1. New England Patriots
Although the Pats will likely be without their franchise quarterback for the first four games, they will win the division because they still have Brady for 12 games and the rest of the teams do not. At worst, the Pats may start 1-3, if Jimmy Garopollo plays poorly and they cannot defeat the Steelers, Bills, or Cowboys. On offense, the Pats should continue to rank as one of the best units in the league as long as Gronk and the rest of their playmakers stays healthy. On defense, the team will have to answer many questions, especially in the secondary. Without Browner, Revis, and Wilfork, Belichick will need to scheme instead of relying on his talent like last season.
2. Miami Dolphins
During the offseason, the Dolphins made many moves to improve their ball club. On defense, they should possess one of the better groups in the league due to their talent and physicality. The biggest addition to the Dolphins was dominant nose tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh has the ability to transcend a defense because he creates holes for linebackers and rushes the quarterback. The team’s hope of making the playoffs will both depend on the play of Ryan Tannehill. If Tannehill can take a step forward, the Dolphins have a good chance to make the playoffs and even win the AFC East division title.
3. New York Jets
The New York Jets will be like the other three AFC East teams not named the Patriots. If their quarterback can play at a moderate level, they may be able to squeak into the playoffs or win the division. The Jets will lose star defense tackle Sheldon Richardson for at least 4 games. However, they are the only team that can lose a Pro Bowl DT and replace him with a player like Leonard Williams, the sixth overall selection in the draft. Along with a terrific front four, the Jets may possess the best secondary in the league with Revis and Cromartie. On offense, they should improve because they have a better offensive line, wide receivers, and running backs. The X-Factor will be Geno Smith’s ability to not turnover the football and put the defense in a poor position.
4. Buffalo Bills
Like the other AFC East teams, the Bills improved this offseason with the addition of Shady McCoy, Charles Clay, Percy Harvin, and Head Coach Rex Ryan. Before the addition of Ryan, easily one of the best and most creative defensive coaches in the league, the Bills had a great defense. The Bills have a great pass rush, which will make his blitz schemes even more effective. Unfortunately, Rex will face the same dilemma as he did with the Jets because he does not possess a functional quarterback. Whether it be EJ Manuel or Matt Cassel, the Bills’ quarterback play will be a major problem, especially against some of the best defenses in the league, Jets and Dolphins.