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Where will the Jets finish in the AFC East? How should they game plan against division opponents?

Ryan Honey

The AFC East was “Patriots, Patriots, Patriots” for a long time.

But that’s over now.

The Bills won the division last year and are Super Bowl contenders in the AFC.

Many like the Dolphins and believe they’re playoff contenders after finishing the 2020 campaign with 10 wins.

And while the Jets will go through some growing pains in 2021, the organization is seemingly on the right track with a new head coach in Robert Saleh and rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson.

So how do the division-winner odds look heading into the regular season?

2021 AFC East Odds

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Get a deposit bonus up to $1,000 along with a $50 free bet with your first deposit by clicking here.

Division Winner

  • Bills: -160
  • Patriots: +350
  • Dolphins: +350
  • Jets: +2500

Odds Analysis

The top and bottom of the division, in terms of the odds, make sense.

Buffalo is far and away the best team in the division and the one that sports the best quarterback and overall roster. The Jets, on the other hand, likely remain the worst team of the group after winning a pair of games last year. But as was previously mentioned, they’re on the right track.

The No. 2 and 3 spots are where it becomes tricky to figure anything out, which is why the oddsmakers have put both the Patriots and Dolphins at +350.

Many have questions regarding either team, especially when it comes to the most important position on the field.

Is Tua Tagovailoa the future face of the franchise in Miami? Can the offensive line keep him upright? Is Mac Jones going to start off slow? Can he perform with not-so-great wide receiver talent?

Regardless of whether you’re sweating in South Beach or shivering in Foxborough, you’re scratching your head at numerous aspects regarding your team.

The final second-place occupant in this division may be a toss-up for most, but we could at least predict the eventual outcome…

AFC East Final Standings Prediction

This is how I believe the AFC East will conclude the season:

  1. Bills
  2. Patriots
  3. Dolphins
  4. Jets

Again, the top and bottom are easy to predict.

The reason I’m higher on the Patriots than I am the Dolphins, however, is because I’m just not a huge fan of Tua Tagovailoa at the moment. He looked improved in the preseason but still has a ton of questions to answer and must prove he can be consistent against starting defenses in the regular season.

Mac Jones, while a rookie, is just in a better situation with a legendary head coach and superior offensive line.

I also feel better about where New England’s defense is at in comparison to Miami’s.

If the Bills can win 13 games this year, I say the Pats can get to about 10 victories with Miami sticking to about eight or nine.

Scouting Division Opponents

Bills Offense

How do you defend a Buffalo offense led by Josh Allen (one of the top quarterbacks in the league), Stefon Diggs (2020’s most productive receiver), and Brian Daboll (a highly intelligent offensive coordinator)?

Well, it’s pretty damn difficult, but nothing is impossible in this league.

The Jets play Buffalo in Weeks 10 (Sunday, Nov. 14) and 18 (Sunday, Jan. 9), so by those points, we could have an idea of what the true starting defensive backfield looks like in Florham Park.

That being said, two of the DBs may need to cover Stefon Diggs.

Look, it’s going to be a tough task trying to limit Josh Allen’s on-field ability considering he has all the tangibles in the world. What you can try to do, though, is take away his top target and force him to look elsewhere on passing downs.

Don’t be surprised if the Jets also utilize a quarterback spy to limit what Allen can do with his legs — C.J. Mosley, Jarrad Davis (if he’s healthy), Hamsah Nasirildeen, or Jamien Sherwood could be options for the role.

Bills Defense

Buffalo’s defense, on the other hand, was just outside the top half of the league last year in rushing yards allowed.

Every year is a new year, but if I were to scout them now, I would say the Jets should look to produce in that area of the game.

Run the ball with your running back committee (Tevin Coleman, Michael Carter, La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson), open up the play-action, conduct long drives, and keep Josh Allen off the field.

Patriots Offense

The Jets have the Patriots twice in the first half of the year (Week 2 — Sunday, Sept. 19; Week 7 — Sunday, Oct. 24).

Since this will be early in Mac Jones’ career, the Jets will need to bring the pressure on a consistent basis. Expect Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich to include this concept in the game plans in order to disrupt the New England rookie quarterback’s timing.

The Jets defensive front will need to step up as well, especially in the first matchup — the Pats could potentially run the ball a decent amount that game in order to keep the pressure off Jones.

Patriots Defense

The Patriots defense was middle of the road last year but their rushing-yards-allowed-per-game mark was one of the league’s worst. Therefore, the Jets offense must utilize the ground game a significant amount when facing New England.

Dolphins Offense

What is Tua Tagovailoa?

Is he a legitimate starter? Is he someone who could turn heads in this league and eventually earn a huge contract extension? Is he someone that could bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Miami?

There are a ton of unanswered questions with the second-year signal-caller. What we do know, however, is he’s a young, inexperienced quarterback who’s not very mobile and doesn’t have a huge arm.

Therefore, the Jets must bring the pressure when they face him in Weeks 11 (Sunday, Nov. 21) and 15 (TBD).

He has talented weapons alongside him in DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, and Mike Gesicki. Not giving Tua an appropriate amount of time in the pocket will render those offensive skill players obsolete.

Dolphins Defense

It’s tough to say how good (or bad) Miami’s secondary will be by the time it faces the Jets, but when Gang Green does decide to attack the Dolphins through the air, receivers such as Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, and Jamison Crowder will need to step up and find space in the defensive backfield.

2020 first-team All-Pro corner Xavien Howard might be following Corey Davis wherever he goes, which could force Zach Wilson to rely on alternative passing-game options.