The New England Patriots have dominated their division during the days of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, but when the latter left in free agency last offseason their streak of AFC East titles came to an end. After winning it each of the last 11 seasons and 17 times since 2001, the Patriots struggled to a 7-9 record in 2020.
Succeeding them as division champions were the Buffalo Bills, who established themselves as one of the better teams in football en route to a 13-3 record and berth in the AFC title game. The Miami Dolphins also managed to leapfrog the Patriots in the standings, finishing out of the playoffs but a respectable 10-6. The New York Jets, meanwhile, were unable to take advantage of New England’s weaknesses; they went only 2-14.
Obviously, though, past seasons have little actual impact on those coming in the future. Every team starts at 0-0 again in 2021 and countless factors will determine a club’s success over its 17 regular season games.
When looking at the four contenders from the current perspective, however, we can make some relatively safe statements about the state of the AFC East.
The Bills may have the strongest roster top to bottom and as reigning champions can be seen as the favorite to win the division yet again. The Patriots, meanwhile, have the best coaching staff as well as a massively improved team. The Dolphins’ success will be closely tied to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s development in Year 2, while the Jets are better on paper but have yet to show if they will win more than two games under first-year head coach Robert Saleh.
Buffalo again taking the division crown would therefore not be a surprise, but the Patriots should be more competitive and could play for a wild card spot or, if a lot of things go their way, maybe even the AFC East championship again. Miami is a relative wild card one year after narrowly missing the playoffs, while the Jets are probably still some time away from playing consistently successful football again.
With all that being said, now it’s your turn: Who do you think will win the division in 2021? Will the Patriots be better than last year’s third place? How will their rivals perform? Let us know in the comments below!