Everyone uses different indicators when predicting divisional winners. There are four keys, in no particular order, that I consider when carefully calculating my AFC East 2017 predictions:
- How good is your quarterback?
- How tough is your strength of schedule?
- How many miles does your team travel?
- How many games does Vegas have your team winning?
These are not the “end all, be all” qualifications. These are the key indicators that help decide who wins and who loses. Quarterback play is extremely important in the NFL, especially when trying to make a playoff run. As teams continue to win in January, there is a direct correlation with how good their quarterback is.
The strength of schedule is also an important factor. It gives an objective base to start with and make predictions based on their opponents 2016 win/loss record. Regardless of what the popular opinion is, traveling wears on people and yes, that includes athletes. The more your team travels, the harder it is to get ready game after game. And finally, Vegas. When people involve money, everything changes. You’ve heard the phrase “Follow the money” – there is a reason Vegas is so successful. They know what they are doing.
And from there game-by-game selections are made; sometimes going against my better judgment. Additional keys to consider are home field advantage, coaching, offensive/defensive line play, and skilled playmakers.
Now that I’ve bored you with my selection process, let’s talk football. From last to first, below are my AFC East 2017 predictions.
New York Jets
In the NFL, has there ever been a more obvious tanking job? Compared to other NFL teams, the Jets have very little talent. This offseason, the New York Jets cut ties with players on big contracts – regardless of how talented they were.
Bradon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Sheldon Richardson all instantly come to mind. The Jets are gearing up for a complete overhaul. Phase one: release veteran players with big contracts. Phase two: Lose as many football games as possible. The Jets are currently in Phase two.
Let’s review the Jets checklist.
- Josh McCown is the worst quarterback in this division.
- The Jets have the second easiest schedule in the AFC East – tied for 8th overall.
- The Jets travel the second least of any team in the division: 16,483 miles.
- Vegas has the Jets winning 5.0 games in 2017 – worst in the AFC East.
To be honest, I’m not sure how Vegas thinks the Jets will win 5.0 games. As I mentioned above, their roster is arguably the least talented roster in the NFL.
The interesting question is where does head coach Todd Bowles fit into all of this? How much roster control does he have in “War Room” meetings? If this is part of the plan, then obviously he stays on board.
But what if the rebuild consists of finding a new head coach?
The Buffalo Bills are not far behind the Jets when it comes to poor roster talent. However, there is a light at the tunnel for Bills fans. The Jets are cutting their big contracts; the Bills have traded their players for draft assets. The Bills, in the 2018 draft, have two first, second, and third-round draft picks.
Six draft selections in the first three rounds? That’s something a GM/Head Coach can work with to overhaul this roster. The next question becomes, how valuable are those six draft picks?
If the Bills finish near the bottom of the barrel, the draft picks will be extremely valuable. There is a chance Buffalo is taking the New York Jets approach and tanking for better draft selections.
Let’s review the keys for this Bills team.
- Tyrod Taylor is the second-best quarterback in this division.
- The Bills have the toughest schedule in the AFC East – 5th overall.
- However, the Bills travel the least in the division: 13,272 miles.
- Vegas has the Bills winning 6.0 games – good for third in the division.
Again, I was shocked at how many games Vegas thinks the Bills will win. They don’t have a deep roster and have a very difficult schedule ahead of them. Not to mention, the Bills only have four players on their current roster that they drafted before 2014. Everyone else was acquired through trades or signed as a free agent.
To only have four players on your roster that you drafted before 2014 is abysmal. How are the Bills supposed to accumulate cheap/young talent if they cut/trade all of their drafted players?
Before Ryan Tannehill had season-ending surgery on his knee, the Miami Dolphins had a legitimate shot to make a wildcard push. With the lackluster, out-of-retirement Jay Cutler now under center, The Dolphins chances to make the playoffs plummeted.
Jay Cutler retired and was preparing for life after football as a Fox Sports play-by-play announcer. Now, he is expected to lead a mediocre team to the playoffs?
Let’s look at the Miami Dolphins chances to make the playoffs with more of an objective view.
- Jay Culter is significantly behind quarterback’s Tyrod Taylor and Tom Brady in this division.
- The Dolphins have the second hardest schedule in the AFC East – 6th overall.
- Miami travels the most in the AFC East this season: 27,520 miles.
- Vegas has the Dolphins winning 7.5 games this season – third in the division.
The Dolphins won’t in seven games this season behind a rusty Jay Cutler. While their roster continues to improve, the Dolphins still do not have enough offensive firepower to beat good teams – and they play a lot of them.
Once Tannehill went down, their playoff hopes went with him.
New England Patriots
There is no chance the New England Patriots go undefeated this season. Zero. While they are the reigning Super Bowl champions (and somehow got better this offseason), it’s nearly impossible to go undefeated in the National Football League.
Do I think they will win a lot of football games? Absolutely. Wrap your mind around what the Patriots have done recently. Since 2003, the Patriots have won the AFC East 13 in 14 years. And in 2008 when they finished second, Tom Brady was injured opening weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs – they still went 11-5 that season with Matt Cassel leading the charge.
Wrap your mind around what the Patriots have done recently. Since 2003, the Patriots have won the AFC East 13 in 14 years. And in 2008 when they finished second, Tom Brady was injured opening weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs – they still went 11-5 that season with Matt Cassel leading the charge.
The Patriots have averaged 12.6 wins per season since 2003. To put that in perspective, that’s going 13-3 every year over the last 14 seasons. Talk about a dynasty. Let’s review their checklist for 2017.
- Tom Brady is the best quarterback in this division and arguably in the NFL.
- The Patriots have the easiest schedule in the AFC East – 12th overall.
- New England travels the second least among its divisional rivals: 17,830.
- Vegas has the Patriots winning 12.5 games this season – most in the NFL.
Isn’t it interesting that the Patriots average 12.6 wins a season (since 2003) and that’s the exact number Las Vegas used to predict their record for the 2017 season? I told you Vegas knows what they are doing.
It looks like the Patriots are back and ready to win another divisional title – making it 14/15 years.
Who do you have winning this division?