2017 NFL Season Preview: AFC East.

The same division that has the reigning champions also has the team that could be the worst in the league

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With the 2017 NFL season now visible in the distance for all 32 NFL franchises, the Sideline Report thought it would be a good idea to have a look ahead at all teams fortunes heading into season 2017. Optimism abounds for some, while a few teams are preparing for what could a long campaign.

Here is our look ahead to the upcoming season, beginning with the AFC East:

Buffalo

Key Acquisitions: Head Coach Sean McDermott, FB Mike Tolbert, S Micah Hyde, CB Tre’Davious White

Key Losses: CB Stephon Gilmore, QB EJ Manuel, K Dan Carpenter

What does a successful season look like?

For all the talk this off-season surrounding QB Tyrod Taylor and whether he was a franchise QB or not, Taylor signed a contact extension and will be looking to repay the faith the front office (eventually) showed in him. Limiting INT’s and improving on third down would certainly help in the eyes of many. Sammy Watkins finally gaining full health and catching 50 or so passes from Taylor for 1,000 yards or more would spell a successful season from the pair. Switching to a 4-3 defense should certainly help the likes of second year pro Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland, both of whom played in similar schemes in college. The Bills will be praying for a big impact from both on what is otherwise a pretty ho-hum defense. 10 wins are not beyond the Bills, anything more would be a miracle from first year HC Sean McDermott.

What does a disastrous season look like?

Some might say Bills fans know all too well what this sort of season looks like. So much rests on the shoulders of the QB. If Taylor doesn’t take the next step in his development, the Bills could find themselves with a very early draft pick come next April. The running game is expected to be sound, as it was in 2016, but Taylor must develop as a downfield passer. If Taylor doesn’t, and Watkins struggles to get on the field, it could be another long season in Westen New York.

Cold Hard Truth: 

First year coaches rarely come in and take teams to play-off berths. The Bills have a fantastic running game to lean on and some talented defensive pieces, however, they simply have too many holes for a play-off team. 7-9 may be a palatable win-loss.

Miami

Key Additions

TE Julius Thomas, DE William Hayes, LB Lawrence Timmons, S TJ McDonald, DE Charles Harris

Key Losses

DT Earl Mitchell, TE Jordan Cameron

What does a successful season look like?

The Dolphins took big strides last year, clinching an unexpected wild card berth. In year two under HC Adam Gase, Dolphins fans will expect further improvement from QB Ryan Tannehill, while also hoping to see a 16 game sample of RB Jay Ajayi’s mid-season form. An improved secondary would go a long way towards helping the Dolphins back to January football, while immediate impacts from rookie Charles Harris and trade acquisition William Hayes would be ideal. This is a talented Dolphins team under HC Gase, however, there are some concerns, such depth at Wide Receiver behind Jarvis Landry and an exciting albeit paper thin secondary. Miami look good to repeat their 10-6 record of a year ago. Will it be enough for a wild card spot this time around?

What does a disastrous season look like?

The Dolphins don’t get the impact from their rookie class they would have liked and Guard-come-left tackle Laremy Tunsil struggles at his first season on the blindside. RB Jay Ajayi can’t replicate his 2016 form on the ground and Tannehill and passing offense falter. This is too good of a team to win any less than 5 or 6 games in 2017, but if these things don’t go to plan, there could be changes heading into 2018, starting at QB.

Cold Hard Truth

This is certainly a team with enough talent to claim a wild card spot once again, however, the Dolphins are a good team that lack difference makers on either side of the ball. There is perhaps 10 teams in the AFC that are in with a play-off shot this year, and Miami’s one them. 10-6 would another good season, but good enough?

New England

Key Additions

CB Stephon Gilmore, WR Branden Cooks, RB Mike Gillislee

Key Losses

TE Martellus Bennet, CB Logan Ryan, LB Jabaal Sheard, RB LeGarrette Blount

What does a successful season look like?

We all know what a successful season looks like in Foxborough. It usually culminates in the players heading down the streets of Boston hanging out of an open-top double decker bus. Anything less than at least an appearance in Superbowl 52 in Minnesota would be seen as a failure in Patriots fans eyes. A successful season would be the Pats going back-to-back for the first time in the franchise’s history, with QB Tom Brady being named unanimous MVP while new acquisitions like Brandon Cooks are selected first team All-pro. Oh, and a big second half come back against the Falcons at home in week 7 would be great.

What does a disastrous season look like?

The only thing that looks to rob the Pats this season is injuries. And even still, who’s to say backup QB Jimmy Garropalo couldn’t lead this team to a record 10th Superbowl appearance under the tutelage of the great Bill Belichick? The Pats are certainties to win the East again, and it’s just a question of who they run into come January. An emerging Oakland squad or a red hot Pittsburgh offence could trouble this New England team on any given Sunday, but even that is difficult to imagine.

Cold Hard Truth

They’re the best, Brady’s the best, and it’s going to take a special performance from somebody to knock this team out of contention. Is this the squad to go 18-0? They’re going to be in the big one again, so get used to it.

New York Jets

Key Additions

QB Josh McCown, CB Morris Claiborne, S Jamal Adams

Key Losses

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, C Nick Mangold, WR Brandon Marshall, CB Darrelle Revis

What does a successful season look like?

Winning a game perhaps? This is one of the most talent barren squads in the entire NFL, so expecting too much would be ludicrous. The best thing that could happen for the Jets this year would be for either Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty to emerge as the clear QB1 and perform on Sundays. If not, the Jets will be almost certain to look for the answer at the top of the draft next April. Leonard Williams to continue his dominance up front and rookie Safety Jamal Adams being everything he advertised would be a good season for Gang Green, as would the immediate progression of young receivers Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson and Ardarius Stewart. 5 wins will be phenomenal.

What does a disastrous season look like?

We’re about to find out. The Jets do get to play the Browns while also battling the Bills twice, they may be their only serious chances of winning. The Jets are almost certain to have good draft capitol, and it won’t be surprising to see key Jets personal at the Rose Bowl watching USC on Saturdays more often than the Medo

 

 

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