2016 AFC East Division Odds Preview
The 2016 NFL season is rapidly approaching, with most teams setting up their official training camps in just a few weeks. Then comes the annual Hall of Fame game and a full month of preseason action in August. It doesn’t even feel like the 2015 NFL season ended that long ago, and yet here we are, gauging who might win it all in 2016.
Before we can even get to those zany NFL predictions, though, we need to take it slow with a look at each division and each team’s odds to win said division. Our jaunt through the NFL starts with the AFC East, where the yearly champion New England Patriots could be a bit vulnerable with star quarterback Tom Brady potentially suspended for four games. Let’s get to it:
New England Patriots (-210 odds to win)
Two things are working against the Pats this year: Brady’s potential four-game ban and the fact that the AFC East does seem to be slowly improving. The Bills and Jets can defend – at worst in spurts – and also have offenses that can be problematic at times. There is even Miami, who has a bright offensive mind running the show and could be improved on both sides of the ball.
None of that matters if Brady’s suspension goes away, while it still may not matter even if he sits out the first four games. New England still has Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman on offense, as well as a very solid and balanced defense. They can probably survive that early-season absence of Brady and then go on a hot run. After all, this is a team that almost yearly gets deep into the playoffs and as far as the AFC East goes, has stolen the crown a ridiculous seven years in a row. In fact, had it not been for a Tom Brady torn ACL back in 2008, it’s very possible that streak stands at 13 seasons with a division crown in a row.
That’s not luck or a coincidence. It’s staggering and it’s dominance. That suspension is big, though, and four games could be enough for the Jets, Bills or Dolphins to squeeze ahead for the AFC East title.
Buffalo Bills (+525)
Buffalo may very well be the next team in line to win the division this year, as Tyrod Taylor flashed brilliance in 2015, LeSean McCoy is better than what we saw a year ago and it’s tough to bet against a talented Rex Ryan defense two seasons in a row. Buffalo started out great last year and really just fizzled down the stretch. Ryan will have this group back together and thinking this is their division to lose, and with a hot start by them and a slow start by the Pats, he might be right.
The two key problems for the Bills rest with Taylor and an erratic defense. The Bills have switched up their scheme in an effort to get after the quarterback more efficiently and also maintain better consistency across the board. If that works out, the Bills could terrorize opposing offenses and it may not even matter what Taylor and the offense do.
Taylor’s role is massive, though, as he was inconsistent in the pocket in his first full season as the starter and needs to take his game to the next level. Buffalo is making him put his money where his mouth (or production) are, too, by not handing him a fat contract after one solid season as the main man. If Taylor can raise his game, it helps the running game and gives the defense an added boost. He did fare well against the Pats last year, too, and those two battles could have a lot to say about Buffalo’s AFC East odds.
New York Jets (+525)
New York shares the same exact AFC East division odds with Buffalo right now, but they might actually be the third best team in this division thanks to the odd contract situation between Gang Green and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz enjoyed a career year in 2015 and had the Jets on the verge of the playoffs last year at 10-6, but melted down in the week 17 finale against Buffalo.
That meltdown could be cause for pause in NYC, especially given the fact that overall, Fitzpatrick may have had an inflated 2015 run. The reality is he usually turns the ball over too much and has an inconsistent game, yet his numbers looked better because he has such an awesome supporting cast. The Jets may over pay to get him under center, or worse, they’ll be forced to use someone else. Either way, it’s very possible that New York could be set up for a step back on offense.
That could still be okay, as the Jets have a stacked defense and a bright defensive mind in head coach Todd Bowles leading the way. New York could come back as nasty as ever on defense, and depending on just how good they are on that side of the ball, any offensive flaws could be masked.
Fitzpatrick’s status is going to make or break this team, though. If they don’t bring him back, they’re in serious trouble, and even if they do, it’s going to be near impossible for him to match last year’s production. All that being said, the Jets did add Matt Forte and have a very good offense on paper, as well as a talented and aggressive defense to assist it. If Fitzpatrick can sign on the dotted line and avoid a drop off in play, New York very well could threaten the Pats for the AFC East crown.
Miami Dolphins (+800)
Last, but necessarily not least, are the Miami Dolphins, who took a mild step back in 2015 but for the majority of Ryan Tannehill’s tenure have at least been competitive. They spent a ton of cash to improve defensively the past couple of years, and it remains to be seen if that will actually finally happen in 2016. As bad as they were on that side of the ball for stretches last year, though, their real concern is a more consistent offensive attack.
Offensive guru Adam Gase ran a potent attack in Denver and helped Jay Cutler make better decisions in Chicago, so there’s real optimism that he can help Tannehill turn the corner. Tannehill’s biggest problems to date are placement on deep balls, pocket presence and decision-making. Those are some of Gase’s specialties, so with a loaded offense of talent around him, Tannehill may finally have the tools to up his game.
The real question may come on the ground, though. Miami lost Lamar Miller and failed to secure an upgrade, so they’re reduced to trusting in unproven talents like Jay Ajayi or rookie Kenyan Drake. It’s very possible both stay healthy and help form a productive, balanced offense, but that’s a question that certainly needs to be answered.
Overall, there is a lot of uncertainty in Miami and with a rookie head coach running the show, this thing could go either way. At +800 odds, though, they offer the best payout potential and if New England does somehow slip, they may be the bet to chase given the upside and the fact that the AFC East would suddenly feel very wide open.
2016 AFC East Prediction
I’m sorry if it’s boring, but there isn’t enough evidence to suggest the Pats are in decline or that any of these other three AFC East foes have the goods to give them a run for their money. Seven straight seasons and 12 of 13 as the AFC East champs tells us a swift change is unlikely, and it’s still possible Brady doesn’t miss those first four games. The way we’d bet on the AFC East winner is this – moderate bet on New England if Brady isn’t banned and a small/fun bet on Miami if he is.