Last year I probably paid too much attention to the NFL offseason, and I think it clouded some of my judgements heading into the season. As a consequence I decided for the 2022 NFL year I would pay as little attention as possible. Obviously — and I do mean obviously — I didn’t miss out on the wide receiver carousel, what with Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill and A.J. Brown all getting traded; I didn’t miss out on the NFL Draft or other significant free agency signings. I consider those to be givens.
At the same time, when last year I was paying attention to depth signings — inconsequential minutia that doesn’t shift the needle all that much — this season I have let some information fall through the cracks. I don’t love the NFL any less now than I did a year ago, and come time for meaningful football games I will be in the lab just as I always am. Previewing the NFL is an experiment for me. It’s a way to test myself against the market of football fans. I simply went through a different process this time around.
All over/under win totals are courtesy of Draft Kings.
Part VIII: AFC East
1. Buffalo Bills
2021 record: 11-6 2022 over/under: 11.5 wins
The Bills are burdened by a history of disappointment and heartbreak, and the weight of that millstone around their neck grows tighter and heavier the more talented they become. At an expectation of 11.5 wins, Buffalo not only have the highest win total in the AFC, they are also the preseason Super Bowl favorite. As an organization they have come such a long way in Josh Allen’s four years, but their final hurdles are absolutely gigantic.
For what it’s worth, I (like many others) view the Bills as the team to beat this season. I think they have the best roster, and have a massive chip on their shoulder because of how their 2021 season ended. It is certainly something being favored to win one of the toughest conferences in recent history — given the number of high level teams in the AFC — but for Buffalo to be the last team standing it’s probably going to require a decent amount of luck, with injuries and otherwise.
2. Miami Dolphins
2021 record: 9-8 2022 over/under: 9 wins
There’s a lot to be said about teams that “go for it,” teams who acquire top-shelf talent and surround a quarterback on a rookie contract with the tools to compete for championships. The Dolphins did that this offseason by unloading five draft picks in a trade for former Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who figures to be the centerpiece of an offense that includes studs like WR Jaylen Waddle and TE Mike Gesicki.
I could write the same thing about several teams in the NFL, but it’s true and it’s really all anything comes down to: is the quarterback any good? I happen to not care very much about how many offensive weapons a team has, or how stout the defense appears to be; with a capable QB, nothing else matters. And I happen to be on the side that does not believe in Tua very much.
3. New England Patriots
2021 record: 10-7 2022 over/under: 8.5 wins
Given the 8.5-win expectation, betting markets view the Patriots to be exactly average. I think if you look at their roster and lack of marquee talent and names, being average feels right (if not generous). But when you factor in that they have Bill Belichick as their head coach — the best to ever do it — I can’t help but feel as if they are in a better position than if they had literally anyone else leading them.
Mac Jones isn’t special, but he clearly outperformed his expectations as a rookie. With a decent offensive line, a good running back room, and a receiving corp that is sneaky good, I could definitely picture New England winning enough games to be put them in the mix for a Wild Card spot in 2022.
4. New York Jets
2021 record: 4-13 2022 over/under: 5.5 wins
I’m just not a believer in Zach Wilson. I think the AFC East is too good, I think the AFC in general is too strong, and teams like the Jets are going to get left in the dust.
As much as I like their head coach, I just don’t see a place in a loaded conference for teams like New York. It’s not very strong analysis but after writing a couple paragraphs on every team I don’t have anything left in the tank for scrubs who don’t deserve the time or space.
AFC East Projection:
- Bills: 13-4
- Patriots: 10-7
- Dolphins: 8-9
- Jets: 4-13