We kicked off our 2021-22 NFL previews with a look at the NFC East, a division that projects to be one of the worst in football. Moving on from the NFC East, the next stop in our series takes us to the AFC East, which may be one of the most top-heavy divisions in the entire league.
Read on for our AFC East preview with predictions and concluding betting picks.
Buffalo Bills (+1200 to win Super Bowl; +575 to Win the AFC; -160 to Win the AFC East)
Once led defiantly and confidently by the New England Patriots (they have won 17 of the last 20 divisional crowns), there is a new top dog in town and it comes in the form of the Buffalo Bills. With Tom Brady off to greener pastures in Tampa Bay, the Bills stepped in to fill the void, winning the East for the first time since 1995 and becoming the first team since 2008, to dethrone the Patriots.
The Bills rode their AFC East title all the way to the conference championships where they came one win away from playing in the Super Bowl. The Bills are as good now if not better than they were last year. With Josh Allen firmly in place as the franchise star, Buffalo is looking to repeat as division winners and so much more.
They’ll face competition in the AFC East against the Patriots, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, none of which look to be of any particular threat to the Bills. Divisional football can be weird sometimes and if there are upsets to be had, they will certainly occur within the confines of the AFC East.
As much as the Patriots had a stranglehold on the division for years, New England was still susceptible with head-scratching losses to the Dolphins, Bills or Jets along the way. The same could befall Buffalo, however if last year is any indication, the Bills should have this on lock, both offensively and defensively. Buffalo didn’t lose a single AFC East game last year while dominating their divisional rivals on the scoreboard. The Bills beat the Jets by a total of 18 points, the Dolphins a total of 33 points, and the Patriots a total of 30 points.
This truly is the Bills’ division to lose, but just for fun, let’s look at how their opponents stack up.
New England Patriots (+3000 Super Bowl; +1500 AFC; +350 AFC East)
Under Tom Brady, the Patriots were an unstoppable force, winning divisional title after divisional title, Super Bowl trophy after Super Bowl trophy. Brady is gone now and the Patriots have struggled in finding the next Tom Terrific.
Last year, the job was Cam Newton’s but the former Superman of the Carolina Panthers failed to capture the magic of his earlier career. Now, it seems the role will go to the team’s top draft pick, QB Mac Jones. Jones has thus far impressed in the preseason, showing glimmers of the makings of a top NFL arm. He is still a rookie and there were a lot of other holes the Patriots had to fill. Fortunately for them, some of those holes have filled themselves.
New England had a league-high eight players opt out last year due to Covid, but all of them, including some key role players on defense, will be back this year. That is a huge plus for a Patriots team that really struggled on that side of the ball. On offense, New England had issues as well but they used their offseason to improve on that side of the ball, picking up a pair of exciting tight ends. At the end of the day, this is still a Bill Belichick-coached team so you can’t count them out. Stranger things have happened.
Miami Dolphins (+3500 Super Bowl; +1600 AFC; +325 AFC East)
The Miami Dolphins have been a team on the rise. From five wins in 2019 to 10 the following year, the Dolphins have made some significant strides since basically blowing up their whole team just a few years ago.
The Dolphins have playoff potential. Whether that comes in the form of a divisional title or a wildcard spot remains to be seen but this is a unit that could give the Bills their biggest competition this year.
A lot of that will depend on how well second year QB Tua Tagovailoa plays this time around. It’s hard to judge a rookie quarterback playing in the midst of a pandemic season where mini camps and OTAs were largely conducted virtually.
Tagovailoa was fantastic in college at Alabama but that has yet to translate with Miami. 2021 could be a big year for him, especially coming off a full training camp and some NFL experience to boot. Unlike last year, when Tagovailoa and Ryan Fitzpatrick basically split time, this is Tagovailoa’s job. He has solid weapons, especially in this year’s top draft pick Jaylen Waddle and returning wide receiver Devante Parker.
Defensively, the Dolphins may be the top unit in the AFC East, at least so far as the secondary goes. Their playoff hopes will ride on continued success on this side of the ball and on how much of a step forward Tagovailoa can make in his second year in the league. If he plays the way Miami is hoping for, look out AFC East.
New York Jets (+10000 Super Bowl; +5000 AFC; +2000 AFC East)
I was always taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, so sorry Jets fans, but this is going to be short and sweet. On the bright side, the Jets are projected to finish third worst in the league, not dead last. That honor currently belongs to the hapless Houston Texans.
As far as positives and bright spots, that’s about as far as it goes. The Jets are a rebuilding team so you get what you get. They did take a step forward in that rebuild by landing Zach Wilson and finding a new head coach in Robert Saleh.
The Jets did everything they needed to in the offseason and had a strong draft but they are still years away from contending again.
Our AFC East Preview’s Final Pick & Predictions Verdict
If it wasn’t made clear above, this is Buffalo’s NFL division to lose. Taking the Bills isn’t exactly the best as far as a value pick though. So if you are looking to go a little riskier, the Dolphins are certainly worth a look. Miami has a chance if all goes well.
The thing is, Buffalo doesn’t need all to go well to win the East. They don’t need Allen to replicate what he did last year. In fact, if Allen is about 70 percent as good as he was last year, the Bills still win the AFC East. It seems there is the makings of a new dynasty in this division.
So the conclusion of our 2021 AFC East preview’s predictions is:
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.