Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange and Olivia Landis will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What are your thoughts on the AFC East entering Week 7?
EA: It feels more wide open than it's ever been with the Bills (4-2), the Dolphins (3-3) and the Patriots (2-3) closely packed together. Buffalo looked ready to run away, but it failed to meet the elite eye test against Tennessee and Kansas City. The Dolphins are the only club that has a positive point differential (+47) and they just handed the offensive controls from Ryan Fitzpatrick to rookie Tua Tagovailoa. New England has dropped two straight and Bill Belichick has stressed his club needs more time together and more practices after dealing with some positive coronavirus tests. The Jets will certainly have their say in how things shake out with four division contests remain including two of their next three: vs. Buffalo (Week 7) and vs. New England (Week 9). The Jets got hot last year in the season's latter half and they would make things interesting if they did it again. This is a critical two-game stretch for the Bills because they'll host the Patriots in Week 8. I think Buffalo remains the favorite although I would not be surprised if Miami or New England win the division. And the way things are shaking out in the AFC, I don't expect multiple teams from the East to be playing in the postseason.
EG: It's definitely different without Tom Brady leading the Patriots (2-3), who have not had a losing record in Week 5 or later in a season since 2002. That was also the same season they did not win 10 or more games. I'm interested to see what Miami will look like with rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa, who was named the Dolphins' starter, under center. Ryan Fitzpatrick told the media he knew he was the placeholder for Tagovailoa, who was drafted No. 5 overall after a stellar career at Alabama, but Fitz was heartbroken when he heard the news. Let's see how this move will affect the Dolphins (3-3), who do not play this week. Most NFL analysts believed the Bills were the team to beat in the AFC East entering the 2020 season and so far their predictions seem to be right. Buffalo was impressive, particularly the improvement of QB Josh Allen, in its first four games before dropping the last two. Allen has taken a big jump, improving his completion percentage from 58.8% to 67.1%. The AFC East may feel different, but you can't count out the Pats given their success over the past 20 years.
See the Top Images from Practice Leading Up to the Home Game Against Buffalo
RL:The AFC East is certainly different this season. Even with Buffalo (4-2) coming back to earth with losses the past two games, the division has had all four teams with at least two losses after six weeks before, as recently as 2017 and 2018. What's really unusual is that post-Brady, New England (2-3) is in sole possession of third place or lower after six weeks for the first time since the 2000 season, encouraging to all the rest of the division, especially Miami (3-3). That leaves the Jets (0-6), who right now are watching the party from the basement. I'd never say never at this point of the season, but needless to say, the Green & White need to get Sam Darnold and their injured players back together on the field and begin to show some upward mobility as they did in last year's second half. They still have four division games to go, including three at home beginning with those Bills. If any kind of upward trend is going to happen, it needs to start on Sunday at MetLife.
OL: The AFC East has had some unexpected turns through the first six weeks of the season. This offseason the Bills were regarded as an improved team that made a short playoff run last season, so it's not necessarily a surprise that they lead the pack after six games. The consensus in the rest of the league, however, was that the remaining three teams would vie for second place. Although they dropped two division contests to start the season, the Dolphins have emerged after three important wins, despite having the much-traveled veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and not Tua Tagovailoa — the team's No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Patriots have also surprised many with a slow start. The Tom Brady-less Pats decided to move on from their former future HOF QB, and have had some hiccups with starting QB Cam Newton missing time early in the season. It's the first time the team has started 2-3 in years. Growing pains were expected with a young Jets team that underwent some changes of its own. General Manager Joe Douglas oversaw his first draft in April, and major players in the organization like S Jamal Adams, LB CJ Mosley and RB Le'Veon Bell are no longer with the squad.