Pats Aim for Perfection, 9th Straight AFC East Crown

Training camp starts this week! Need to get caught up on where every NFL team stands as the season approaches? Here’s a handy preview complete with odds to let you know what to expect from each team heading into the 2017 season.

Also see: NFC WestNFC South; NFC East; NFC North; AFC West; AFC South.

BUFFALO BILLS

Much of Buffalo’s offseason was spent making significant changes, yet the moves were confined to the sideline and front office, and not much actually changed with the on-field product following a disappointing 7-9 season. First, Buffalo eschewed the typical “replace defense with offense” approach, hiring Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to replace outgoing head coach Rex Ryan. Then, the team restructured quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s deal, essentially giving him another short window to prove his worth. Finally, maligned GM Doug Whaley was let go immediately after the NFL Draft, replaced with another Carolina body in Brandon Beane. While Beane missed his chance to make a mark on the team in the draft, he can still add bodies as other teams trim their rosters during camp, and he’d be wise to keep his eyes peeled for offensive playmakers.

Buffalo was already thin at receiver, even before losing Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in free agency. The depth of their league-leading run game took a hit, as well, losing Mike Gillislee and his 577 yards to division rival New England. Defensively, Buffalo shapes up a little better, with promising sophomores Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland healthy for camp this time around. Rookie Tre’Davious White will need to step up at corner, but should benefit from a strong Bills pass rush.

Buffalo had rotten injury luck last season, as well as a bad record in one-score games (2-6), but it’s tough to expect major improvements this year when Taylor has almost no one to throw too. If Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy aren’t 100% healthy all year and at their absolute best, it’s tough to see how Buffalo will consistently win games, no matter how the defense performs.

2017 Bills Odds & Props

Odds to win AFC East: 20/1

Odds the Bills resign Sammy Watkins in 2018: 2/3

Odds the Bills lead the league in rushing yards for a third straight season: 7/2

Over/under tables broken this season by Bills Mafia: 100

The longer this team goes without a playoff appearance, the more unhinged Bills fans seem to get.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Behold! The embodiment of a replacement level quarterback. (photo-gator, via Flickr)

The Dolphins were a playoff team of last season, but you’d be expeditiously forgiving if you don’t remember their forgettable 30-12 drubbing at the hands of the Steelers in the Wild Card round under backup QB Matt Moore. Miami fans can’t really play the “what if” game with Ryan Tannehill’s health, though, since the offense was just as effective in three-plus games with Moore at the helm. Even with the surprising breakout season of running back Jay Ajayi, the Dolphins had an average offense and sauntered to a 10-6 record thanks to an easy schedule; only one of Miami’s wins came over a team that finished above .500. While it’s possible that Adam Gase’s offense will continue to take strides in his second year, I wouldn’t expect a huge improvement this season as long as Tannehill remains in charge.

Through the draft and free agency, the Fins added a ton of talent on defense, particularly to the linebacking corps, which needs to get better against the run. After ranking 19th in defensive DVOA, Miami’s moves better pay off, because they’ll have a far tougher go of it this season. On top of the two penciled-in losses to the Patriots, they also have to tangle with the loaded NFC South and AFC West. Don’t expect this bunch to be in the Wild Card race without a major step forward on at least one side of the ball.

2017 Dolphins Odds & Props

Odds to win AFC East: 14/1

Odds Ryan Tannehill makes his first Pro Bowl: 10/1

Over/under 200-yard games (rushing) from Jay Ajayi: 1.5

Odds Ndamukong Suh gets fined this year: 7/3

Since coming to the Dolphins, the oft-fined tackle has avoided any financial repercussions for his play. Will that streak of staying out of trouble continue this year?

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Trying to play it straight in Miami and Buffalo’s preview is so difficult because of the elephant in the division. The Patriots have been a sure bet to dominate the East for the last decade, and on the heels of a historic Super Bowl win, they’ve somehow become even more of a sure thing. The question surrounding New England isn’t whether they’ll win the AFC East, it’s whether they’ll lose a single game. After going 14-2 last season (11-1 with Tom Brady at the helm), New England attacked the market hard, signing CB Stephon Gilmore, RB Mike Gillislee, ILB David Harris, and RB Rex Burkhead, while trading for WR Brandin Cooks, DE Kony Ealy, and TE Dwayne Allen. That’s more speed coming to an offense that ranked second in DVOA, and a boost to a pass defense that was the weakest area of the 2016 Pats.

