WINNER: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (15-1)
No surprise here, the greatest dynasty in American Sports history continues to roll.
Even though they lost defensive stars in DE Trey Flowers, and DT Malcom Brown, coach Bill Belichick always seems to find a way of replacing key players. In addition to signing DE Michael Bennett (great veteran leader), they drafted some gems. DE Chase Winovich (Michigan), and DT Byron Cowart (Maryland), both project to be All-Pro’s one day. New England won’t be missing Flowers and Brown for long.
Other than S Patrick Chung allegedly having a tough time keeping his nose clean (possible suspension ahead), the Secondary and Linebacking corps are near the top of the league as well. The Defense didn’t perform at a Patriot level during the regular season last year, but that’s sure to change. Combined with their elite Offense, they should dominate nearly everyone on their schedule.
The health of their Wide Receivers will be a crucial part of how far this team goes. They showed in the Playoffs and Super Bowl all they really need is Julian Edelman (recovering hand injury), and a solid O-Line. Edelman is also joined on the injury list with promising rookie WR N’Keal Harry (ASU), and the two will be vital to the Patriots’ Offense. Coach Belichick is still working to find a replacement for Gronk, and so it will be useful to keep an eye early on at the Tight End position, and how this group is progressing week to week. If they can stay healthy at WR and are able to find a suitable TE, it will be the same boring result for the rest of us outside of the Patriot fandom. Another Patriot Championship.
BUFFALO BILLS (7-9)
Everything out of Buffalo points to second-year QB Josh Allen being the Quarterback they’ve been looking for since QB Jim Kelly. I’m not completely sold yet, but that’s what they’re saying in Buffalo. Keep an eye on his decision making and accuracy. We know he can run, and has a cannon for a arm. Those two attributes alone don’t make a franchise QB.
In addition to having a question-mark at QB, the weapons on Offense are few. They have some talented rookies and other young promising players, but there just isn’t enough there for Allen to produce a high-scoring Offense. The recent release of RB LeSean McCoy isn’t actually that surprising, when you consider his age and the low value of RB’s in the NFL. They must also like what they see in RB Devin Singletary (FAU). He received a BeatVegas Draft grade of “B”.
The O-Line is perhaps the shining beacon of Bills football. Other than that, they excel at mediocrity in some important areas. The D-Line is average to above-average, and so is the Linebacker room. As mentioned before, the Offensive weapons are also average. A poor kicking game and lack of identity contribute to another season of futility for the Bills. However, at 7-9 things are trending up. Hopefully for the city of Buffalo, Josh Allen is the real deal.
NEW YORK JETS (4-12)
Similarly to QB Josh Allen of the Bills, QB Sam Darnold is reportedly going to have a big second-year. I’m not as high on him as most, but having head coach and QB guru Adam Gase on his side helps. He also sports a good amount of Offensive weapons, mainly RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Robby Anderson, and WR Quincy Enunwa. It’s too bad the O-Line is sub-par, otherwise the Jets would really be flying.
The D-Line is a little better than the porous O-Line, but overall they are weak on both sides of the ball. Certainly not a good foundation for a young team. These Lines will contribute to an ugly season in the Big Apple. With a Linebacker corps that leaves more to be desired, and a bad kicking game, the Jets won’t be chanting J-E-T-S too often this year. At least their team needs should be pretty apparent going forward. If they can get an O-Line together, and Darnold keeps improving, the future could be bright.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (1-15)
Each day it keeps getting worse and worse for Dolphin’s fans. Just when you think they can’t have anymore stars worth trading or releasing, another one goes. The latest being OL Laremy Tunsil, and WR Kenny Stills. Both very valuable pieces. Sure they’ve received lots of future Draft Picks along the way, but their plan had better be to tank for two years to try and Draft QB Trevor Lawrence. Otherwise, there’s no sense in dismantling the team to this degree.
Luckily, they’ve decided to start QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has shown to be more of a capable starter in the Preseason than that of newly acquired QB Josh Rosen (Cardinals). At least they don’t have the worst QB in the league. Unfortunately for Fitzpatrick and Rosen they don’t have an O-Line with the ability to protect. Miami easily has the worst O-Line in football.
On Defense, the D-Line is almost as bad as the O-Line. The Dolphins should lead the league in sacks given up, as well as fewest sacks on Defense. The Wide Receiver/Running Back situation was actually the only bright spot, until they traded away Stills to the Texans. Their best option will be feeding the RB’s, behind the weak Offensive Line. The Linebacking corps could be worse (although they also traded LB Kiko Alonso to the Saints). Another AFC East team with a below-average kicking game, rounds out our evaluation of the NFL’s worst team. Fitting as this is also the last team of our last Division Preview before the season starts. Enough with the speculation, time for football!