It's still the Patriots and everyone else but maybe the gap is closing
The New England Patriots are once again the defending Super Bowl champions and while they underwent some personnel changes, it really doesn't feel like any other team in the AFC East has done enough to make me think the Pats can be dethroned in the division. Buffalo and New York hope to take the next step with their young quarterbacks while the Dolphins are already playing for 2020 and could be breaking in yet another new, young quarterback next year. Let's take a look at each team's win total and see if there's any value. The odds are from the Westgate out in Las Vegas.
Over 7 wins -125...Under 7 wins +105
Offense: Buffalo's offense was lackluster last year with 16.8 points per contest and I don't know how much better they will be in 2019. Josh Allen had his growing pains but looks like a quarterback you can build around. He has a solid arm and some good mobility. The problems come with the skill position guys around him. The wide receiving group added John Brown and Cole Beasley, but how much will they help? Buffalo has a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield in LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, but it's no longer 2010 so who knows how effective they'll be. The offensive line still needs work despite getting overhauled this offseason.
Defense: This side of the ball didn't have as many problems as they were the best in the NFL against the pass and No. 2 in total defense. The only real change is that Kyle Williams is gone from up front. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds had a solid rookie year as one of the youngest players in the league. They need to get more sacks and the hope is that rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver will help them do that. I really like Tre'Davious White at corner, but they have to find his partner back there. Overall, this is a solid unit that will be in a lot of low-scoring battles.
Verdict: The AFC East gets the NFC East in their cross-conference battles. That means the Bills have to travel to Dallas as part of a really tough end of the schedule that also features road trips to Pittsburgh and New England. The most friendly stretch is probably after the Week 6 bye when they have three straight at home. They also technically don't leave the state until Oct. 6 (Week 5), just one week before an early bye. This is a solid number so no play.
Over 5 wins EVEN...Under 5 wins -120
Offense: The changes begin at quarterback where it will either be Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. It figures to probably be Rosen since Miami traded for him. Really though, this team is playing for Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert next year right now. The Dolphins have a mediocre group of running backs with Kenyan Drake leading the way. The wide receivers are slightly better in Miami then they are in Buffalo with Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker. I think they are tragically underusing Parker, but maybe that will change.
Defense: Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake are gone so the pass rush could struggle to get to the quarterback. Christian Wilkins was the team's first-round pick and the former Clemson standout should help up front, but the front seven is devoid of talent overall. I do like cornerback Xavien Howard though and we'll see what versatile defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick does in year two. New head coach Brian Flores is a defensive guy so you'd think there could be some success here, but they just don't have enough talent.
Verdict: Miami gets three of its first four at home before the really early bye in Week 5. The Dolphins finish with three of their final four on the road, but by then they'll be playing for a draft pick so it won't really matter. The Dolphins, much like the Bills, get to play the two New York teams back-to-back on the road. I think this one is an under as I came up with four wins.
Over 11 wins -120...Under 11 wins EVEN
Offense: Tom Brady will be 42 when the season begins and we'll see if he can improve off what he would probably consider a subpar year. Brady will lose his security blanket in Rob Gronkowski who decided to retire and it will most likely stay away despite what Pats fans are hoping. The Patriots will try and fill that hole with familiar face Ben Watson (who is suspended the first four games) and a mix of other veterans, including Lance Kendricks. The backfield has the usual candidates in James White and Sony Michel, but adds Alabama rookie Damien Harris to the mix. Out wide it's Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett as well as rookie N'Keal Harry.
Defense: Michael Bennett comes over to replace Trey Flowers who signed with Detroit in free agency to reunite with former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Bennett played a nice role in Philadelphia last season and will be a big help to Deatrich Wise up front. The linebacking corps needs Dont'a Hightower to return to what he used to be as he has struggled in recent seasons with injuries and ineffectiveness. Elandon Roberts was a pleasant surprise and joins Kyle Van Noy at linebacker. The secondary is on the older side with the McCourty twins (Devin and Jason) as well as Patrick Chung. Stephon Gilmore gives Bill Belichick a shutdown corner to rely on.
Verdict: The Pats' bye comes in late November (Week 10) and they have a tough stretch of games after the break - at Eagles, vs. Cowboys, at Texans, vs. Chiefs. New England closes out with Buffalo and Miami at home so if the AFC East is still up for grabs by then, the champs should be in good shape to get the job done. The over is the play here especially since they'll go 5-1 or 6-0 in the division.
Over 7.5 wins -110...Under 7.5 wins -110
Offense: Le'Veon Bell was signed in free agency and he should be really fresh after a year off. Bell lends instant credibility to an offense that struggled without weapons last year. He'll be a good player to catch dump passes out of the backfield if Sam Darnold gets in trouble. Darnold had a roller-coaster rookie season with several solid starts followed by some poor ones. Besides Bell, Darnold also gets to learn from new head coach Adam Gase, who has a reputation as a quarterback-whispered. Another newbie on offense is former Skins slot receiver Jamison Crowder. With Crowder inside and deep threat Robby Anderson outside, this team should put up more points.
Defense: It's all about the Williams' up front with first-round pick Quinnen joining Leonard (No. 6 overall in 2015) to wreak havoc on quarterbacks. The Jets also added C.J. Mosley to their linebacking corps. This should put Avery Williamson and Darron Lee in a better position to succeed as complementary pieces. Trumaine Johnson has to improve after last year's disappointment. We'll see what coordinator Gregg Williams can do with him. The Jets have Jamal Adams, who is a big-time player at safety. Overall, I think this side of the ball is a year away from realizing its potential.
Verdict: Much like the other teams in the division, the Jets have an early bye week (Week 4). They get two straight at home including a rare Monday night game against the Browns in Week 2. New York will be done playing the Patriots by Week 7. Starting in November, New York alternates home and road contests. I came up with seven or eight wins so no play here.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.