Best and Worst Case Scenarios in the AFC East

As the NFL season is right around the corner, optimism is at its finest. Every team is 0-0, tied for first place. No team has been eliminated from the postseason yet. Every rivalry’s bragging rights are still up for the taking. Every player could have THAT career-defining year.  The point of these articles is to give every team’s hopeful season and every team’s disaster season. While some teams’ best scenarios involve Super Bowls, other teams are simply hoping for signs of great potential from young players. I will disregard injuries in worst case scenarios (unless talking about an injury-prone player) because obviously anyone can get injured in football. This article will focus on the best and worst cases of the four AFC East teams: New England, New York, Miami and Buffalo.


Best and Worst Case Scenarios in the AFC East

New England Patriots

Best Case:

New England does what New England seems to do every year. 11 of the past 12 AFC East Divisional Champions shirts have featured the Patriots logo, and the trend continues in 2015. The offense is good enough in the first few weeks, and afterwards relies on Tom Brady and he delivers once again. Rob Gronkowski builds on a stellar 2014 campaign and tops 14 touchdowns. The Patriots +12 turnover differential was good for 2nd best in the NFL in 2014, and despite losing both starting corners, New England simply plugs in more talented players. To top it all off, first round draft choice and defensive tackle Malcom Brown makes every team pay for letting him fall to New England at the end of the first round. New England finds itself in yet another deep postseason run with a chance to win the AFC again and defend their Super Bowl title.

Worst Case: Tom Brady’s four-game suspension causes New England to sputter out of the gate. The team drops key early games to Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Dallas to begin 1-3. The Patriots do not have a deep receiving core and the combination of Gronkowski, LaFell and Edelman aren’t enough in 2015 like they were in 2014. On defense, the secondary struggles mightily without both 2014 starting corners in Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. Wilfork is not there to clog up more holes and the offense simply cannot keep pace with the opposing offense’s scoring rates. New England finishes 9-7 and the 2016 NFL playoffs do not feature Tom Brady and company.


New York Jets

Best Case: Leonard Williams is the best draft choice in recent history for New York. The guy is having a great preseason and his form translate to the regular season. Darelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine form a dominant Jets secondary and new head coach and defensive mastermind Todd Bowles has the top defense in the league. Combining lots of pressure with a great secondary means lots of turnovers and the former weak New York Jets offense starts scoring points again thanks to a short field. Despite quarterback Geno Smith being injured, Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t horrible and connects with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker for some pretty plays. The Jets won’t win the division, but a wildcard spot is a good possibility.

Worst Case: Bowles has zero control over the lockeroom. When I say zero, I mean like players getting hurt in the lockeroom. Like, missing a week of practice because of an injury. Oh wait, even worse, did quarterback Geno Smith go down for 6-10 weeks because of a sucker punch? The New York media will have fun with this team in 2015. Smith has zero respect in the lockeroom and is cut after the season. A crowded defensive line becomes a problem instead of a gift. Wilkerson doesn’t want to be in New York anymore and intends to leave after his contract expires, clearly affecting team chemistry. The Jets are an offensive trainwreck, and Geno watches on the sidelines as Ryan Fitzpatrick goes three and out again. Then Fitzpatrick turns the ball over. A much-improved AFC East runs over the Jets, and they find themselves with a top five selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.


Miami Dolphins

Best Case: Miami realizes that they averaged the second best yards per carry in 2014 (4.7) yet only finished 12th in total rushing yards. How do you fix this problem? Not being 22nd in attempts is a good place to start. Therefore, the Dolphins decide to give the ball a lot more to Lamar Miller. Meanwhile, newly extended Ryan Tannehill takes a big step forward with plenty of new targets in DeVante Parker, Greg Jennings, Jordan Cameron and Kenny Stills. In Miami’s first seven games, Jarvis Landry averaged 3.5 receptions a game. In Miami’s final nine games, Landry averaged 6.5 receptions a game. Miami’s stud second-year slot receiver has an even larger role in 2015. Ndamukong Suh answers every prayer of Miami fans, as the 24th best run defense that blew so many games becomes a strength in 2015. The Dolphins blew four fourth-quarter leads in 2014 and ended up 8-8. They don’t blow any in 2015 and win the AFC East.

Worst Case: Tannehill’s huge contract proves to be a mistake. Tannehill, only 23-25 as a starter, produces another lackluster season in Miami as he continues to struggle with throwing the ball down the field. Defenses cheat up towards the line of scrimmage knowing that Tannehill only throws short and intermediate routes, and the offensive line fails to protect Tannehill yet again. After giving up 46 sacks last year, the other AFC East pass rushers feast on Miami’s quarterback. Meanwhile on defense, the opposing rushing attacks continue to destroy Miami. Like Denver, New England, Baltimore and New York (Jets) did last year down the stretch, teams abuse the weak Miami front seven. Miami flirts with mediocrity again and head coach Joe Philbin’s future in South Beach is not looking good.


Buffalo Bills

Best Case: Buffalo Bills fans rejoice as the team ends the longest current playoff drought in the NFL. 15 long, hard seasons in Buffalo are forgotten as new head coach Rex Ryan fulfills his promise of a playoff birth. The defense leads the way, creating tons of pressure with the front seven and forcing costly turnovers. Mario Williams is Super Mario, and the defense carries the team. LeSean McCoy on the other hand looks a lot like 2013 Shady, revitalizing a Bills rushing attack. Whether it is E.J. Manuel or Tyrod Taylor, whoever starts at quarterback isn’t a top 15 quarterback, but isn’t in the bottom ten either. He makes good reads, and the Bills control time of possession thanks to new running back LeSean McCoy. Sammy Watkins emerges as a clear go-to receiver and reestablishes himself as the best in his draft class. The Bills knock the Patriots off their thrones and claim the AFC East crown.

Worst Case: Rex Ryan ends up having to entertain the media instead of answering questions as to why the offense cannot score points. Despite being put in countless positions to win games for Buffalo, the offense just cannot not put together that key fourth quarter drive. The Bills are forced to switch between Matt Cassell, E.J. Manuel and Tyrod Taylor week-to-week in attempt to find a spark, therefore inhibiting chemistry between quarterback and team. LeSean McCoy looks like 2014 McCoy, unable to hit that second gear and break through the line. The offensive line can’t block for him, and constant pressure forces bad decisions by whoever plays quarterback. Whether the passes are rushed, the reads aren’t right, or he turns the ball over deep in costly situations, the Bills are left regretting the first round choice they spent on E.J. Manuel and must trade up in the draft to get a new signal caller in the 2016 NFL Draft – otherwise their great defense is simply put to waste.



FOXBORO, MA – OCTOBER 26:  Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots looks to pass the ball during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium on October 26, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)