2019 NFL Tune-up: AFC East Preview
In this season preview, HTN contributor Matthew Watson breaks down the outlook of each NFL team leading up to the 2019 season and places his bets on NFL futures for regular season wins. All futures odds are taken from bet365.
2018 Record: 6-10, 3rd AFC East
Key Additions: WR Cole Beasley, WR John Brown, C Mitch Morse
Key Losses: TE Charles Clay, RB Chris Ivory, DT Kyle Williams
Top draft pick: DT Ed Oliver
The Bills drafted the quarterback of the future last year in the big-armed Josh Allen who is also fairly fleet of foot. The Bills struggled out of the gate, before figuring it out down the stretch and winning 4 of their last 7. The greatest weakness was their 31st ranked passing offense and the Bills made a concerted effort to address this in the offseason. Bringing in deep threat John Brown and the ever-reliable Cole Beasley should help out Allen and last year’s leading receiver Zay Jones.
The defense was a tremendous strength with the 1st ranked passing defense and 2nd ranked overall defense in the league. Having lost local hero Kyle Williams, the Bills must have been thrilled when the beast known as Ed Oliver fell to them at 9th overall. A three-technique defensive tackle who can fill gaps and bull rush the passer with ferocious intensity, Ed should elevate the already elite Buffalo defense.
Overall the Bills will go as far as Josh Allen takes them. While he didn’t look very impressive as a passer last season, the 6’5’’ quarterback showed he could run, and to be fair his receiving core and offensive line weren’t doing him any favours. With some new offensive weapons and a rebuilt offensive line, we may get a better idea of what Allen is capable of this season. And who knows? Maybe LeSean McCoy or Frank Gore will turn back the clock and then the party would really start.
Over/under win total prediction (as per bet365 on August 24th): Over 6.5 (-165)
This one is a risky pick. With so much unknown about Josh Allen I wouldn’t go throwing all your money on this line. However, this defense is just too good to overlook. Buffalo also gets the benefit of playing the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos this season, and while none of those games are locks, all three look favourable. Throw in the possibility of taking a game or two from the pool of Baltimore, the Zeke-less Cowboys and Cincinnati, as well as four games against the Jets and the Dolphins, and suddenly 7 wins doesn’t seem so ambitious. Buyer beware, but the Bills are primed to surprise this season.
2018 Record: 7-9, 2nd AFC East
Key Additions: QB Ryan Fitzmagic, QB Josh Rosen, TE Charles Clay
Key Losses: QB Ryan Tannehill, OLB Cameron Wake, DE Robert Quinn
Top draft pick: DT Christian Wilkins
Hi Miami fans. This is year is going to be fun (not). In the midst of a full-blown rebuild, the Dolphins have stripped their roster of a multitude of veterans, fired head coach Adam Gase and are prepared to… tank for Tua? While they traded for Josh Rosen, you have to figure his leash isn’t very long and the offense has more issues. Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker lead a solid receiving core, but underachieving halfback Kenyan Drake and a highly questionable offensive line leave a lot to be desired.
The defense isn’t much better with a quality secondary anchored by CB Xavien Howard and S Reshad Jones, but a much weaker front seven. The Dolphins must be hoping that Christian Wilkins helps stabilize the interior of the d-line, but there are no significant pass-rush threats after the departures of Robert Quinn and franchise stalwart Cameron Wake. Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan are solid linebackers, but neither will blow you away.
The Dolphins know this season is a rebuild and new head coach Brian Flores will have to separate the contenders from the pretenders in order to solidify the roster ahead of a monumental draft. As a result, I don’t expect the Dolphins to compete very much, if at all this season. With Ryan Fitzmagic there is always a chance to win a few games before things turn Fitztragic, but he didn’t have the offensive playmakers he had in Tampa Bay last season, so the Dolphins seemed primed for a basement finish this year.
Over/under win total prediction (as per bet365 on August 24th): Under 5.5 (-170)
The Dolphins get the unfortunate circumstance of running into the NFC North and the L.A. Chargers this year, neither of which will do their record any favours. They always play tight division games, but with a stripped-down roster and a development and growth attitude, 3-4 wins seems to be right about where these Dolphins will finish. I really want to give the Dolphins the over, but there is nothing about this team that gives me enough hope to jump the gun. A top-3 draft pick seems in the cards for our aquatic friends in the Sunshine State.
