In the 1985 Movie Rocky IV, Rocky cuts Ivan Drago in the ring. When he comes to the corner, his manager, Duke says, “You cut him! You hurt him! You see? You see? He’s not a machine, he’s a man!” It was the turning point in the movie and a turning point in the fight. Up until the point, Drago was invincible and Rocky took a piece of his heart in that round and went out to win knock Drago out. Since 2001, I have been waiting for one of the teams in the AFC East to cut the patriots, to hurt them to prove to the rest of the NFL that they aren’t a machine, that they are just men. It hasn’t happened. That Patriots are the closest thing to a machine that any sports franchise have ever seen. Over the past 16 seasons, they have won 14 division titles, they have been to 11 AFC Championship Games and have won 5 Super Bowls. To say they dominated this division may be the greatest understatement off all-time. To paraphrase Adrian, Rocky’s wife, my message to the Dolphins, Bills and Jets is simple… “You can’t win!”.
AFC East Preview and Prediction:
New England Patriots (Last season’s record 14-2) … 2017 prediction 14-2.
In 2016, the Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit midway through the third quarter to beat the Falcons 34–28 in overtime to win Super Bowl LI. As good at that team was last year, they should be better in 2017. In 2006, there was a movie starring Brad Pitt called, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” It is a story of a man who starts out old and ages or gets younger every year. If there ever was an athlete who gets younger every year on the court or on the field, it is Tom Brady. He is the living, movie character, Benjamin Button. Brady gets in better shape and plays better every year. After serving a 4 game suspension, Brady had 28 touchdowns, completed 67% of his passes and threw only 2 interceptions in 12 games. The Patriots may have the deepest wide receiving groups in the NFL. New England dealt the No. 32 pick in the draft for ex-Saint Brandin Cooks. In three seasons with the Saints Cooks has 215 catches and 20 touchdowns. Cooks gives Brady a speedy “deep threat”. They haven’t had that since Randy Moss. Rookie Malcom Mitchel caught 32 balls in 2016 and he should double that production in 2017. The rest of the group… Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski at TE, can all put up big numbers. This offense may score 40 points per game. The running game will be done by committee but look for Mike Gillislee (former Buffalo Bills back up) to get the starting nod at RB.
On defense, the Patriots finished first in the league in only giving up 250 points, 15.6 per game. In an era where everything is favored towards the offense, the Patriots gave up a little over 2 touchdowns per game. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in the history of the NFL and his defense and offense should both be in the top three in points allowed and points scored.
Miami Dolphins (Last Season’s record 10-6) … 2017 prediction 9-7.
For over a decade, I watched the Jets and Bills bring in defensive minded coaches to try and stop Tom Brady. They had zero success in accomplishing that goal. I knew almost nothing about Adam Gase before his rookie season last year, but, I liked the hire. The reasoning was simple… Finally, a team in the AFC hired an offense coach. Gase did a phenomenal job last year in earning his players respect from the first week of training camp.
On offense, Ryan Tannehill will probably miss the entire season. Former Chicago Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler will take over the reins under center. One of my sources (who did not want to be named in this article said) “I have been covering the NFL for 20 years. Cutler is not the worst I have ever seen in the locker room but he’s very toxic.” In 139 starts, Cutler has a record of 68-71, he has completed 61% of his passes and accumulated 208 passing touchdowns and 146 interceptions. If Gase can limited Cutlers turnovers this offense can be very productive. Running back Jay Ajayi finished with over 1,200 yards but needs to be more consistent from game to game. Wide receiver, Jarvis Landry had 94 catches last year and Kenny Still had 9 receiving touchdowns.
On defense, the Dolphins struggled. They finished 29th in total yards and gave up 140 rushing yards per game. They must force opposing teams to “three and outs” and not let their defense be worn down quarter by quarter and game to game.
If all goes well, this Dolphin team could go 10-6 and return to the playoffs. If he does that, Gase should win coach of the year.
Buffalo Bills (Last season’s record 7-9) … 2017 prediction 8-8.
Gone from the sideline is the most overhyped coached in the History of the NFL, Rex Ryan. In 8 seasons as head coach, Ryan had a combined record of 61-66. He missed the playoffs the last 6 years. In a league that believes in vertical passing, Ryan still maintained his 1950 mantra… ground and pound.
In comes another defensive coach, Sean McDermott. The former Philadelphia and Carolina coordinator brings more professionalism and accountability to the team, than his predecessor.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for over 3,000 yards in 2017 with 17 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions. Taylor has shown flashes at times but what quarterback ever flourished under Rex Ryan ( I will save you time… no one ever has). LeSean McCoy made the pro-bowl last season and had over 1,200 yards and 50 catches.
On defense, the Bills were below average. They finished 19th in the league in yards allowed. 16th in points allowed and continued to be undisciplined in taking personal foul penalties.
I expect this team to be much more competitive and consistent game to game. The Bills haven’t been to the playoffs in 17 years. It is the longest streak in the NFL. They should be a better team than they ever were under Ryan. If Taylor proves he is not a franchise coordinator, look for the Bills to draft a QB in 2018.
New York Jets (Last season record 5-11) … 2017 prediction 2-14.
Is it too early to start the chant… Just End The Season! The Jets are going into the 2017 campaign with Josh McCown as their projected starter. In 82 career games, McCown has a record of 18-42, completed less than 60% of his passes (59.1) with 79 touchdowns and 69 interceptions. The Jets could have drafted Deshaun Watson out of Clemson but they somehow felt McCown was a better option. The Jets #1 Wide Receiver was Quincy Enunwa who had 58 catches last year. Enunwa got injured in camp and will need 6-9 months to recover from neck surgery. 2nd year WR’ Robbie Anderson who had 42 catches last season will be the “go-to-guy” for a terrible quarterback. #1 running back, Matt Forte ran for 813 yards last season and averaged 3.7 yards per rush. The best option on the Jets offense is their punter, Lachlan Edwards. If McCown starts the entire season the Jets will be among the bottom in points scored, rushing and passing offense.
The strength of New York’s defense should be the D- line. Muhammad Wilkerson only had 4.5 sacks last year and should bounce back after signing a big contract. Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams will be on the field constantly, so look for them to put up big numbers. This is a make a break year for 3rd year player Williams. The jets picked him as the 6th overall pick in the 2015 draft and he made his firs Pro-Bowl in 2016.
For the 1st time since 1969, going into next season, the Jets will have a young franchise quarterback. This season will be a disaster. But waiting in the wings is USC’s Quarterback Sam Darnold and Louisville’s QB Lamar Jackson.
I expect Todd Bowles to be fired at the end of the season as well.
They should rename this division to the Patriots Party. The rest of the teams should be called the AFC Least.
Follow the Sports Whisperer on Twitter: Monte1223
And listen to The Full Monte Show …. Monday and Thursday at 6PM