Conference Preview: AFC
2nd Place: New England Patriots
2016 Record: 10-6
Explanation: Oh, no! Run to the hills, Patriots fans! Your team didn’t win the AFC East(in my
predictions, that is). I know a 10-6 season to you Pats fans is like a 5-11 season for any other team, but let’s try to be objective with our analysis here. Aside from the 4 game suspension that Brady will serve, this team has quite a few question marks heading into the season and whether they want to admit it or not, it may be too much for the great Darth Belichick to mask.
How will Garoppolo play? Has the O-line improved? How strong is the running game? How will you generate a consistent pass rush without Chandler Jones? Are Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower back to full health? Will Edelman and Amendola be ready for the regular season? Can you hold off the Bills and the Dolphins for the division crown?
Yeah, you guys have quite a few questions to answer. On the plus side, you have the best TE combo in the NLF with Gronk and Martellus Bennett. You’ll get Brady back(eventually) oh, and you still have one of the best coaches ever.
All that aside, I don’t see this season being as much of a cake walk for the Pats as some “analysts” seem to think. There’s no denying the improvements that Buffalo and Miami have made this season. Also, I don’t see that schedule being very favorable for the Pats (which is odd because it always seems like they catch a break with their match-ups). After the first four games without Brady, the Pats have to play a 3 game stretch against the Bengals, Steelers and Bills with two of them being on the road. After that, they have to play the Seahawks, Ravens, Broncos and a game against the Dolphins in Miami (which is a game they always struggle with).
Will this team still be in the playoffs? Absolutely. Will they win the division, not according to my predictions. Whether the “analysts” want to admit it or not, this team has a lot of issues heading into the season and until they prove that they can overcome these obstacles, I can’t say that they’re the best team in this division.
Division Champs: Buffalo Bills
2016 Record: 11-5
Explanation: You’re welcome, Rex… I gave your team some love. In all seriousness, I really do like
what Buffalo has constructed on their roster and I feel like they are the biggest threat to not only challenge, but over take the Patriots for the AFC East title this year. What do they have? Well..
-Young QB on the rise
-One of the best running games in the league with a great O-line
-Good young talent at the receiving positions
-A defense with top 10 talent
-A schedule that is more favorable than any other team in the AFC East
-An experienced coaching staff that knows they need to win big this year
-Ditto for the GM and personnel department
And I could go on. There’s a lot to like about this Bills team. Quite frankly, the stars are aligned for this team to break their postseason spell this year. Between the uncertainty revolving around the Patriots and the young regimes in NY/Miami trying to find their way, I feel like the Bills have the talent and coaching staff to make the jump and spoil the AFC East for the Pats in 2016. As for their schedule, there’s a few games that they absolutely have to take advantage of in order to be division champs.
One of which is their week 4 match up against the Pats in Foxborough. Their annual chore of a trip to NE should be easier this year, thanks to Brady’s suspension. Between matches like that and against the Cardinals at home (it’s a east coast game at 1:00. Football fans know that historically, west coast teams always struggle when playing early games on the east coast), the Bills have the opportunity to take care of their toughest opponents in a situation that is favorable for them.
Will they make the most of their opportunities? I believe so. Hopefully they can hold up their end the bargain and get the job done this year. I never root for anyone besides the Broncos but it is nice to see teams that have been down for so long get back into playoff contention. I think it’s good for the NFL and I hope that Buffalo can optimize their talent in 2016 because there may never be another year in which things fall in their favor.
And that’s all I got, folks! Let football season begin! GO BRONCOS!