We are back with another installment of Around The League, and this time we are looking at the AFC East. Home to Hunter’s favorite team (the reigning defending division champion Buffalo Bills) and me and Nate’s favorite team (the reigning defending division dwellers New York Jets), one thing is for sure and two things for certain: we are both rooting against the New England Patriots. With the charcuterie board set, let’s take a look at this division, which really means looking at the signal callers.
1. Who is Mac Jones throwing to? Fresh off a Pro Bowl season (replacement nods count), the Patriots decided to help their young QB by *looks around* doing nothing. Ok, they went and got Devante Parker, who fans have been waiting to see a breakout season from. Maybe this is the year? In any event, the Patriots had another uneven draft, and now enter this season with the worst pass-catching group in the division. To top it off, they also lost their offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and have decided to let two gentlemen with no play-calling experience on the offensive side of the ball do just that. Lastly, they traded one of their better offensive lineman (Shaq Mason) to the Bucs once they lost their starting guard. Good to see Bill Belicheck still wants to help Tom Brady succeed. The true sign of love is how we love our people from a distance, and Bill nailed it. He should have really focused on helping his second-year QB though.
2. Can Zach Wilson take the leap? Speaking of helping a second-year QB, the New York Jets did exactly that and then some this off-season. Last year, they gave Zach Wilson WRs Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, the former a solid veteran and the latter a dynamic rookie WR that should’ve been drafted earlier than he was. This year, the Jets drafted Ohio State WR Garret Wilson and RB Breece Hall, re-signed Pro Bowler Braxton Berrios, and signed TEs Tyler Conklin and CJ Uzomah and OL Duane Brown and Laken Tomlinson. Most importantly, and unlike New England, they kept OC Mike LaFleur, which means Zach enters year two in the same offense as last year but with much more talent around him. He seems to have avoided a major injury in the first preseason game and looks to be back in time for the week one tilt versus the Ravens, and the offense will go as far as he has developed.
3. Is this the beginning of the end of the Tua era in Miami? Whereas the Jets will have the same offensive scheme this year, the Dolphins similarly went to the 49ers tree for their new scheme and hired former 49ers OC Mike McDaniel to be their head coach. They then went out and added a franchise LT, talented RB, traded a former first-round WR within the division, and then made a blockbuster trade with the Kansas City Chiefs to acquire All-Pro WR Tyreek Hill. Like the Jets, this now all falls on the young QB for Miami. This season becomes doubly important when you consider that the Dolphins were just docked draft picks for telling Brian Flores to do on purpose what the team was well-equipped to do by accident: lose games. Armed with less capital, but no less averse to making a big trade if needed, and with a much-hyped QB draft class for next year, this could be Tua’s last shot to impress the coach that did not draft him.
4. Can Josh Allen finally beat Patrick Mahomes when it counts? Whereas the three other teams in the division have questions about their QBs, the Buffalo Bills have answered theirs. Josh Allen took the leap last year and became a legitimate MVP candidate, and he looks set to build on that with the emergence of Gabriel Davis and the continued development of Dawson Knox. The MVP award might be in his near future, but there’s one thing Josh Allen has not been able to do: beat Patrick Mahomes when it matters. I know the Bengals are the media darling given their surprise run to the Super Bowl last year, but the Chiefs are still the top dog in this conference and all signs point to Allen having to go through Mahomes if he wants to reach the Super Bowl that’s eluded these Bills fans for 20+ years. The AFC is a juggernaut of QB talent right now, and they also have the best young QBs in the league, and the Bills have one of the better ones across the entire league. In order to be solidified as the guy in the AFC though? He’s gotta go through Pat, and we will see if this is the year he does just that.