2021 AFC East Preview: Division of Game Changers

Welcome to the 2021 season where Bill Belichick has taken his Patriots down to Miami a full week early to thwart the 2-7 record his team has in away games with the Dolphins. This move mirrors the desperation of not naming an offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator in what looks to be an unceremonious end to Bill Belichick’s career. This will be his last year.

Where does this team turn when they start 0-4?? At Patriots, at Steelers, home to Baltimore then off to Green Bay. Yikes!

Yet elsewhere in the division it’s full speed ahead as Josh Allen and the Bills have become the talk of the league having made several upgrades heading into 2022.

AFC East Champions

  1. Buffalo Bills 13-4**
  2. New York Jets 9-8
  3. Miami Dolphins 6-11
  4. new England Patriots 5-12

The 1st of which is signing former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller to bolster the reigning #1 defense and help school former 1st round DE Greg Rousseau. This should free up DT Ed Oliver from interior double teams as all 3 -1st rounders should be after QBs all season. Schematically this defense played well but needs playmaking game changers and this pass rush has to be that. Just look back to the last :13 in Kansas City.

Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Von Miller (40) forces a fumble by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the second half in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame pass rushers shouldn’t fall from the sky and the Bills got the biggest defensive acquisition in football. Miller has 4.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in Super Bowl competition. In the ’15 AFC Championship he had 2.5 sacks of Tom Brady and another 4 hits on him to rattle TB12. Then last year it was Von’s sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery on Brady that gave the Rams strategic control of the game sending them to the NFC Championship Game.

However the most improved team in the division is the New York Jets. Drafting Zach Wilson home run speed in OSU WR Garrett Wilson and grabbing CB Sauce Gardner and DE Jermaine Johnson with their #1 picks. Its Wilson taking the top off defenses that will allow Braxton Berrios to continue to be dynamic in the slot. However if 2nd round pick Breece Hall hits at running back this offense has the potential to be one of the best in football. They will mirror Joe Burrow and the weapons  in Cincinnati but they may be one year away from hitting full stride.

Miami will be the middle of the pack team they have been with Tua at quarterback. They did get Tyreek Hill who should turn heads early in the season with bubble screens and turning short gains into big ones early in the season. Yet look to defensive coordinators to figure out Tua’s arm can’t threaten downfield and his affectiveness to be minimized by midseason.

This season of dynamic playmakers begins and ends with Bills QB Josh Allen who could be league MVP with another great season. Completing 409 of 646 for 4,407 yds 36TDs with 15 interceptions had him in last year’s race. His 763 yards rushing will hopefully be lower and he needs to get slide more and not take so many hits. With Diggs (102 rec. 1,225 yds/ 10TDs) back and the emergence of Gabriel Davis (NFL playoff record 4 TDs in KC) this team has no obvious weaknesses. Barring injury this group of playmakers should be playing in early February in Super Bowl LVII.

It all begins by showcasing it Thursday Night against the defending Super Bowl champion Rams on the road. Time for the rubber to hit the road!

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