The AFC East is one of the few divisions in the NFL that has a clear cut winner before the season even starts. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have had their way in this division for a long time, and 2019 looks like it’s going to be more of the same. The New England Patriots should be favored in all 6 of their divisional games, and it would not be a stretch to believe they will win all 6 games easily. If you’re placing a bet on who will win the division this year, you are pretty much guaranteed to take home some money by letting it ride on number 12 and the Pats.
There are, however, some intriguing story lines throughout this division and the 3 other teams (Buffalo, Miami, and New York) all have a lot to play for. Let’s take a deeper look at all 4 teams, see how they stack up to their projected win totals, and what the safest bets are if you plan on playing the future win total lines.
2019 Line: 4.5 Wins
2018 Record: 7-9 (6-2 Home, 1-7 Away)
The 2019 Miami Dolphins are in rebuild mode. They are going to lose a lot of games, and Miami fans should go into this season with pretty low expectations. Josh Rosen is going to get his chance with this Miami team, but he will be playing for his job all year long. If the Dolphins sink to the bottom of the standings and are looking at the number 1 overall draft pick in 2020, Tua Tagovailoa is going to be heading to South Beach and Rosen will be looking for his 3rd team in just 3 seasons. Now the question is, can we find 5 games on their schedule in 2019 to get them to the right side of the 4.5 Line?
Their first 4 games (Baltimore, New England, Dallas, and the LA Chargers) all look like losses to me. This Miami team won’t match up well with any of these teams and will likely head into their Week 5 Bye with an 0-4 record. They come out of their bye with a home game against Washington. Washington’s 2019 win line comes in at 6.5 games, so they are too rebuilding to a certain extent. Winnable game number 1. The next week the Dolphins face off against divisional rival Buffalo on the road. They will see Buffalo again at home in Week 11. In 2018, the Dolphins split the series with Buffalo (winning at home, and losing on the road). I could easily see Miami grabbing 1 out of 2 against Buffalo again this year. Week 8 they head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers which will likely end in a loss. After that they face the Jets for the first time at home. In 2018 Miami actually took both games from New York. In 2019, the safer bet would be to assume that they can split the series by winning at home and likely losing in New York in early December. Outside of New York and Buffalo the Jets will face Indianapolis, Cleveland, Philadelphia, NY Giants, and Cincinnati before wrapping up their season against New England in Week 17. The Week 15 and 16 games against the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals are the last 2 winnable games I see for Miami. Both the Giants and Bengals will be in rebuild mode as well and are projected to win 5 or fewer games.
As far as I can see, the best case scenario for Miami this year would be to get on a hot streak and steal a couple games they shouldn’t win. That being said, their ceiling is right around the 6-10 mark, with a more likely ending around 3-13 or 4-12.
My Prediction: 4-12 (UNDER 4.5)
2019 Line: 6.5 Wins
2018 Record: 6-10 (4-4 Home, 2-6 Away)
The Bills are cautiously optimistic heading into the 2019 season. Many fans are hoping to see Josh Allen take a huge step forward and get the offense heading in the right direction. The 2018 Bills were solid on defense and actually finished 2nd overall in the NFL for yards allowed. The offense, however, ranked near the bottom in both yards and points scored. In order for the Bills to be successful this year, the new pieces they have added to their offense will need to gel quickly and get off to a hot start. If the offensive unit gains some confidence early, they could end up rolling into the middle of the season with a solid record. Let’s take a trip through their schedule and see if we can find 7 winnable games to get them above the 6.5 line.
The Bills both start the year and end the year against the divisional foe New York Jets. In 2018, the Bills and Jets split the season series, which is a likely scenario that could play out in 2019. Week 2, the Bills stay in New York and will match up against the rebuilding Giants. The Bills should anticipate competing for a W in this matchup. After that, the Bills get their first home game of the year against Cincinnati and should expect to compete for another win here. As long as the Bills take care of business in New York, they could head into their Week 4 matchup against the Patriots with a 3-0 record. New England will be a very tall task for the Bills so I am not predicting a win in Foxboro quite yet. Week 5 sees Buffalo heading to Tennessee for a game with the Titans which will could be a very competitive and tough matchup for both teams. The Bills should head into their Week 6 bye with either a 2-3 or 3-2 record (4-1 if they’re really clicking). Weeks 7 and 11 Buffalo will match up with Miami. Like I mentioned in the Dolphins preview, they split the season series in 2018, but Buffalo will be playing for the sweep this year. Taking 2 from Miami will really help Buffalo get above that 6.5 line. The rest of the non-divisonal games are as follows: Philadelphia, Washington, @ Cleveland, Denver, @ Dallas, Baltimore, and @ Pittsburgh. Out of this group of games I can see Buffalo fighting for wins against both the Redskins in Week 9 and Denver in Week 12.
