2015 AFC East Betting Preview: Miami takes Crown from Patriots

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo BillsThe New England Patriots have won the AFC East in 11 out of the last 12 seasons. So based purely on history, it would seem that they again have the inside track on the division. However, the Miami Dolphins have arisen to offer serious competition, while the Buffalo Bills will also be formidable foes. The New York Jets, on the other hand, appear locked in as the AFC East doormat. Below you can see what to expect from each of these four teams in 2015.

4th in Division: New York Jets; 4-12 W/L Projection

darrelle-revis-jetsStrengths: New York’s defensive line appears destined to crush opposing signal callers, with D-ends Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson combining with top-10 pick Leonard Williams and the underrated Damon Harrison. It’s not exactly like opposing QBs will pick apart the secondary either, thanks to new additions Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. This defense is certainly good enough to keep plenty of games close for the Jets.

Weaknesses: The main problem for New York will be moving the ball since they don’t have an elite-level quarterback on the roster. Geno Smith, who’s just 11-18 as a starter, is out 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is probably better than Smith, but he’s never been to a postseason game. The running back corp is strengthened with the additions of Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley, who join Chris Ivory. But teams will likely just stack the box until New York can generate any sort of passing offense.

3rd in Division: Buffalo Bills; 9-7 W/L Projection

mario-williams-billsStrengths: As good as the Jets D-line is, Buffalo has an even better one with Pro Bowlers Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus all teeing off on QBs. Defensive end Jerry Hughes is also quite good, meaning this unit should again approach their league-leading sack total of 54. These guys aren’t just pass rushers, though, because they also held opposing teams to 106.4 rushing YPG, ranking them just outside the top 10.

Weaknesses: The Bills offense seems set to explode, with the additions of RB LeSean McCoy, TE Charles Clay and utility man Percy Harvin. There’s just one problem: who’s going to lead them? Buffalo still has an open competition going at quarterback, with neither Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor looking like an impressive option.

2nd in Division: New England Patriots; 10-6 W/L Projection

tom-brady-patriotsStrengths: It’s always tough betting against the Patriots, namely because Tom Brady is so good. The jury is still out on whether courts will uphold the 4-game suspension for Deflate-gate. But whenever Brady does take the field, he’s a guaranteed winner, no matter whom he’s throwing the ball to. The 37-year-old threw for 4,109 yards, 33 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions in his 15th season. Oh yeah, and he also has four Super Bowl rings, including the one last year. The same winner billing can be attached to head coach Bill Belichick, who has led the Patriots to 14-straight winning seasons

Weaknesses: New England has plenty of offseason losses to cover up, but the worst are at corner, where Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have departed. Bradley Fletcher and Tarell Brown were (cheaply) signed to take their places, but they figure to be stop gaps at best.

1st in Division: Miami Dolphins; 12-4 W/L Projection

ryan-tannehillStrengths: Yet another AFC East team with a great D-line, Miami’s only got better when they signed Ndamukong Suh to a massive 6-year, $114 million deal. Suh should help the Dolphins boost their sack total of 39, but where he’ll really help is in shoring up the run defense, which ranked 23rd in the league. Add in 4-time Pro Bowler Cameron Wake and the possibilities are endless for this unit. And let’s not forget the offense, which, led by QB Ryan Tannehill, added wideouts Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker along with TE Jordan Cameron.

Weaknesses: Middle linebacker Koa Misi is one of the league’s best at his position. Unfortunately, Miami needs too many other linebackers to fill the losses of Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. What’s left will be especially bad in coverage situations, meaning the defensive line and young corners must step up to mask the linebacking problems.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 5 (Oct. 2nd, 2013)

alex-smith-kansas-cityWho would have thought coming into this season that after four weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs would be among the league’s unbeatens? Thanks to a stingy defense, the Chiefs have looked marvelous over the first four games. They’re in a truly elite class now since New England, Denver, New Orleans and Seattle are the only other undefeated teams. Now it’s time to sort out how they all rank, along with the rest of the league.

