With AFC East up for grabs, can Bills and Jets make some noise?
For the better part of two decades, fans of the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets have started each NFL season thinking that they are playing for second place in the AFC East.
Because, of course, that division was the domain of the New England Patriots, and the best quarterback to have put on the jersey, Tom Brady.
If you have been under a rock, or basically just focused on anything other than this brutal COVID-19 pandemic, I have some good news for the long-suffering fans of the other three teams in the AFC East: Brady is gone.
He is now a problem for fans of the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and New Orleans Saints, plus the rest of the NFC.
So the Bills (especially) and the Jets go into 2020 with a chance to make some noise in this division.
Buffalo went 10-6 last season and made only its second playoff appearance since 1999, and comes into this year with a lot of optimism. The sportsbooks in New York have the Bills as slight favorites to end the 12-year domination of the AFC East by New England. Most books have them at around +120 to win the division, with the Patriots between +130 and +140 to 13-peat.
But what about the Jets? There is not as much optimism around Adam Gase’s side, with New York priced at +800 (along with the Dolphins) to win the AFC East. That is probably not going to happen, but BetMGM has the Jets priced at +185 to finish third in the division, most likely behind the Pats and Bills, but ahead of the Dolphins.
With its best player, Jamal Adams, shipped off to Seattle, the Jets will now rely on their offense to improve from 2019. New York finished dead last in the NFL last season in total yards and still finished the year at 7-9. So if there is any improvement from Sam Darmold under center, New York could win the same amount of games or more.
Darnold, who has an over/under passing yardage line set at 3549.5, will get some help in the backfield from Le’Veon Bell, according to Bet New York.
But there is one issue with this team: even if the Jets are better, they may end up being worse.
New York, much like its counterpart at MetLife Stadium, has a brutal schedule this season. The Jets might only be favored in a few games, and could be underdogs in all eight games on the road: Bills, Colts, Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Seahawks, Rams, Patriots. The last three on that list make up three of the final four games, with a contest at home against the Browns included as well.
Through a quirk in the schedule, the Jets will play Miami in back to back games Week 10 and Week 12, with a bye Week 11. Those two games, plus a home game with the Raiders in Week 13, could prove pivotal for the over/under win total, which is set at 6.5
If Bell can take some pressure off Darnold, and pile up the yardage, New York can stay in some games. But if the Jets are behind in games, this could be a long season.
I do not see the Jets getting over 6.5 wins, so the under has to be the play. The first four and last four games are really tough, and it may come down to those eight games in between.
Take the Bills to go over 8.5 wins.