A lot has happened since the last time all four teams in the AFC East played on the same weekend. The division champion New England Patriots went on to win their sixth Super Bowl before losing considerable talent in the offseason. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, meanwhile, parted ways with their head coaches and are now at different stages of a rebuilding process. The Buffalo Bills, on the other hand, were among the big spenders in free agency.
All in all, a lot has been going on since the final regular season weekend of the 2018 season. Those developments now all resulted in fanbases across the division feeling substantially more confident in each team’s direction than they did back in December of last year. A look at the latest FanPulse numbers — sign up here if you also want to participate in future surveys — reflects just that:
Buffalo Bills: 86% confidence (71% week 17)
New England Patriots: 78% confidence (74% week 17)
New York Jets: 67% confidence (34% week 17)
Miami Dolphins: 66% confidence (31% week 17)
As can be seen, the majority of every AFC East fanbase is at least somewhat confident in the direction its clubs are headed towards with notable spikes over the last three months. Patriots fans, meanwhile, are only slightly more confident than they were three back in December — despite another Lombardi Trophy coming to Gillette Stadium: the team did lose some of its star players over the last month either to free agency or retirement.
Seeing the numbers for the other three clubs grow that rapidly is also not that big of a surprise considering that the Bills, Jets and Dolphins all have young talent either at key positions on the field or at the head coaching spot. To find out more about how fans from across the division see their respective teams, Pats Pulpit spoke to the managing editors of its sister sites for more input and analysis of the numbers.
“Bills fans see that Buffalo improved their biggest flaws from 2018 in free agency by adding a bunch of offensive linemen and a pair of wide receivers,” said Matt Warren, managing editor at Buffalo Rumblings. “They also plugged holes at cornerback as well as special teams. In a league where a lot of fans want to see action but don’t always get it in free agency, the Bills led the league in signings (but not in cash).”
“Even if they don’t end up panning out, the number of players Buffalo added this offseason is pretty uncommon in the NFL,” Matt continued. Free agency also is a big part of the reason why Jets fans saw a 33% increase in fan confidence since the last FanPulse survey asking this particular question was sent out three months back — as is the development of 2018 first-round quarterback Sam Darnold, as Gang Green Nation’s John Butchko pointed out.
“Much of the excitement in the Jets fan base revolves around Sam Darnold. The rookie finished and up and down rookie season with a strong December. Fans are hoping to see a leap in year two,” John told Pats Pulpit before also mentioning free agency. “The Jets were among the most active teams in free agency, upgrading at running back with Le’Veon Bell, linebacker with C.J. Mosley, and wide receiver with Jamison Crowder.”
Dolphins fans, meanwhile, have a different look at their team as The Phinsider managing editor Kevin Nogle pointed out. “The Dolphins fan base realizes this is probably going to be a really ugly year for the team, but the fact that they are finally doing a full reset has the fans believing there will be a light at the end of the dark, dark, dark tunnel,” said Kevin about a team that will look substantially different at both head coach and quarterback in 2019.
“Even while we see the team getting worse this offseason, shedding talent to free up salary cap space, there seems to be a plan in place, and they seem to be sticking to it,” Kevin continued. “All of the band aid solutions of the previous few regimes are being ripped off this offseason, giving hope that, with a couple of strong drafts and around $120 million in cap space next year, the Dolphins will finally end the mediocrity that has plagued the team since Dan Marino retired.”
Championships are not won or lost in March and April, of course, but the excitement surrounding every team in the AFC East — albeit for different reasons — should make for an entertaining year in the division... and if only when it comes to who finishes in second place behind the Patriots, as history has taught us over the last ten years.
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