Though the road will be rough, I feel optimistic about this year’s Buffalo Bills. If you sprinkle in a couple upsets I can see this team getting to 9 wins and holding out hope for a surprise Wildcard spot. However, if things unravel early and the offense doesn’t find their rhythm then this team could easily be looking at a 4 to 5 win year.
My Prediction: 8-8 (OVER 6.5)
New York Jets
2019 Line: 7.5 Wins
2018 Record: 4-12 (2-6 Home, 2-6 Away)
Le’Veon Bell has everyone’s attention shifting to Gang Green heading into 2019. Will the stubborn running back be able to lift the Jets out of the basement, or will this be another year of misery for this New York franchise? The combination of Bell, Sam Darnold, Head Coach Adam Gase, and a relatively favorable schedule should allow the Jets to compete at a higher level than they have for the past 3 seasons.
A successful 2019 campaign will begin and end within the division. With the Patriots likely ending in 2 losses for the Jets, they will need to take advantage of their matchups against the Bills and Dolphins. Splitting both of these series is a much likelier ending for the Jets, but they will be shooting for all 4 games landing win the win column. If they can manage that, then their chances of getting beyond 7.5 wins skyrockets. The difficult games on their schedule outside of the division consist of Cleveland (Week 2), @ Philadelphia (5), Dallas (6), @ Baltimore (15), and Pittsburgh (16). The winnable games are @ Jacksonville (8), NY Giants (10), @ Washington (11), Oakland (12), and Cincinnati (13).
The Jets have not had a playoff appearance since 2010, and I don’t think that streak will be broken quite yet in 2019. However, there is reason for optimism in New York as this schedule should give them a good chance at fighting for the number 2 spot in the division. If New York plays out of their minds in 2019 they could find themselves in a playoff hunt with a 10-6 record. A much more likely scenario has the Jets finishing around 7-9 or 8-8, right around the 7.5 line.
My Prediction: 8-8 (OVER 7.5)
New England Patriots
2019 Line: 11 Wins
2018 Record: 11-5 (8-0 Home, 3-5 Away)
The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots return in 2019 with their eyes on yet another championship run. The seemingly ageless Tom Brady, and the stoic Bill Belichick are back again and ready to put together another deep playoff run. Another AFC East Title has already penciled in by the New England faithful and you won’t hear any arguments from me with that assumption. 11 Wins should be very attainable for this Patriots team. They haven’t had less than 11 wins since 2009 when they went 10-6.
As we look through the 2019 slate of games we can start with the divisional games. The Patriots will be favored to win all 6 games against Miami, Buffalo, and New York. Over the past 3 seasons, the Pats have won 15 of 18 against their divisional rivals. Based on the current state of all these teams, and the last couple years worth of data, leave me thinking that the Patriots go 6-0 against these three teams. Pretty decent start toward beating the 11 win mark. The biggest question mark surrounding the Patriots this year is their ability to win games outside of Foxboro. They had a perfect record at home last year, but dropped 5 out of 8 on the road. Their 2019 road games are all games they should compete in, but a few that could drop the Pats yet again. They travel to Washington (Week 5), Baltimore (9), Philadelphia (11), Houston (13), and Cincinnati (15). They also welcome a handful of tough competition to take on at home facing Pittsburgh (1), NY Giants (6), Cleveland (8), Dallas (12), and Kansas City (14). Regardless of the outcomes, the Patriots schedule is loaded with games that I can’t wait to watch.
As I pencil in my guesstimates for the Pats 2019 season I see wins coming against Pittsburgh, Miami (twice), NY Jets (twice), Buffalo (twice), Washington, NY Giants, Cleveland, Dallas, and Cincinnati. Possible losses come from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Houston, and Kansas City. These results obviously leave New England at 12-4. If they drop a couple duds throughout the year I can see them winding up around 10 wins, but I could also see them finishing around 13 or 14 wins if health (and father time) is on their side.
My Prediction: 12-4 (OVER 11)