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AFC East Power Rankings 2024 (Post-OTAs, Minicamp Edition)

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The Buffalo Bills enter the 2024 NFL season as the four-time reigning champions of the AFC East. Their run of success comes after the New England Patriots captured 11 consecutive division titles starting in 2009.

In turn, it’s been a while since the Miami Dolphins (2008) or New York Jets (2002) secured the AFC East crown. The Jets’ 21-year drought is tied for the league’s second-longest with the Las Vegas Raiders behind only the Cleveland Browns (34 years).

That could change this season, however, as the AFC East is one of the most wide-open divisions on paper. It should make for a race that goes right down to the wire.

2024 AFC East Power Rankings (v1.0, Post-Offseason Workouts)

1. Buffalo Bills

Where you Bills rank ahead of training camp depends heavily on how you believe they handled replacing two key duos: Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis at wide receiver and Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer at safety.

Those four stars played a massive role alongside quarterback Josh Allen in helping transform Buffalo from a longtime also-ran into a perennial Super Bowl contender. Getting younger at those positions was a necessity, but was now the right time for the overhaul given the state of the AFC East?

Khalil Shakir is the only wideout who caught a pass last season that remains on the roster. He’s joined by Curtis Samuel and rookie Keon Coleman as the likely starters. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Chase Claypool, Mack Hollins, Justin Shorter, KJ Hamler, and Andy Isabella will fight for the remaining spots on the depth chart. Claypool was particularly impressive in offseason workouts.

While that group lacks star power and previous high-end production, it’s far more versatile than what Buffalo has featured in recent years. It could end up being a net positive.

Safety hasn’t received as much attention, but it could be a bigger issue. The Bills have Taylor Rapp, Mike Edwards and rookie Cole Bishop competing for the two starting spots. It’s a major question mark, especially when factoring in the team’s lack of depth at cornerback.

Ultimately, Allen is the best quarterback in the division and that gives Buffalo the inside edge for now, but that could change quickly if the rest of the roster lags behind during training camp and the preseason.

2. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins led the AFC East by three games with five weeks left in 2023. They proceeded to go 2-3 down the stretch, allowing the Bills to capture another division title. It also raised further questions about whether Tua Tagovailoa is a true franchise quarterback.

Miami proceeded to significantly shake up its roster. The front office moved on from Jerome Baker, Xavien Howard, Robert Hunt, Emmanuel Ogbah, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Christian Wilkins, among others. The arrivals included linebacker Jordyn Brooks, center Aaron Brewer, cornerback Kendall Fuller, tight end Jonnu Smith and linebacker Shaquil Barrett.

As a whole, those moves push the Dolphins toward being perhaps the fastest team in the NFL. That always can create matchup advantages on both sides of the ball. The question is whether that style of play can succeed late in the regular season and in the playoffs.

Perhaps that’s why a few of Miami’s more recent additions, led by wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Calais Campbell, are a different brand of player. Less speed, more in-your-face production. It can bring much-needed balance on both sides of the ball.

The Dolphins open the regular season with back-to-back home games against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 and Buffalo in Week 2. So they can’t afford a slow start if they want to compete for the AFC East division crown come January.

3. New York Jets

The Jets season rests solely on the shoulders of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. His play declined during his final year with the Green Bay Packers in 2022—his 91.1 passer rating was the lowest full-season mark of his career—and then he suffered a season-ending injury on his first series with New York.

Rodgers has recovered from the torn Achilles, saying the mental hurdles are the last ones to jump as he prepares for the 2024 campaign.

“I feel really good,” the 40-year-old quarterback told reporters in May. “It’s just about the mental part. These practices have been nice the last couple of days. Feel what it’s like to be out there, to be moving around, to not be thinking about it and see how I respond the next day. This is the last part. The strength is good, the movement is good, just the confidence to do everything.”

Yet, Rodgers skipped mandatory minicamp last week. Jets head coach Robert Saleh said it was an “unexcused” absence, but one that was communicated ahead of time.

It’s fair to wonder whether Rodgers, who was floated as a potential running mate for Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and previously attempted to become the new Jeopardy! host, is still all-in on football.

The rest of the Jets roster is definitely at a playoff level, and if Rodgers returned to peak form they could even enter the Super Bowl conversation. It’s simply impossible to know what level of production to expect from him, though. Until that becomes more clear they sit behind the Bills and Dolphins in the AFC East.

4. New England Patriots

For the first time since 1999, someone other than Bill Belichick will be running the Patriots coaching staff. Jerod Mayo, who played linebacker under Belichick from 2008 through 2015, was selected as the replacement. He’d served as the team’s inside linebackers coach since 2019.

Given Mayo’s roots on the defensive side, the Pats figure to play a defensive style similar to the one Belichick employed for the past few decades. Offensively is where the changes could come, with Alex Van Pelt being brought in as the offensive coordinator.

Van Pelt, a former NFL quarterback, held the same role with the Browns over the past four years. He tends to prefer a balanced attack. That’s likely to remain the case as New England attempts to take some pressure off rookie signal-caller Drake Maye, assuming he wins the starting job. The other options are underwhelming: Jacoby Brissett and Bailey Zappe.

The Patriots defense, which ranked in the top 10 of yards allowed in four of the past five seasons, should be strong again. The running game is also set up for success with the tandem of Rhamondre Stevenson and free-agent addition Antonio Gibson.

So, while it may be a rebuilding year in the big picture, the Patriots could still push toward .500. If Maye wins the jobs and can put together a rookie season comparable to C.J. Stroud last year, that’s where the Pats could seriously enter the AFC East race.

Main Image: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports


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