1. Denver Broncos (4-0); beat Philadelphia 52-20, retains same ranking – Another game, another blowout. Denver will face some tough tests eventually, but these tests will be few and far between. The only thing the Broncos see ahead of them right now is a title.

2. Seattle Seahawks (4-0); beat Houston 23-20 (OT), retains same ranking – The Seahawks looked dominated in the first half after falling behind Houston 20-3. But they showed the heart of a champion after storming back, thanks to a second-half shutout pitched by the defense. Whenever Russell Wilson breaks out, this team can truly compete with Denver.

3. New Orleans (4-0); beat Miami 38-17, retains same ranking – The Saints defense once again turned in an impressive defensive performance against a tough team. Although they keep the same spot, New Orleans did gain some ground on Seattle in our rankings.

4. New England Patriots (4-0); beat Atlanta 30-23, retains same ranking – To go into Atlanta and grab a win against a desperate Falcons team really shows something. Tom Brady has turned spare parts into gold in the early season. Just think what he’ll do with a healthy Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0); beat New York Giants 31-7, moves up 3 spots – The Chiefs just keep winning and rising. Aside from a blown coverage on Victor Cruz, this team thoroughly dominated the Giants and will be extremely tough to beat at Arrowhead.

6. San Francisco 49ers (2-2); beat St. Louis 35-11, moves up 3 spotsfrank-gore-san-franciscoFollowing two rough weeks against Seattle and Indianapolis, the Niners looked strong in St. Louis. Frank Gore finally had his first good game after racking up 153 yards and a TD on just 20 carries.

7. Chicago Bears (3-1); lost to Detroit 40-32, drops 2 spots – The Bears could’ve fallen further, but multiple top 10 teams lost this week. Jay Cutler made a nice fourth-quarter comeback after giving up four turnovers. But you have to worry about the defense, which was gashed by Reggie Bush.

8. Detroit Lions (3-1); beat Chicago 40-32, moves up 7 spots – The difference between having and not having Reggie Bush is tremendous for this team. He racked up 139 yards and a TD on only 18 carries. Detroit vs. Chicago on a neutral field would be a real nail-biter.

9. Miami Dolphins (3-1); lost to New Orleans 38-17, drops 2 spots – This is another team that could have tumbled a lot further. And they were largely noncompetitive on both sides of the ball against New Orleans. However, losing on the road to one of the NFL’s elite isn’t such an embarrassment.

10. Indianapolis Colts (3-1); beat Jacksonville 37-3, moves up 3 spots – No complaints with how they handled the Jaguars. The defense has looked rock solid for two straight weeks. And the offense is complete with Andrew Luck behind center and Trent Richardson running the ball.

11. Green Bay Packers (1-2); bye week, moves up 4 spots – It’s funny how good you can look just by not playing. The NFC North race should be hotly contested with Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago all gunning for the title.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2); lost to Cleveland 17-6, drops 6 spots –  Nobody saw this one coming, especially when the Browns traded away Richardson two weeks ago. It’s an ugly loss for the Bengals, but they are still tied for first in the AFC North.

13. Houston Texans; lost to Seattle 23-20, drops 2 spots – The Texans couldn’t finish off the NFC’s top team while they had them on the ropes. Houston has the pieces to be good, they just need to put everything together.

14. Baltimore Ravens (2-2); lost to Buffalo 23-20, drops 4 spots – A bad joe-flaccoweekend for the AFC North as the defending Super Bowl champs lost to the Bills. This defense can’t continue to cover for the mistakes of Flacco, who threw a career-worst five interceptions.

15. Atlanta Falcons (1-3); lost to New England 30-23, drops 3 spots – After a very strong year in 2012, the Falcons just don’t look the same. The defense is mainly to blame, especially since they surrendered 30 points at home to a team that’s missing several key starters.

