The New York Jets haven't made the play-offs since 2010. The Miami Dolphins haven't made the play-offs since 2008 and the Buffalo Bills haven't made the play-offs since 1999. Two teams haven't made the play-offs together in the AFC East since the Jets and Patriots did so in 2010. All four current AFC East members made the play-offs in 1998, and there is talk that two or more of the teams from the AFC East can make the play-offs in 2015. Is that likely? With the improvements being made in New York, Buffalo and Miami, it's a very real possibility.
We can't escape the fact that the New England Patriots have reigned supreme in the AFC East for over a decade now. They've won 6 titles in a row and 12 of the last 14. I'm not ready to say that their reign is over, I have no proof to support that theory, but looking at the roster configuration, I wouldn't be surprised to see them drawn back into a title battle in the division this year. They have lost Brady for four games (pending his appeal at the end of June), their running back group is among the worst in the league, they've lost big Vince up front and their secondary took a beating through free agency despite the re-signing of touted safety Devin McCourty.
This article is not designed to bash the Patriots, but I also don't believe their roster is capable of going 12-4 this year. Last season they went 4-2 against the division, which included two victories over the Jets and a split-series with the Bills and Dolphins. Are the Patriots a better football team this season? No, if anything they are significantly worse. Are the New York Jets a better football team this year? Yes. Are the Buffalo Bills a better football team this year? Yes. Are the Miami Dolphins a better football team this year? Yes. Instantly you have 6 games on your schedule that are touhgher than they have been in some time.
If you look at the AFC East in general, we' have 6 games against each other. All tough games, all capable of going either way. However we also get to play the AFC South and the NFC East. Collectively if you had to choose divisions to avoid, they certainly wouldn't be one of them.
The Indianapolis Colts will be a difficult game for everyone. However you then get the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, all teams that have question marks and all teams that don't hold much of a fear factor at all. Of course they will be look at the AFC east in the same light. However just to repeat what I said earlier, I believe that no division in football has improved as much as the AFC East.
The Patriots have question marks at QB for a quarter of the season, up the middle on defense, in the backfield and in the secondary. The Jets and Bills have big question marks at the QB position and Miami still have question marks on the offensive side of the ball with consistency issues and in their secondary with a lack of depth. The Jets and Bills have exceptional defenses (at least on paper) and Miami has a QB who's on the cusp of something great and their defensive line and pass rush will be as good as it has been for the last few years.
We all know how the Jets have improved, so we don't need to go over that again. However Miami bolstered their defensive line with the addition of one of the best if not the best defensive tackle in the league with Ndamukong Suh and they provided Tannehill with more weapons in the form of TE Jordan Cameron and WR Kenny Stills. They added Brice McCain to their secondary and as a zone based coverage unit, he'll slot in nicely. They drafted a difference maker at receiver and although they lost Dion Jordan for the year (substance abuse suspension) they are more than capable of winning 8-11 games this season.
The defensive line of the Buffalo Bills is exceptional and as a result their defense should keep them in a lot of games, but there will always be question marks with their offense. Can Matt Cassell do enough to not lose them games? Will Sammy Watkins make that jump into elite status? Is their offensive line good enough to create holes for the likes of Fred Jackson? I'm not as high on Buffalo as some people but they did win 9 games last season, and Rex Ryan will enjoy a honeymoon period. His enthusiasm and drive will spur them on to win games they likely would have lost and they are more than capable of winning 8-10 games if they get suitable QB play, just like the Jets.
The Patriots we spoke about earlier. They won 12 games last year and I'd be amazed if they won as many this year. I don't think Malcolm Brown will be able to replace the talent and veteran leadership that Vince offered, missing Tom for their games against Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Dallas will hurt them. They don't have the talent to lose a hall of fame quarterback and it not make a difference. Losing Browner and Revis in the secondary will hurt them more than they imagine right now and the overall talent on the roster is worse than it was. They will still compete for the title as long as the dark lord is calling the plays in New England but they'll go down to 8-10 wins this season in my opinion.
Could three teams from the AFC East make the post-season? It's quite possible. I don't think three AFC North teams will have double digit win totals this season like they did last season. They play the NFC West this year, a conference with a lot of talent and they also play the AFC West, which involves a lot of travel. A lot of those teams will beat each other, rounding off their win totals.
There will likely be a lot of 9-7 teams in the AFC this year and I wouldn't bet against the Dolphins, Jets or Bills being one of them, for the first time in a long time, I actually think the Patriots will be around that mark as well. As a result I honestly think that at least one wild-card spot will come from the AFC East, so I'm predicting that the AFC East will be represented by a minimum of 2 teams in the 2015 NFL play-offs. I also am willing to predict that someone other than the New England Patriots will be crowned AFC East champions in 2015.