New England Patriots
2018 Record: 11-5, 1st AFC East
Key Additions: DE Michael Bennett, WR Demaryius Thomas
Key Losses: OT Trent Brown, DE Trey Flowers, TE Rob Gronkowski
Top draft pick: WR N’Keal Harry
Welcome to a classic Patriots year… They’ve lost some key pieces, there is doubt in the air, and chances are Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are going to pull some nonsense and lead them to a deep playoff run, and potentially even another Super Bowl. With those two, anything is possible. The offense takes a blow with the retirement of Gronk, but to be fair they didn’t utilize him consistently last year anyways. Sony Michel is the key to this group. If he can continue to take strides forward and take pressure off the seemingly immortal body of Brady, then this group can stay dynamic. They added an intriguing group of pass-catchers in first round pick N’Keal Harry, former Bronco and Texan Demaryius Thomas and the reinstated Josh Gordon, but will this be enough to offset a lack of playmaking ability at tight end? Is Isiah Wynn the next Trent Brown at left tackle? There seems to be a lot of question-marks on this offense, but there have been before, and the Pats have defied expectations. Expect a lot more 3-wide receiver sets and creative playcalling from this group in the upcoming season.
The defense takes a huge blow in the departure of Trey Flowers, who was their only pass rusher with more than 5 sacks last year. They are clearly hoping that Michael Bennett is the solution, but we’ll have to see how much he has left in the tank. Chase Winovich is an intriguing third round pick and should bring some spice to the pass-rush as well. The linebacking core his solid, but got exposed at times last season, and the secondary has some very talented playmakers. That will all go to waste unless the edge rushers generate pressure on the quarterback to give this group a chance. We will have to see how Bill decides to dial up his blitzes this season as he is taking over playcalling duties.
Some key role players have moved on, and some new ones were brought in as the wheel continues to turn for the dynasty known as the New England Patriots. With more youthful offensive playmakers, I could see the Patriots offense being even more dynamic than it was last year. While the defense has its uncertainties and the core continues to age, I would expect nothing less than another division title for New England in 2019.
Over/under win total prediction (as per bet365 on August 24th): Over 11.5 (+100)
I just can’t bring myself to bet the under on this line because there are not many difficult games on the Pats’ schedule. The trouble games I see are Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and maybe Dallas if they get Zeke back by the second half of the season. Either than that there isn’t much that should intimidate this Patriots team. But after that 34-33 debacle in Miami in Week 14 last year, nothing is off the table. Considering they play Buffalo and Miami in back-to-back weeks to end the season I would hate for a bet to be ruined by some last-minute shenanigans. Barring a similar surprise, I see the Patriots having an 11- or 12-win season. My gut tells me they will find a way to win a few of these big matchups, so I am going with the over.
New York Jets
2018 Record: 4-12, 2nd AFC East
Key Additions: RB Le’Veon Bell, LB C.J. Mosley, OG Kelechi Osemele
Key Losses: OG James Carpenter, CB Morris Claiborne, K Jason Myers
Top draft pick: DT Quinnen Williams
The Jets are in for an interesting 2019 season. After finishing in the bottom of their division, they drafted monster interior defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, signed superstar running back Le’Veon Bell and hired new head coach Adam Gase. Things seem to be on the up and up for these Jets. I’m not so convinced. Gase had an opportunity with a decent group of players in Miami and wound up falling apart down the stretch. Sam Darnold needs to take a big step in year two and the Jets got him some new weapons in Bell and slot receiver Jamison Crowder. However, the offensive line is still a major question mark even with the arrival of steady veterans Kelechi Osemele and Ryan Kalil. Beyond Crowder and impressive sophomore tight end Chris Herndon there’s a lot to be desired. Robby Anderson has never truly morphed into a number one option and no other receiver topped 500 yards last season. This offense will most likely rise and fall with the play of Sam Darnold so hopefully he is ready for a big year.
So… the defense has no effective pass rush, but the Jets decided to draft an interior lineman, albeit a very good one, in Williams with the 3rd pick and then had to wait until the third round to go after an edge rusher in Jachai Polite. This is a major problem, and with Brandon Copeland suspended for the first few games I am really struggling to see how the Jets are going to generate pressure. Jamal Adams is shaping up to be a perennial Pro Bowler, but the rest of the secondary doesn’t impress me and they won’t survive if there isn’t enough pressure up front. C.J. Mosley’s arrival and pairing with Avery Williamson makes for a great middle linebacker tandem. We’ll have to see about this Jets defense, but new defensive coordinator Greg Williams will need to concoct some wicked schemes for this group to truly be effective.
The Jets seem to think that they are on the verge, but I am not so sure. There are significant holes in the defensive depth chart and Darnold did not inspire a lot of confidence last year. However, if the rookie can have an outstanding sophomore year and some playmakers emerge on both sides of the ball the Jets could take a significant step forward. I don’t think a .500 season is in the cards, but after three straight seasons of 5 or less wins, I think reaching that would be considered a win for the Jets organization.
Over/under win total prediction (as per bet365 on August 24th): Under 6.5 (+155)
7 wins is possible, but not probable for the Jets this upcoming season. You can probably count on a couple of wins against their division rivals, and maybe one or two against the NFC East, but after that there is not very much opportunity left. Expect the Jets to have their moments, but until Sam Darnold has proven that last year was just rookie rust, I’m taking the under here for the boys in green and white.