16. San Diego Chargers (2-2); beat Dallas 30-21, moves up 4 spots – Philip Rivers has truly re-emerged this year. His performance against the Cowboys, which included 401 yards and 3 touchdowns, is perfect evidence of this.

17. Tennessee Titans (3-1); beat New York Jets 38-13, retains same ranking – In any other situation, the Titans would be 4-5 spots higher and in playoff contention. But now that they’ve lost QB Jake Locker for “multiple weeks,” this team will be hard-pressed to continue doing well. A brutal three-game stretch against Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco awaits.

18. Dallas Cowboys (2-2); lost to San Diego 30-21, drops 2 spots – How bad is the NFC East if Dallas is the best team with a .500 record? Even if Dallas continues on the same trajectory, they’re going to win the division and grab a postseason bid.

19. Carolina Panthers (1-2); bye week, moves up 2 spots – Once off to a dismal 0-2 start, Carolina is coming off a bye week and into a friendly four-game stretch against Arizona, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. They could win all four of these contests before things get tough again.

20. Buffalo Bills (2-2); beat Baltimore 23-20, moves up 5 spots – The Bills got a nice home win against the Ravens, but it took five interceptions to pull this one out. Will a banged-up Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller take its toll?

21. Cleveland Browns (2-2); beat Cincinnati 17-6, moves up 6 spotsbrian-hoyer-clevelandIt’s hard to know if the Browns are for real at this point. But Brian Hoyer, Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon have breathed new life into this team, which has them thinking about the playoffs.

22. Arizona Cardinals (2-2); beat Tampa Bay 13-10, moves up 1 spot – CB Patrick Peterson came alive in the second half, picking off two crucial passes to lead Arizona to a come-from-behind victory.

23. New York Jets (2-2); lost to Tennessee 38-13, drops 5 spots – The fact that New York is .500 at this point is already surprising. If only rookie Geno Smith could quit making careless mistakes, this team could really exceed expectations.

24. Washington Redskins (1-3); beat Oakland 24-14, moves up 2 spots – Things looked bleak for the Redskins when they were down 14-0 in the first quarter. However, they battled back and finally notched a win. Amazingly, they’re just one game out of the NFC East lead.

25. Minnesota Vikings (1-3); beat Pittsburgh 34-27, moves up 3 spots – Christian Ponder remains the starting quarterback, despite the fact that backup Matt Cassel led Minnesota to their only win. But how long will Ponder start if he continues losing?

26. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3); lost to Denver 52-20, drops 7 spots – Nobody expected the Eagles to walk into Mile High and shut down the Broncos. But isn’t offense supposed to be Chip Kelly’s specialty?

27. St. Louis Rams (1-3); lost to San Francisco 35-11, drops 5 spots – The Rams started the season respectably, but have regressed in the last two blowout losses. However, they have an excellent shot at winning in Jacksonville this weekend.

28. New York Giants (0-4); lost to Kansas City 31-7, drops 4 spots – Few would’ve predicted that New York would be this bad in the early going. They’ll try to get their first win against a slumping Philly team.

29. Oakland Raiders (1-3); lost to Washington 24-14, moves up 1 spot – They lost, but move up because Terrelle Pryor returns this week. Oh, and if there was any inkling of Matt Flynn regaining his starting job, it ended Sunday.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4); lost to Minnesota 34-27, drops 1 spot – The falling cry of the Steelers this year has always been “At least their defense is good.” Well it turns out that this isn’t even true. There is some promise in rookie RB Le’Veon Bell though.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4); lost to Arizona 13-10, retains same ranking – Are the Buccaneers drafting a quarterback next year, or is rookie third-rounder Mike Glennon the future? If it’s the latter, he’s got to stop making stupid decisions like throwing towards Peterson late in a game.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4); lost to Indianapolis 37-3, retains same ranking – Is there any reason to believe this team can avoid going 0-16? We can’t think of one.