Movie sequels are never as good as the original, but the best ones will usually try and include shocking revelations or cliffhangers, since the series has been greenlit for a few more films and can expand on the universe (see: Empire Strikes Back, every other sequel since).
I’m pleased to announce that after an excellent preview of the AFC North, my win totals predictions have been approved for seven more installments. However, this next one is not going to feature any surprises or cliffhangers whatsoever. Because there is no suspense on how the AFC East will play out. Ever.
We know who will finish first. We know who will bring up the rear. The only question is what numbers will be in the first column to the right of their names. And while I noted in the first piece that win totals favor the under, there is one team that the rules just don’t apply too. (Remember to insert cheating joke here.)
AFC East Win Totals
New England Patriots: Over 12.5
I’m curious how much money bookmakers lose on the Patriots every year. You can never set their odds to win the AFC East high enough, and they haven’t gone under their win total in the last six seasons, finishing with five overs and one push. Perhaps setting the highest win total in over a decade is the only way to get split money on this team, although even that is looking unlikely this season.
This infuriatingly consistent team is coming off a legendary comeback victory in the Super Bowl and, oh by the way, they got way better this offseason.
Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy, and Dwayne Allen are some of the big acquisitions the Patriots made. Then, just to torment the unfortunate victims they call the rest of the AFC East even more, they pilfered Stephon Gilmore and Mike Gillislee from Buffalo.
The Pats managed to go 14-2 last year with Tom Brady on the sidelines for the first four games. After some trade speculation, it looks like they will have insurance policy Jimmy Garoppolo holding the clipboard once more. So even if something happens to the soon to be 40-year-old Brady, New England should be able to continue on a 13-win pace in the short-term without him.
Don’t forget about a Pats defense that is talented enough to steal a few games. New England only ranked 16th in defensive DVOA, but managed to rank first in points allowed. With some added talent at corner (see Gilmore) and pass rusher (see Ealy), they should be able to generate more impact plays this year.
Perhaps the Pats could be in some trouble if Brady shows the signs of regression that have hit other old quarterbacks before him. But the future Hall of Famer has spent his entire career silencing doubters and I, for one, am tired of getting shushed.
When looking at a loaded New England’s chances this season, if you’re going to wager the over, put a little extra down on 16-0. A 13-3 record will get you the win total, which currently pays around -135; but if the Pats can manage just three extra wins, the payout could be up to +1700.
Miami Dolphins: Under 7.5
This seems like a pretty low bar for a Dolphins team coming off its first playoff season in eight years. Then you remember what the 2016 Miami Dolphins actually looked like, and you kind of understand the lack of faith. Here’s the play most fans will remember about that season.
Eight of the Dolphin’s 10 wins last season came in one-score games, and that included a lot of games against bad competition. They ranked 17th in total DVOA, and had a -17 point differential on the year. Their pass defense is still shaky and the right side of their offensive line remains weak. Worst of all, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of room to go up.
After years of waiting, Ryan Tannehill finally had his breakout season under Adam Gase. Yup, a 19-to-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 93.5 passer rating scratched the ceiling of what the soon to be 29-year-old QB can offer. Those are perfectly fine numbers, but it’s clear that Tannehill will never be the lift-his-team-on-his-back-type quarterback. For the Dolphins to remain competitive in an improved AFC, they’ll need last year’s surprising breakout RB Jay Ajayi to keep the offense moving.
Defensively, Miami does boast a solid front seven, including a great four-man rush led by Cameron Wake. But they’ll need to stop teams from running all over them in order to hunt quarterbacks. The Dolphins allowed 140 yards per game on the ground last season. Free agent linebacker Lawrence Timmons and rookie Raekwon McMillan will need to help clean up that area.
Over the last decade, there’s been an average of 5.4 new playoff teams each season. Miami looks poised to be one of the teams that falls out: I’m picking them to fall hard. After all, any team that allows Chip Kelly to swing by its practices isn’t helping itself. (Chip Kelly joke requirement met.)
Buffalo Bills: Over 6
If Miami was lucky to finish at 10-6, Buffalo got the smaller half of the wishbone when they ended the year 7-9. With a 2-7 record in one-score games and a +21 point differential, the scrappy Bills probably deserved a better fate; but when the Ryan brothers are running your team, there’s not a lot of space for fairness on that sideline. (Fat joke requirement met.)
Under the new leadership of Sean McDermott, the Bills will once again take aim at ending pro sports’ longest playoff drought (17 seasons). And while they will no doubt fall short, a seven-win or better season seems more likely than five or worse.
The Bills have a strong offensive line, and Tyrod Taylor is a capable quarterback. The biggest concern surrounding Buffalo currently is a lack of depth at the skill positions. When LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins inevitably get hurt, Taylor will be throwing to Andre Holmes, Corey Brown and rookie Zay Jones, while handing off to Jonathan Williams. Taylor’s ability to make plays with his legs can carry the offense for a game or two, but this unit can’t handle a swarm of injury bugs for an entire season.
The Bills should continue to boast a dominant pass rush, but their completely overhauled secondary is also a question. Gone are Gilmore, Corey Graham and Aaron Williams; in are Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer and rookie Tre’Davious White. Their performances could dictate whether this bet cashes or not.
Still, I feel good about Buffalo finishing no worse than a push, especially when you consider the Bills should get a third of their required wins over our next team.
New York Jets: Under 5
Since totals were released, no under has been abused more than Gang Green’s. Opening at 5.5, it’s likely to get pounded down to 4.5 in the coming days, after the latest round of cuts. The Jets have basically spent all offseason releasing anyone with more than four years of starting experience.
It’s funny to think that the Jets’ biggest question heading into the offseason was who would start at quarterback. Bryce Petty vs Christian Hackenberg is the least of your problems if you don’t even have professional football players to surround them with.
(Remember to avoid making too many Jets jokes; they do the job best themselves.)
The Jets’ efforts to “clean up the locker room” have left the team void of talent everywhere but the defensive line, and trade rumors are sure to swirl for Sheldon Richardson once the team gets out to a slow start. With an idle Todd Bowles a top contender to be fired first, this season has disaster written all over it.
The biggest problem with taking the Jets’ under is that the return on this bet won’t be great. Much like the Pats tempt a 16-0 wager, the Jets’ best play might be 0-16, because this roster certainly appears capable of that, all the more so once Matt Forte opts to retire rather than return to this nightmare.