For the overall 2019 NFL Preview click here, and see the links below for the rest of the divisional previews.
New England is so disgustingly good, the Patriots capped their worst regular season in nearly a decade by winning their sixth Super Bowl.
Though this year Rob Gronkowski is retired and the rest of the AFC East outside of South Florida should be better, the Patriots remain the class of the division. The timeless Tom Brady is thumbing his nose at Father Time, and the rest of the team will have to do the same considering this is the NFL’s oldest roster.
Even their offensive coordinator is trying to make sense of what they’ll be on that side of the ball post-Gronk and starting center David Andrews is likely to miss the season. But the Pats added N’Keal Harry in the draft and Josh Gordon has been reinstated, so the receiving corps has potential to the best Brady has had in awhile.
Michael Bennett replaces Trey Flowers on defense, so that unit is definitely older. Plus, Patrick Chung could potentially miss time if his preseason legal issues turn more serious. Even still, New England is almost a lock to win its 11th straight AFC East title and continue the march toward the Atlanta Braves’ professional sports record of 14 straight division titles.
As we know from experience here in Washington, simply shopping for recognizable names in free agency isn’t enough to rise up in the standings — especially in a competitive division.
Adding Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley, Jamison Crowder and first-round pick Quinnen Williams — who is widely considered to be the best player in the draft — is great, but it takes time to integrate that many new pieces. Oh, did I mention Ryan Kalil un-retired during training camp to play center? He will need more than a month to get back to his Pro Bowl form (If at all. He is 34 with an injury history, after all).
But each of the last six Jets coaches posted a winning record in his first year, and I think Adam Gase will keep that streak alive. His offense should thrive with Le’Veon Bell as his, um, bell cow (pun intended) and that balance should help Sam Darnold avoid a sophomore slump. So should Crowder, who is perhaps the most underrated of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions.
Another former Redskin, Gregg Williams, takes over the defense and although he has historically run a 4-3 alignment, he has vowed to keep the familiar 3-4 in Gotham. They could use more from the edge rush position, and losing Avery Williamson to a season-ending knee injury definitely hurts. But the D still has potential playmakers at every level and figures to be pretty good.
Of course, these are the Jets. Gase hired his father-in-law, Joe Vitt, to his defensive staff, which given his history with Williams, makes for an interesting subplot. And we can’t ignore all the weird stuff Gase keeps doing beyond his, shall we say, eye-opening introduction.
But this roster is too talented not to surpass .500 and contend for a wild card in the AFC.
Buffalo followed up its long-awaited playoff berth in 2017 with a six-win thud last season. Naturally, a team without a 10-win season in the new millennium is reaching back to the 1990s for inspiration on offense, where second-year QB Josh Allen now has free agent acquisition Cole Beasley to throw to. The ageless Frank Gore replaces LeSean McCoy in the backfield, which looks good on paper but Father Time has to catch up with a 36-year-old running back eventually, right?
On defense, first-round pick Ed Oliver replaces longtime D-lineman Kyle Williams but the top-ranked pass defense of 2018 is relying on older pass rushers (31-year-old Jerry Hughes and 36-year-old Lorenzo Alexander). This is a competitive team that will make Buffalo proud, just not good enough to hang with a perennial contender like the Pats and the up-and-coming Jets.
Miami probably won’t be any good.
New head coach Brian Flores comes over from New England, and the most notable thing he has done so far is do some passive aggressive stuff to his best receiver Kenny Stills, who was later shipped to Houston along with Laremy Tunsil as part of a preseason fire sale that also included dealing Kiko Alonso to New Orleans. This team doesn’t have the talent to consistently compete, as evidenced by journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick taking his talents to South Beach to become the first QB in NFL history to throw a pass for eight different teams. The most notable thing he has done so far is share a nickname with the starting safety.
But “Fitzmagic” will likely be more like “Fitztragic,” playing behind what is ranked as the league’s worst offensive line even before the Tunsil trade. Considering Cardinals castoff Josh Rosen has been drawing Brett Favre comparisons and Miami is clearly in rebuilding mode, it’s hard to imagine him not getting a crack at starting this season.
Time will tell if Flores will buck the trend of Bill Belichick disciples failing as head coaches, but 2019 promises to be losing season in Miami.