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2015 AFC East Season Predictions

With the draft over, the picture is now clear and it's time to make a prediction.

Greatest QB-HC Duo Will Capture Another Division Title
Greatest QB-HC Duo Will Capture Another Division Title
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

It's the third slow point in the NFL off-season, the time between the draft and training camp. This time period is also the most optimistic for fans of every team now that the major roster construction process is over.

New England Patriots: 14-2, #1 seed in the AFC Playoffs
I honestly don't believe the length of the suspension will affect the Patriots record that much because the first three games aren't that tough. At worst I see Brady missing two games for his "role" in the DeflateGate controversy/witch hunt. Two of the first three games come against pushover teams (Pittsburgh and Jacksonville), so at worst I see them going 2-2 in their first four games and that's if a lot of things go wrong. The toughest opponent for the Patriots in the regular season will be the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4 in Jerry World, but they will have two weeks to prepare for that game so they should win. I believe the team will start 3-1 in their first four and finish the season 3-0 and clinch the AFC's top seed in Week 17 at Miami on January 3rd. My three loss predictions are Buffalo in Week 2 and Houston in Week 14. Despite the early bye week, the schedule in terms of a traveling standpoint isn't too bad. They play only three games outside the Eastern Time Zone (Dallas, Denver, and Houston) and the road game in Miami isn't until December, which alleviates concerns of the team fighting the heat. In the off-season, the gap between the Patriots and their AFC rivals has not closed and arguably has widened with the Patriots revamping their Front 7 (especially DL) to compensate for losing Darrelle Revis to the Jets. You can pencil in the Patriots for a Top 2 Seed and make travel plans to Foxborough in January.

Buffalo Bills: 9-7, Miss the Playoffs
Rexy will have his win against the Patriots in Week 2 according to my predictions. The Bills have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball and Rex's schemes tend to give Tom Brady fits when he has the right guys for it. Brady might not even play in Week 2 though, so the deck might be stacked in Rex's favor anyway. If there is one weakness in their defense, it's at the LB after losing their best linebacker to the Eagles in the LeSean McCoy trade. Without a reliable quarterback (their top QB is Matt Cassel), the team is probably likely to underperform their talent level. The Bills are going to have to compensate for that with a Ground and Pound style offense, but LeSean McCoy has a lot of tread on his tires and isn't the downhill and physical runner that is best suited for that style of play. I consider 9-7 to be an overly optimistic prediction for the Bills anyway, but they did go 9-7 with Kyle Orton and EJ Manuel next year (with the 9th win a gimme from the Patriots who rested all their key starters in that game).

Miami Dolphins: 8-8, Miss the Playoffs
Miami is putting all their chips on the table this off-season with the signing of DT Ndamukong Suh and giving QB Ryan Tannehill a lucrative contract extension. Like the Bills, the Dolphins have a lot of talent on the defensive line that should give Patriots fans concerns. Unlike the Bills, they do have a QB and good pieces on offense to work with. QB Ryan Tannehill made a big step forward last year under the Bill Lazor offense, which really suits him well. While the Dolphins would be an easy pick for a playoff team with all the names they are rocking, their roster is very top-heavy. You can't predict injuries, specifically who and the severity, but the Dolphins lack depth at enough positions (OL and LB) that could doom their season quickly. Another 8-8 season likely gets Joe Philbin fired for a mediocre performance with a talented roster.

New York Jets: 7-9, Miss the Playoffs
The Jets are bringing back the 2010 secondary with the signings of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Revis is one of the best CBs in the game today and a big part of the Patriots Super Bowl win last season (His career is going to be defined as "Hall of Fame CB for the Jets, won his only Super Bowl for the Patriots"). The Jets have a good DL combination in Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson on the outside (5-techs), in addition to drafting Leonard Williams out of USC 6th overall. That's a good move for the Jets because it gives them a younger option in case they can't afford Wilkerson (a team like the Browns, Jaguars, or the Raiders will be more than happy to write him a $100M contract and give him a $50M check). While they have some solid pieces on defense, their offense is going to be tough to watch. Their receiving corps consists of Eric Decker, a declining Brandon Marshall, and move TE Jace Amaro. That's actually not a bad cast of receivers, but it's not going to be enough to help Geno Smith (who posted QB ratings of 0.0 and 158.3 in two separate games in 2014). I believe the Jets have too much pride to tank this year and Todd Bowles is a solid coach. Of the 3 AFC East foes, the Jets could be the biggest problem in 3 years assuming the Jets don't do Jests things too often.

For the 2015 season, the Patriots divisional foes offer very challenging defensive line units and the offensive line is going to need to play well to beat those teams. The one good thing about it is there is a lot of overlap between how the teams are structured, which makes it easier to game plan against. If the Patriots can finish the regular season as the #1 seed in the conference, I believe they will end up in Super Bowl 50, where Tom Brady will get to play his 7th Super Bowl in the region where his football career started. No story line for the Patriots and the Bay Area is better than Tom Brady winning his 5th Super Bowl in his hometown (unless it comes at the expense of the 49ers).