The New England Patriots are getting ready for the L.A. Chargers, but in the meantime, a look at the New York Jets shows an emerging threat in the AFC East.
No division in the NFL gets as much smack talk as the AFC East. With the New England Patriots winning the division for 16 of the past 18 seasons–including ten consecutive seasons–the other three teams in the division are routinely looked down upon by the rest of the NFL as bumbling fools who make it easy on the Patriots each and every season.
All three teams have had ups and downs over the past two decades as they’ve taken aim at the Patriots.
Drew Bledsoe and the Bills had a run. Ditto the Wildcat Miami Dolphins of the Tony Sparano era. Rex Ryan and the Jets made the best run of any team, knocking the Patriots out of the playoffs and going so far as reaching the AFC Championship game at one point.
Even for the past three seasons heading into this one, there was always at least one legitimate contender to the New England Patriots in the division:
In 2015, the Jets won ten games… and only a week 17 loss to Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills kept them from the playoffs;
In 2016, Adam Gase – in his first season as head coach in Miami – led the Dolphins to the Wild Card round;
In 2017, the Buffalo Bills rallied around head coach Sean McDermott and snuck into the Wild Card spot after the Baltimore Ravens fell to Cincinnati in Week 17.
This season, there was no other playoff team that emerged as a threat from the AFC East. The New York Jets bottomed out at 4-12; the Buffalo Bills won just six games. The Miami Dolphins–after wasting a 3-0 start–seemed ready to charge into the playoffs after their “Miami Miracle” in a dramatic Week 14 win over the Patriots. Instead, Miami finished 0-3, scoring just 41 points while allowing 100 points to their three opponents.
Only five teams in the NFL in 2018 allowed 100 or more points than they scored – and three of them were from the AFC East. Only the truly pitiful Oakland Raiders (-177) and Arizona Cardinals (-200) had worse point differentials. Miami finished with a -114 point differential, Buffalo with a -105 point differential, and the Jets with a -108 point differential (all statistics from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted).
The Jets fired head coach Todd Bowles after a third consecutive season of five wins or less.
The Dolphins fired head coach Adam Gase after a second consecutive season under .500. While seemingly a rash decision, Gase never delivered on his promise as a quarterback whisperer, and Ryan Tannehill’s unfulfilled promise claimed yet another victim in Miami.
Buffalo stayed the course and kept Sean McDermott, even as the team took a step backwards in his second season.
While the New England Patriots get ready for this weekend’s AFC divisional round playoff game, the rest of the AFC East is already focused on 2019.
Let’s keep tabs on all three teams in the AFC East and analyze their next moves as they try to get ready to challenge the Patriots in 2019. Part one looked at the Miami Dolphins. Part two of three looks at the New York Jets: