Buffalo Bills: 2015 Record: 8-8
2016 Projected Record: 7-9
Key Additions: Shaq Lawson (draft), Reggie Ragland (draft), Reggie Bush
Key Losses: Mario Williams, Leodis McKelvin, Karlos Williams
We are going into the 2nd year of Tyrod Taylor as a starting QB in the NFL. In his first season he had 3,035 yards, 20 TDs & only 6 INTs. Taylor is great at making plays with his legs as he had 568 yards rushing to add to his pretty impressive year in 2015. The big for Tyrod is that he needs to stay healthy because last year he only missed 2 games but in those 2 games Bills were forced to start E.J Manuel and the Bills went 0-2 with Manuel throwing for only 3 TDs & 3 INTs.
The Bills had a great 1-2 punch with Lesean McCoy & Karlos Williams last year. The Bills in 2015 were 1st in the league in total rushing yards with 2,432 yards (Tyrod Taylor kind of helped with this too). Now Karlos Williams is gone because of being overweight & he was already suspended the first 4 games of this year. The Bills added Reggie Bush in the offseason to pair with McCoy which probably makes the Bills the most athletic backfield in the NFL. Sammy Watkins returns from having foot problems last year & hopefully he can stay on the field because despite missing 3 games last year he still managed to get 60 catches for 1,047 yards & 9 TDs.
The Bills defense was supposed to be well improved under Rex Ryan but things didn’t go as planned. First off he tried making great pass rushers like Mario Williams & Jerry Hughes drop back in coverage way too often. Now Williams is gone to the division rivals in Miami while the Bills still have Jerry Hughes to rush the edge. The anchors of their defense is still their two stout DTs in Marcell Dareus & Kyle Williams. Dareus is suspended the first 4 games of the season. The Bills added Zach Brown to their linebacking corp from the Titans to pair with Preston Brown in the middle. Both guys are very athletic so I would expect some big plays from both of them.
The secondary of the Bills is a group I like a lot. At the corner positions they have Ronald Darby & Stephon Gilmore. In Darby’s rookie season in 2015 he had 21 pass deflections & 2 INTs. On the opposite side Gilmore is considered one of the best corners in the game. He has continually shown growth each year & I see him getting better & better. The safety spots are manned by Aaron Williams & Corey Graham. Williams only got to play in 3 games last year because of a neck injury he suffered. I see a big improvement from last year in this secondary. Bills are a team I’d like to put above .500 but they have Rex Ryan as head coach & they have too many injuries for my liking.
Miami Dolphins: 2015 Record: 6-10
2016 Projected Record: 7-9
Key Additions: Arian Foster, Mario Williams, Laremy Tunsil (draft)
Key Losses: Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon, Rishard Matthews
I might be the only person in the world who still believes in Ryan Tannehill. What has Tannehill done to deserve so much hate? LEAVE TANNEHILL ALONE. Discounting his rookie year the dude has thrown at least 3,900 yards & 24 TDs every other year. Tannehill has also already been sacked 184 times in his 4 years & has had no continuity at the head coach or offensive coordinator positions which doesn’t help. Under Adam Gase I see Tannehill thriving with a 4,300 yard & 25 TD type of season.
The Dolphins lost Lamar Miller in free agency but added Arian Foster. Their backfield will consist of Foster, Jay Ajayi, & Kenyan Drake (who I think may have a bigger impact than expected). If Arian Foster can stay healthy I expect him to flourish under a Gase led team. But with Arian Foster now being 30 years old & coming off injuries last year that’s going to be tough & not everyone can show no signs of aging like Adrian Peterson. The Dolphins were the 23rd best rush offense last year with 1,496 yards. The Dolphins receiving corp is led by Jarvis Landry. Landry in 2015 was 4th in the NFL in receptions with 110 while gaining 1,157 yards.
The defensive line of the Dolphins on paper is elite but we’ll have to see once the season starts. The Dolphins added Mario Williams to go alongside Cameron Wake & Ndamukong Suh on their D-Line which should result in an improvement from last year. Miami was 25th in the NFL in sacks last year with 31. Suh in 2015 (1st season with Dolphins) had a very sub-par year for being the highest paid defensive tackle, he only had 6 sacks. The Dolphins have a pretty solid set of LBs with Koa Misi, Kiko Alonso, & Jelani Jenkins. Kiko Alonso is a very good coverage linebacker but has had a hard time staying on the field. Alonso was out the whole 2014 season after tearing his ACL (2nd time he’s torn his ACL) & in 2015 after being traded to the Eagles he started 1 game before re-injuring his knee. For the sake of the Dolphins hopefully he can be on the field.
The secondary of the Dolphins is definitely their weakest link. Besides Reshad Jones you have a few guys who are either unproven or overpaid *cough cough* Byron Maxwell *cough cough*. Maxwell for the Eagles in 2015 looked like he was lost having to play more man-defense than he did for the Seahawks in previous seasons. Maxwell found out real quick that the Eagles didn’t have Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor to make up for the mistakes he made. Tony Lippett, the corner opposite Maxwell only played in 9 games last year in his rookie season so he’s an unknown. Lippett looks like a strong physical corner standing at 6 ft 3in. & 194 pounds. The Dolphins seem like an improved team to me but there’s still too many question marks (especially in the secondary) for me to give them a .500 or above record.
New England Patriots: 2015 Record: 12-4
2016 Projected Record 13-3
Key Additions: Martellus Bennett, Jonathan Cooper, Chris Hogan, Chris Long
Key Losses: Jerod Mayo, Chandler Jones
Yes, I know Tom Brady is suspended for the first 4 games but I see the Patriots going 3-1 in those games (the only loss being in week 1 to the Cardinals). The Patriots are always going to be contending as long as Tom Brady & Bill Belichick are together. Even with Brady being suspended I can still see Brady finishing in the top 3 for the MVP voting.
The Patriots are hoping they can get Dion Lewis back from injury as soon as possible. Good thing the Patriots have James White who’s a very similar running back to Lewis. After Lewis got hurt last year White stepped in & had 40 receptions for 410 yards & 4 TDs. Of course the Patriots still have Legarrette Blount to put in in short yardage situations or if they just need to run the clock out. The Patriots were the 3rd worst rushing offense with 1,404 yards. New England is the only team you can make an exception for for not having a running game because their short passing game is their running game. The Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett & when he’s your 2nd TE you’re going to be pretty good.
The Patriots have a very good defense as well. Their D-Line is led by Rob Ninkovich & Jabaal Sheard. Ninkovich is suspended the first 4 games but the Patriots signed Chris Long from the Rams so he’ll start until Ninkovich comes back. The linebacker group is a great for the Patriots which consists of Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, & JonathanFreeny. Collins is one of my favorite LBs in the NFL because of his versatility. He can be a great pass rusher if needed & he’s able to cover guys step for step in the passing game.
The secondary is also very good for New England. The Patriots corners are Malcolm Butler & Logan Ryan while the safeties are Patrick Chung & Devin McCourty. Mostly everyone thought that Malcolm Butler was going to be a one hit wonder after his interception in Super Bowl 49 but Butler showed last year that he’s an up & coming corner in the NFL. On the other hand Logan Ryan had a great year in 2015 with 74 tackles & 4 INTs. Devin McCourty was always good for the Patriots but he became even better when the Patriots moved him to safety a few years ago. The Patriots in my opinion are by far the most complete team in the NFL & I think it’s going to be hard for anyone to stop them especially when Brady comes back.
New York Jets: 2015 Record: 10-6
2016 Projected Record: 10-6
Key Additions: Matt Forte, Ryan Clady, Darron Lee
Key Losses: Chris Ivory, Antonio Cromartie
The Jets finally ended their nightmare of maybe starting Geno Smith week 1 by resigning Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick had his best year in 2015 with 3,905 yards & 31 TDs. In my opinion the difference in wins between Geno Smith & Ryan Fitzpatrick is around 4-5. In Geno’s 3 year career he has more INTs (35) than TDs (27). That’s not good. With weapons like Brandon Marshall & Eric Decker I see Fitzpatrick having another good year.
The Jets lost Chris Ivory in the offseason but signed Matt Forte. Jets will be moving forward with the duo of Forte & Bilal Powell. Forte in 2015 rushed for less than 1,000 yards for just the 3rd time in his 8 year career. Forte has always been a great receiving back. Just 2 years ago Forte had 102 catches & 808 yards AS A RUNNING BACK. The duo of Brandon Marshall & Eric Decker was one of the best in the NFL last year. In 2015 Marshall had 109 catches for 1,502 yards & 14 TDs while Eric Decker had 80 catches for 1,027 yards & 12 TDs. I see another phenomenal year for the law firm of Marshall & Decker.
The Jets defensive line is pretty solid made up of their 1st round pick of 2015 in Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, & Sheldon Richardson. Richardson is suspended for the 1st game of the season but should return in week 2. The linebacking group for the Jets is “ok”. The Jets outside linebackers are Jordan Jenkins & Lorenzo Mauldin & neither of them have started a game in the NFL (Jenkins is a rookie). The inside linebacker group is led by a familiar name in David Harris. The Jets also drafted Darron Lee from Ohio State & are hoping he can make an impact this season.
The Jets secondary is still a great secondary. You’re always going to have a successful secondary when you have Darrelle Revis on your team but they also have Buster Skrine & Marcus Williams at CB. Williams had 6 INTs in 2015 with Revis getting 5 in 2015. The safeties for the Jets are Calvin Pryor & Marcus Gilchrist. In 2015 Pryor had 69 tackles & 2 INTs while Gilchrist had 82 tackles & 3 INTs. The Jets are a good team & if they wouldn’t have blown the game against the Bills late in the season last year they would have been in the playoffs but I see them making the playoffs this year.
Final Prediction: New England wins the division (WOW what a surprise) at 13-3 & the Jets also make the playoffs at 10-6.
Next article I will be beginning my previews of the NFC divisions starting with the NFC North.