Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.
Let’s start with perhaps the easiest division, the AFC East…
New England Patriots:
Despite the Patriots having some what of a clearout in the summer and reported riffs in the camp, the Patriots will still coast this division. Chris Hogan is a guy you should be circling in drafts and should have a great season, let alone a good first 4 weeks with Edelman out.
Gone are their top performing WR and RB from last season in Cooks and Lewis as well as Malcolm Butler, Nate Solder and Danny Amendola. The broken record of “this is the year the Patriots dynasty falls” returns yet again and for me, I need to see evidence first before committing to jumping on the bandwagon. New England and Bill Belichick have a history of maximising the production from their player pool and even Sir Alex Ferguson would be proud and can’t see many (if any scenarios where New England dont have a bye week in week 1 of the postseason.
Key storyline: Can the dynasty hold off father time for at least one more year?
But where could the challenge come from?
I would have to say Miami are the most likely contenders and they too have had a clearout (albeit over a longer stretch last year). Adam Gase has gotten rid of the egos, gotten rid of the players that think they’re bigger than the franchise and could finally have “his type” of team. Suh, Cutler, Ajayi, Landry and of course Julius Thomas (I’m not being serious with the last one) all leave gaping holes to fill and there are plenty of question marks surrounding this team. Forget last year, that wasn’t Miami, played 16 straight games with a QB who didn’t overly care and a team that I don’t think bought into the ethos of Gase. Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, Mike Gesicki and 1st round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick aim to fill those voids and whilst i think they will be a game or two off of the playoffs, hopefully for Dolphins fans, their trajectory could be on the rise, just in time for the Patriots fall. For fantasy, I don’t want any Miami Dolphin except maybe Gesicki in Dynasty (and perhaps a last round pick in redraft) as he could be a ready to explode in year one type of TE and certainly will have opportunity, not something TEs get in their rookie year if we look at the history. Tannehill (remember him?) will have to stay healthy for any success to come Miami’s way, otherwise its another losing season with the Brock Lobster.
Key storyline: Can Adam Gase finally get the players working as a team?
Last years surprise playoff team have to be Buffalo and boy are they in line for a crash back to earth.
Sneaking in to the postseason after Dalton shocking the Ravens in week 17, the Bills were there to make up the numbers. This year, they could be getting a top 3 pick in next years draft, dont @ me. They lose Richie Incognito in amongst 3 of their 5 starts on the o-Line last year, they have noone to catch the ball and even worse than that, they have noone to throw them the ball. Tyrod Taylor, criminally disrespected by the Bills organisation and fantasy GMs everywhere is now in Cleveland to get the same treatment, leaving AJ McCarron, who will be put to the wolves in a brutal opening schedule. Josh Allen isn’t ready but will no doubt be thrown in at some point, and Nathan Peterman….well, is Nathan Peterman. Their only fantasy worthy player is LeSean McCoy and he too is battling some off the field issues. He is facing father time in the next year or so and will be interested to see how much more tread he has on those tyres.
Their defence is OK and Tremaine Edmunds was a solid draft pick, but man this team are gonna struggle if they can’t run the ball. That said, they have a great coach and basically got to the playoffs last year with the same group. Surely they cant repeat?
Key Storyline: How many wins can Sean McDermott muster from a team deprived of talent?
New York Jets:
That brings us to the Jets. Somewhat gone under the radar this offseason for me.
They have an interesting training camp battle at Quarterback which will probably see Bridgewater traded at some point (seems to be impressing themost judging by reporter’s notes, but that could be smokescreen for said trade). Josh McCown is the favourite to start the season, but likely the underdog to finish it. He will at some point move to the coaching staff and Sam Darnold likely to get some snaps as the season goes on
Similar comments apply to the running back position, where Thomas Rawls and Isiah Crowell enter the fray with Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire (the legend Matt Forte retiring leaving the number 1 back up for grabs). Crowell seems to be the favourite at this early stage for the gig but based on his Cleveland years, are you gonna have him in your fantasy teams and starting him with confidence? Didn’t think so.
