The 2017 NFL season begins on September 7 and all 32 teams are preparing their rosters for the challenges ahead in the new campaign.
The New England Patriots are aiming to become the first side to win back-to-back Super Bowls since they achieved the feat in the 2004 season.
Bill Belichick’s men staged the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history to defeat the Atlanta Falcons to win the Vince Lombardi trophy for a fifth time.
New England have dominated the AFC East for the last seven seasons and that doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon, with the rest of the division suffering key injuries or going through a rebuilding process.
The Miami Dolphins reached the playoffs last term, but were dumped out in the first round. The Buffalo Bills were below average, resulting in the firing of Rex Ryan. The New York Jets were a complete disaster, imploding from the side that finished 10-6 the previous campaign.
The Patriots can extend their own NFL record for most consecutive division titles and it’s extremely unlikely that the three other sides will be able to unseat them.
The Patriots were outstanding last term, despite losing Tom Brady for the opening four matches of the season due to his deflategate suspension. Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett got them through that period before Brady returned and was imperious through the campaign.
The division crown was never in doubt, while the rest of the AFC could not match them in the playoffs. The Falcons did appear to have their number before Brady led his team on their comeback trail to snatch the victory in overtime.
Usually when sides win the Super Bowl they are plucked of talent. However, Belichick has strengthened his outfit using their first-round pick to acquire wideout Brandin Cooks. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore signed a lucrative deal to join from the Bills, while others were added around them.
Logan Ryan and Rob Ninkovich were the only starters to depart, with Ryan joining the Tennessee Titans, while Ninkovich retired. The Patriots have the strength to ease to the division and there are some calls that they could go 16-0 for the second time in their history.
Their 2007 offense was at the time the greatest in history. Now with the addition of Cooks to add to Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, James White et al there’s no reason why they can’t challenge that pace. Brady’s not slowing down, despite reaching the age of 40 as he searches to become the first player to win six Super Bowls.
Their defense is good enough, despite flaws in their pass-rush. Dont’a Hightower’s re-signing was key, while Trey Flowers will be aiming to build on his outstanding Super Bowl. A daring bet of +1200 with TopBet sportsbook could be worth the punt, while their odds of -700 with SunBet for the AFC East should be a formality.
The Dolphins performed well under new head coach Adam Gase last season, posting a 10-6 record. However, Ryan Tannehill’s injury derailed any hopes of the club making a surge deep into the playoffs, with Matt Moore struggling to fire against the Steelers.
Miami would have been hopeful of building on their campaign with Tannehill fit again, only for the quarterback to suffer another injury during training campaign. The 28-year-old has been ruled out for the season, forcing the club to turn to Jay Cutler.
Cutler endured a horrific season with the Chicago Bears in 2016, so much so that he was preparing to begin a broadcast career. However, the call from Gase, who he had mild success with in the 2015 campaign lured him back into the NFL.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins his best days are behind him and a playoff place looks extremely unlikely. Running back Jay Ajayi could make the difference should he enjoy another strong campaign, although almost half of his 1,272 rushing yards last season came in three matches.
Defensively there is some quality, highlighted by Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh. Injuries have depleted the depth, with linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Koa Misi out for the season along with cornerback Tony Lippett.
Gase impressed during his first season, but he will have to be even better in his second term to reach the playoffs.
Due to the improvement of other sides in the AFC, backing the Dolphins to miss out on the post-season at odds of -300 with Coral is the option to take.
The Rex Ryan era came to an end for the Bills at the end of last season. Owners Terry and Kim Pegula fired the head coach following their failure to reach the playoffs. Ryan had 15-16 record with the club and paid the price for his bravado, promising a return to the Bills’ former greatness.
General manager Doug Whaley was removed after the 2017 Draft along with a number of backroom staff. The club have placed their faith in Sean McDermott to turn their fortunes around along with his former colleague at the Carolina Panthers Brandon Beane in the front office.
The club’s roster is in a bit of a shambles at the moment. The Bills opted to trade away Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams after using a great deal of capital to acquire his services in the 2014 Draft, while Ronald Darby was also sent to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jordan Matthew came the other way to solve some issues at wide receiver, but since the start of last season they’ve lost their two starting wideouts and cornerbacks. As a result there is a dearth of talent for quarterback Tyrod Taylor to work with, although even his place is not guaranteed due to his poor performances during pre-season.
Buffalo’s fortunes will rest on the shoulders of LeSean McCoy once again. Although he has been a quality back, the number of hits may begin to tell on his play as he approaches the age of 30.
Even their defense that was solid under Jim Schwartz and then Ryan looks vulnerable without top talent in the back end. Therefore back them to win under 6.5 matches at +100 with Bovada sportsbook.
If the Bills’ situation is bad, the Jets’ is just downright horrific. Todd Bowles managed to survive the 5-11 campaign, despite the lacklustre nature of their performances. Life has somehow managed to get worse for the club in the off-season, with the exits of almost all of their veteran players.
Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Ryan Clady, Calvin Pryor and Ryan Fitzpatrick have all left the Jets. The departures have left the club short on quality and experience, putting them into contention for a 0-16 campaign.
Fitzpatrick took a huge step back in 2016 from where he was in 2015. A contract dispute resulted in disastrous play from the 34-year-old last term. He left the club in the off-season, with the Jets facing a future with Josh McCown, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg as their starter.
McCown has experience, although not the good kind, having struggled immensely with the Browns last season. He has a poor history regarding injuries. The two other men are not starting quarterbacks and may not even be good enough to be back-ups.
The receiving corps has a dearth of options, while Quincy Enunwa’s season-ending injury has depleted them further. Scoring points will be a huge issue as there is no answer at running back either.
Other than their defensive line – their defense is extremely bare. Although Jamal Adams could offer an instant impact at safety after being selected in the first round of the 2017 Draft.
New England Patriots To Go 16-0
New England Patriots To Win AFC East
Miami Dolphins To Miss The Playoffs
Buffalo Bills To Win Under 6/5 Matches
New York Jets To Go 0-16
New York Jets To Win Under 3.5 Matches