2019 AFC East Betting Predictions and Preview
The big moments of the NFL offseason are over, and now we are mostly left to wait. And it's going to be a long wait. This week we are going to look at each division in turn to see what we are most excited about, what we doubt most, and where the value might be. We're starting with the AFC East, the private playground of the New England Patriots for most of the last two decades. More of the same? Or is this finally the time that the defending Super Bowl champions come to earth a bit and let someone else have a turn? (All odds are from BetOnline)
Biggest lock: The Patriots winning the division. New England's time will come to an end at some time. Maybe. And the division is largely improving. But the gap is just so massive that we can still feel very confident that the Patriots will be tops in the end. And I'm not the only one who thinks so - New England sits at -350 to win the division, which is by far the biggest favorite of any team in the league.
Most likely to disappoint: New York Jets. Partly, this is just because they are the Jets, and disappointing is what they do best. There is some swagger around this team, though. They got the coach they wanted, they love their QB, and they grabbed a big running back. I'm not nearly as optimistic about Sam Darnold this year as a lot of people are, though. I'm also not convinced that we will see the best Le'Veon Bell after his last year. And while I like Adam Gase fine, we have seen by now that he can only work with what he has, and there are still some big holes here. They are the second choice in the division, albeit far behind New England at +500. I'm not at all convinced that second is where they will wind up.
Best betting value: Miami has gone through some transition, and there are certainly some issues. In Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen they have done good job giving their QB room the change it desperately needed, though. And I like the Brian Flores hire as head coach a lot - working for Bill Belichick is all he has known, and there are certainly worse guys to shape a career. They didn't hit home runs in free agency or the draft, but they have filled some needs. They won seven games last year, and that was with total incompetence on the road. The season win total sits a five right now, with the over at +120. I like that price a lot.
Biggest mystery: The Pats' defensive coordinator mess. Last year Brian Flores replaced Matt Patricia in function as defensive coordinator but did not get the title. Once Flores left, the team hired Greg Schiano to become coordinator. And he had barely unpacked before he was gone again. He claimed he wanted to spend time with his family, which of course is never true. And Schiano has not been replaced so far, and we can't really know what's going on. It's all a little weird and a bit concerning - though it would be much more concerning with other teams.
Most improved: Buffalo Bills. I like the offseason they have had in Buffalo. They wisely didn't overpay for Antonio Brown and instead added a lot of nice pieces in free agency. And they got value in every spot in the draft - sometimes screaming value. This is a team poised to move forward - not by leaps, but definitely forward.
Underrated new player: There are two answers here. In terms of veterans, it is Mike Pennel, the DT the Pats stole from the Jets. He is a very capable, sound lineman who will be a big part of the rotation, and getting him weakens their opponent. And for young players, it is another defensive lineman, Ed Oliver, in Buffalo. The Bills were able to grab him ninth overall in the draft, which is massive value for the kind of presence he can be.
Overrated new player: Le'Veon Bell. Bell has been one of the most productive players in the league. But missing last year isn't great, his attitude hasn't exactly been excellent and won't be helped by what he has gone through, and we have seen that superstar running backs just don't matter like they used to.
Key coach storyline: Sean McDermott on the hotseat. With Belichick entrenched for eternity in New England, and new coaches in New York and Miami, McDermott in Buffalo is the guy to watch. Entering his third year, he went from the playoffs in his first year to a disappointing 6-10 last year. He's not in a situation where he is doomed, or at risk of not finishing the season. However, if he doesn't show solid improvement from last year, it could be time for the Bills to go back on the coaching market.
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