The only reason to doubt New England(‘s ability to go 16-0) is Brady’s age. He’ll be 40 this season. That’s an age where a QB’s production can fall off without warning. Recently Brett Favre and Peyton Manning went from Pro Bowl seasons to near-forced retirement at ages 41 and 39, respectively. However, Manning had recent neck surgery, and Favre was coming off a Bountygate beatdown by the Saints. Brady has enjoyed near-perfect health for almost his entire career and treats his body like Mr. Frye treated his Ferrari, so it’s harder to believe that it will suddenly quit on him. And even if it somehow does, Jimmy Garoppolo is the next man up. The hype around the backup is a little excessive after only two starts, but the Patriots would still wipe the division if he had to take over at QB.

New England has a few games that might spell trouble — a trip to New Orleans, a Mexico City showdown with Oakland, and a Super Bowl rematch in Week 7 — but it’s tough to imagine a scenario where they don’t have homefield advantage in January.

Here’s hoping the Steelers aren’t the other class of the AFC, because we’ve seen how that film ends many times before. (Brook Ward, via Flickr)

2017 Patriots Odds & Props

Odds to win AFC East: 1/9

Odds to go 16-0: 20/1

Odds to win AFC Championship: 1/1

Odds Tom Brady shows any signs of decline this year: 7/6

His passer rating has improved over each of the last four seasons, and with an improved receiving corps, it’s perhaps just as likely we see an improvement in his 18th year.

NEW YORK JETS

The AFC East is going to exemplify both the best and worst in football this season. The Pats went out and bettered their Super Bowl-winning team. The Jets, on the other hand, realized 5-11 wasn’t bad enough, so they torched what little green earth they had remaining.

New York waived basically all of their veteran players (Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Nick Mangold, Breno Giacomini, Marcus Gilchrist), getting nothing in return but a little cap space. The problem is, there’s almost nobody left on this team worth spending any big money on. The Jets’ offense is a mix of past-their-prime vets and not-ready-for-primetime kids. The defense, dominant in 2015, has seen its second level fall apart, failing to acquire any upgrades at linebacker or in the secondary. They even added a worse kicker this year (Chandler Catanzaro), just in case their was any chance they’d squeak out a close win.

Since New York is clearly tanking, you have to look hard for games they could accidentally win this year, and there are a few. With a stretch of Miami, Jacksonville and Cleveland in Weeks 3 through 5, it’s not impossible that the Jets could stumble their way to an early 3-2 record. But even if the team tricks itself into believing it’s in the race, GM Mike Maccagnan hasn’t given this group enough talent to last all season, especially when injuries hit. And once the team is starting Christian Hackenberg at QB, that’s when things will really get ugly.

2017 Jets Odds & Props

Odds to win AFC East: 100/1

Odds to go 0-16: 17/1

Odds Christian Hackenberg throws a touchdown this season: 2/5

Odds Sam Darnold stays in college to avoid getting drafted by the Jets: 2/1

There’s nothing wrong with outwardly tanking; it seems to be setting the Browns up nicely for the coming years. However, it doesn’t make for a very attractive landing spot when trying to convince a young stud, like USC’s Sam Darnold, that declaring for the draft is the right choice. The Jets already have a tragic history of getting blown off in situations like this, so another instance wouldn’t be that shocking.

Boris

Hockey may be a wildly unpopular sport in the U.S., but where no one is paying attention, there's a ton of value for Boris to mine. An avid NHL fan of over 20 years, Malloy made his first bet against a friend during the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals (going against Ray Bourque) and has been hooked ever since. He has yet to pay off that debt of $2, but he's made plenty back since. In between worrying about the league's next lockout, he regularly contributes to MTS and is also fluent in football, basketball, baseball and French (sort of).