In our latest series of NFL 2021/22 season predictions, our very own Daniel Bernandini brings you his expert forecast for the AFC East.
Can Tua actually embody what he was drafted to be?
The NFL certainly wants that to be the case, and unceremoniously kicked Ran Fitzpatrick off the field last season, to make room for their Hawaiian prodigy (even though the Miami Dolphins were 3-0 at the time of his benching). This shows that diversity and marketability, more than on-the-field results, are what truly matter to this league… But no matter!
The coaching staff’s evident preference for Tua’s as-of-yet unproven talent could actually indicate that Miami will be one of the “surprise” success stories of the year to come, because the NFL is clearly ready to influence games on Miami’s behalf, just to see their designated star succeed.
They play the Bucs, the Colts and the Titans, as well as Buffalo and New England twice, so I guess they better hope to sweep the Jets if they want to even sniff a post-season berth… But like I said, I can easily foresee double-digit wins from this team thanks to referee involvement.
Best case scenario is 10-7, worst case scenario is 5-12
New York Jets
Yep, everybody knows that the New York Jets are going to suck this year, even the NFL.
That’s why they lined up one of the softest schedules they could manage for this team, in the hopes of just somehow keeping them relevant.
With a slate of cupcake adversaries like the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars on tap, there’s plenty of room for their new quarterback Zach Wilson to find success… but I doubt that will be the case, because the Jets don’t know how to develop passers and already ruined the last guy they selected to be their QB, Sam Darnold.
So even though they could easily break .500 and stick around until late November on the playoff radar, we all know it won’t happen. As of today, their defense still figures to be one of the most atrocious in the league, with a cornerback situation that necessitates the addition of a veteran to hold down the fort, lest the Jets swallow 40 points each weekend.
Can they train and coach someone up to a satisfactory level, in time for the season? My gut says “No”… Can they find someone like Richard Sherman or Logan Ryan to help be a “coach on the field” and bring their defense far enough along so that it matters? Maybe, but who would want to sign with Gang Green at this point in the year?
Best case scenario is 7-10, worst case scenario is 3-14.
New England Patriots
Now that Mac Jones is in town, how long will it take for him to see the field?
Smart money doesn’t have him starting this year unless Cam stinks the joint up so badly that Belichick runs out of options. After adding two new Tight Ends during the off-season, the Patriots will most probably lean on Newton’s strengths and create a run-first, play-action offense to attack the middle of the field, so it’s not hard to see this team making their first/round selection an afterthought… especially if they manage to start strong.
The schedule actually makes this more than achievable as well, considering they face off against mediocre competition in the first quarter of the year (the Dolphins, the Jets and the Drew Brees-less Saints are their initial three opponents). In fact, besides Tom Brady and the Bucs in week 4 when the Pats clash with Tampa Bay, New England has a very manageable slate of games to begin the season.
Week five takes them to Houston, too… so if they do crash and burn against their old QB, at least they can take the sting off by heading South a week later, and facing the ever-dysfunctional Texans.
The second half of the year figures to be tougher, however, as the Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans could prove to be rounding into form right around the same time (to say nothing of the Buffalo Bills, who figure to at least split the rivalry).
If Cam struggles late and the playoffs suddenly slip out of reach because the rest of the AFC is in fire, maaaybe Mac Jones makes a late apparition.
Best case scenario is 12-5, worst case scenario is 8-9.
Lookout AFC East (and especially you, Pats fans…), there’s a new sheriff in town!
After last year’s AFC championship title game appearance, there’s so much to like about this year’s iteration of the Buffalo Bills. The schedule sees them avoid most of the powerhouses too, besides a game against Kansas City and the Tennessee Titans, and they already get to play the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets twice… so they’ll be favorites in most of their contests, which is always a nice feeling.
They also will have to play their way through the NFC South, which up until recently was a much more daunting affair. But now, the enigmatic Saints, rebuilding Carolina Panthers and the up-and-down Atlanta Falcons offer soft opponents for Josh Allen and crew, with only old man Brady holding down the fort in Tampa.
All this to say that there’s a good chance this team makes another post-season run, especially if Allen keeps working on his deep ball and doesn’t get too cocky or unlucky during his scrambling. The talent is there on both sides of the ball, and the signal-caller seems to fit the bills perfectly (pardon the pun) so I’m excited to see what the league will cook up, to try and stop the Buffalo Bills this time around.
The best case scenario is a whopping 13-4, and the worst case scenario isn’t too far behind, with 11-6.
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