to improve their offensive situation which saw even Brady struggle due to the lack of weapons. Defensively, the team took a hit most notably with the loss of Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy. This year could provide its fair share of challenges, especially as a hungry Bills team is done waiting in the wings.
Buffalo Bills (+2200 Super Bowl; +1100 AFC; +115 AFC East)
If ever there was a team poised to take an opportunity right in front of them it would be the 2020-21 Buffalo Bills. Coming oh so close to dethroning the Patriots in the past, the Bills are running on all cylinders entering this season. Last year, the team won 10 games and this year, may likely win even more behind the continued development and leadership of Josh Allen at quarterback. All eyes will be on Buffalo as the team looks to prove they are legitimate contenders and not pretenders.
The Bills seem to be all in on winning this year, going big in the offseason to grab top pass catcher Stephon Diggs and top defender Josh Norman. The Bills already had the sixth most efficient defense, a metric that should continue to improve with Norman’s presence as well as contributions from the team’s very strong NFL Draft performance.
That leaves Allen. After years of being almost good enough, this is time for Allen to prove he belongs in the conversation among top young QBs. If he can find that other gear, then we very well could be looking at the best Bills team in decades, one more than capable of claiming the AFC East crown this year.
New York Jets (+9000 Super Bowl; +4500 AFC; +800 AFC East)
New York made some strides in the offseason as it was all about providing Sam Darnold with the resources needed for him to make that next level leap. New York believes Darnold is their guy, something that is supported by how strong he performed in limited opportunities last year.
To that extent, the Jets really shored up their offensive line this offseason, hoping the improvements will give Darnold time to throw the deep bombs he is known for. A lot of the Jets’ success or lack thereof though will depend on what LeVeon Bell can bring to the table. After investing a lot in the former top running back, Bell has yet to pay off for the Jets. They will need him to return to the level he was when he was running over everyone in order to give their offense a second dimension.
Can the Jets win with Adam Gase? It is hard to say as Gase hasn’t exactly earned himself any friends with his coaching career thus far. If Gase and Darnold can find some kind of magic, it won’t be this year, but we could be talking in a few years about the Jets being AFC East champs again.
Miami Dolphins (+8000 Super Bowl; +4000 AFC; +700 AFC East)
The last team not named the Patriots to win the AFC East was the Miami Dolphins and that was over a decade ago. The Dolphins have made some improvements to help them return to that pinnacle but they are still a ways away. Their offseason was successful as the team paired a strong draft with an even better free agency period where they managed to hold on to all of their key assets.
They also added a ton of new talent after spending the 2019 season effectively getting rid of all the top names they had. The Dolphins’ free agency period included stealing Van Noy from the Patriots and Shaq Lawson from the Bills, as well as adding Jordan Howard to the running game and Byron Jones to anchor the defense. Miami essentially had to rebuild their entire team after last year’s fire sale and they did a good job of making necessary improvements to help them get back to a state of okay.
With three first round picks the Dolphins also successfully used the draft to build toward the future. The team isn’t quite at the point of contention yet but they are a lot closer than many would have thought given the way last season went.
Our Betting Preview’s AFC East Predictions & Picks Verdict
The stars are aligning and it is time to put up or shut up for the Bills. Allen will continue to find success, Sean McDermott is an underrated coach and the defense will stand up to any and all comers. The AFC East is ripe for the picking and Buffalo is ready for that moment. It’s been a long time coming but the rise of the Bills has finally come.
- So the prediction and pick for this preview is to bet the Buffalo Bills to win the AFC East @ +115 with Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & 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.