Once tipped to be the league’s most competitive division this season, the AFC East has so far remained in the hands of the New England Patriots. But even though the Patriots have the advantage halfway through the season, the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills have all narrowed the gap. So who, if any of them, can wrestle the division title away from Bill Belichick and Tom Brady? Four of our writers make a case for each team:
New England Patriots
by Remy Cabache
The Patriots have completely avoided a Super Bowl hangover this year and look all-but-set to be playing in it again this year. The road to the Super Bowl looks to be starting off the same way it always has for the Patriots: by dominating the AFC East. The Patriots are 7-0 and have already beaten the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets once.
Apart from the fact they are 3 games ahead of the second-place Jets, these tie-breaks give them a big advantage heading into the second half of the season. For any other team to overtake the Pats, New England would have to have a pretty comprehensive collapse down the stretch, and if I could pick any team in the NFL that I think is immune to this type of collapse, I’d pick the Patriots. They have the greatest QB of all time, one of the greatest coaches of all time, soon to be the greatest tight end of all time and none of those pieces, nor their supporting cast, look to slow down anytime soon. The Pats are about to win their 13th AFC East title in 15 years.
New York Jets
by Edd Hodsdon
The 4-3 Jets have been New England’s closest competition in the division so far this year, and will be the main threat to steal the AFC East away from the Patriots over the second half of the season. The Jets can win the division because of one simple reason: they are one of the most complete teams in the league. The foundation of Todd Bowles’ squad is a top three defense. The Jets rank 3rd overall on defense, being 8th against the pass and the league’s best against the run. The Jets have a dominant front backed up by a star-studded secondary.
On offense, New York has one of the season’s best backs in Chris Ivory, who is the focus of a top ten running game. They also have a pretty good passing game behind quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the potent one-two punch of receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Fitzpatrick is not expected to miss any time with a thumb injury suffered against the Raiders. The Jets also possess one of the league’s best offensive lines, with several first-round picks protecting Fitzpatrick and opening lanes for Ivory. The Jets have allowed just seven sacks, the least in the league.New York came
New York came agonisingly close to beating the Patriots in Foxborough in Week 7, and could defeat the Patriots with home field advantage in Week 16. The Jets are already one game ahead of the Dolphins after dominating Miami at Wembley. While they have yet to face ex-head coach Rex Ryan and the Bills, New York is simply the better team right now. With a pretty easy schedule outside of the division, the Jets will remain the biggest threat in the AFC East.
by Charlie Anderson
The Bills are currently sat in third place in the AFC East, with a record of 3-4 overall. Two of these games have been played in their division, where they lost against the division leading Patriots 40-32, and beat the Dolphins 41-14. The reason the Bills will be able to challenge for the AFC East crown is because they’re getting their starting QB back. Over the past two games whilst Tyrod Taylor’s been out, EJ Manuel has thrown an interception on 3.6% of his throws. He’s thrown 3 touchdowns, 3 picks and also been sacked 6 times for a loss of 45 yards with a passer rating of 78.5. That means that for every time Manuel has dropped back to pass (90 times including the sacks), he would either lose yards, or be intercepted 10% of the time.When Taylor is under center, he is much more efficient, with a 70.1% completion rating, with over 1000 yards throwing, 9
When Taylor is under center, he is much more efficient, with a 70.1% completion rating, with over 1000 yards throwing, 9 touchdowns and 4 picks; he’s much more effective in the pocket, as well as on his feet. If he comes back healthy and keeps at the same pace he was going, he’d be on pace for a manageable 3071 yards passing, 25 TDs and 11 interceptions Alongside this, LeSean McCoy needs to recover some vintage form, and that pass rush, with all the weapons in the world, needs to get after the QB. Their defense is good, getting to the QB 11 times, and provided enough pressure to force four fumbles and two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown; but the only way the Bills will win the AFC East is if they do it as a team.
by Brandon Hamme
It may seem unlikely at this present time, but the Miami Dolphins will win the AFC East this season. The Dolphins may be 3-4 so far, but they are a team on the up.
Since the sacking of head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Doyle, the team has gone up a gear under new head coach Dan Campbell. The former tight end coach Campbell is extremely passionate and seems to be able to relate more to the players in the team than Philbin ever could. In Campbell’s first two games in charge, the Dolphins thrashed both the Titans and the Texans, which showed this team were no longer pushovers. Sure, the loss to the Patriots was disappointing, but the Dolphins are a team on the up.
In Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins have got on board one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. Suh has said that he has had difficulties early on with settling in but has recently said he is now enjoying life in Miami and he has got used to the way the Dolphins set out their defense. Suh has shown over the years that he can be a monster when on form, and he will cause opposing offenses huge problems for the remainder of the season, now that he is finally settled in. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has huge potential, his performances against the Texans and the Titans were so great that he broke the NFL record for completed successive passes with a total of 25. Tannehill is good enough now to lead his Dolphins side to the top of the division.
Who do you think will win the AFC East? Let us know in the comments below!