Robby Anderson, the WR Alvin Kamara at points last year could be suspended for a little while (unconfirmed at this point) leaving an uninspiring combination of Jermaine Kearse, Quincy Enunwa (another forgotten man) and Terrelle Pryor at Wide receiver and some Joe Schmoes at Tight End (aka Clive Walford) catching passes.
Overall, Todd Bowles will do well to get the team near a playoff berth but their defence is young and battle ready with a year under their belts and could surprise a few teams if they take them for granted.
Key Storyline: At what point will Sam Darnold start?
Not a lot of exciting storylines in the AFC East this year, both in NFL and fantasy terms. People will go into the furnace once more on Devante Parker (“This is the year”, etc) and Kenny Stills whilst over in Buffalo and New York, there isn’t a lot that takes my fancy (maybe Anderson if ADP is late and avoids a big suspension). The one standout for me is Chris Hogan, who was great last year when healthy and should get a lot of opportunity and volume in the Patriots passing attack that doesn’t feature Edelman for the 1st 4 games. I’ll never be a drafter of Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski so that pretty much leaves noone else in the division….joys.
In real life terms, there are a couple of subdued storylines that will take a bit of time to develop; the Jets at QB/RB (still, yuk), the assumed demise of the Patriots and which team will step up and challenge in the next few years. In a division where New England have won 14 out of the last 15 AFC East titles, it’s hard to predict change at this point.
Sorry folks, not much to see here.
1st -New England Patriots *YAWN*,
2nd – Miami Dolphins,
3rd – New York Jets,
4th – Buffalo Bills
The Patriots are in meltdown right? There was some possibly in-fighting last year between the owner, head coach and quarterback, now said superstar QB has skipped voluntary workouts for the first time in forever… oh my god, Julian Edelman is out for four games with a PED’s suspension! There’s even been talk of trading Rob Gronkowski! The tables must be turning in the AFC East right! Right…? Wrong.
The Pats have aired a little more dirty laundry in public than they’d like over the past few months but they’re still the top dogs in this division and still amongst the best teams in the AFC as a whole. They still have Brady, they still have Bill Belichick and the biggest mismatch in the league in Rob Gronkowski. Oh, and they managed to keep Josh McDaniels away from Indy.
It also helps that the rest of the division is average to baaaad.
The rest of the division are going to be fighting towards .500, in my opinion. The Bills are a mess on offense and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on a capable defense. From a fantasy perspective, avoid Bills players like the plague! Even if you’re thinking about drafting Shady in the second… Don’t! Let someone else fall in love with the big name. He’s going to face loaded boxes behind a bad offensive line because none of those QB’s are winning through the air.
The Jets have a few more interesting players but they all come with strings attached… Robby Anderson has legal troubles, Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell take touches off of each other but can both put in good game. Quincy Enunwa could be a waiver wire target in mid season once you’ve lost a guy or two to injury though. The Jets are a little further along in their rebuild and they’ll hope that they have their QB of the future in Sam Darnold now, but I still feel like they’re a year or two away; they still need a couple of good drafts and to develop their budding stars. Maybe once the Belichick era comes to a close they’ll be the best placed to take advantage.
Miami are probably the second best team, currently, in the AFC East but I don’t think they have a great quarterback or their next quarterback in the building right now. Tannehill is ok but he’s nothing special, plus he’s coming back from a major injury. The assessment of “ok but nothing special” applies to a lot of Miami’s roster too, in my book the offensive line is good but they’re the standout unit. From a fantasy perspective it’s also pretty messy; no one is drafting Frank Gore but could he take goal line work away from Kenyan Drake? Kallen Bellage will also be getting some touches. The wide receiver room is crowded too so tough to make a pick amongst them. However, one guy I do like is Mike Gesicki as a late round pick up, especially for dynasty leagues. Super athletic and a bigger red zone target than any of the ‘Fins wideouts. (I mentioned this the last time I appeared on The Full 10 Yards podcast, so give that a listen).
Pretty boring division overall in terms of how it’ll probably play out.
- New England Patriots
- Miami Dolphins
- New York Jets
- Buffalo Bills