Tony Finn’s 2020 AFC East Preview and Predictions

AFC East Betting Preview from Las Vegas

The AFC East title chase will go to the organization that can navigate the non-divisional portion of the regular season schedule. Odds are that the team that receives the most consistent play from the starting quarterback will earn the division title and a slot in the postseason tournament. The recent signing of Cam Newton makes the New England Patriots relevant in the East despite the loss of Tom Brady. Both the Patriots and Miami Dolphins are the most likely East squads to use multiple signal-callers in 2020.

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No one really expects the Dolphins to contend for the East crown but considering the strength, or lack thereof, in the division, any of the four franchises can earn the top spot in the East. If you believe half of what you read and nearly nothing of what you hear it’s a match race for the divisional title between the Patriots and Buffalo Bills.

For the Jets to contend for an AFC East crown in 2020, they will need a lot of players to enjoy breakout campaigns. That means Jets fans need to count on a combination of luck that can be categorized as good luck.

 

NEW YORK JETS
2019 Record: 7-9, third in AFC East

Returning Starters
Offense: 7 | Defense: 10

Projected Starting Quarterback: Sam Darnold
Backups: Joe Flacco, David Fales, James Morgan, Mike White

The Jets play both of last February’s Super Bowl participants. New York hosts the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers at MetLife Stadium this season. The Gang Green travels to Kansas City in Week 8 to square off against the Patrick Mahomes and Brad Childress spread offense at Arrowhead Stadium. The contest against the world champion Chiefs follows a pair of must-win home games for the Jets. If New York is to outplay their talent and outscore Mahomes on the same afternoon is a story that many a young footballer will be able to tell their grandchildren. New York faces the Buffalo Bills and Patriots in consecutive games at MetLife before tangling with Mahomes and company on I-70.


Amen Corner: The team plays three of their 8 road games on the West Coast.

Key Additions: RB Frank Gore, WR Breshad Perriman, OT George Fant, G Greg Van Roten, C Connor McGovern, LB Patrick Onwuasor, CB Pierre Desir, CB Quincy Wilson

Key Losses: QB Trevor Siemian, RB Bilal Powell, RB Ty Montgomery, WR Robby Anderson, WR Demaryius Thomas, OT Kelvin Beachum, OT Brandon Shell, C Ryan Kalil, OLB Brandon Copeland, CB Trumaine Johnson

Season Win Total: 6.5 wins (o -130 / u +110) current odds at Caesars Entertainment as of July 13, 2020.
AFC East Odds: +900

BUFFALO BILLS
2019 Record: 10-6, second in AFC East

Returning Starters
Offense: 10 | Defense: 10

Projected Starting Quarterback: Josh Allen
Backups: Matt Barkley, Davis Webb, Jake Fromm

This AFC East preview focuses primarily on the team’s starting quarterbacks. It is easy to put the Bills’ fortunes on the arm of quarterback Josh Allen. I personally have a different take on the Bills 2020 success. The club survived the inconsistent play of young quarterback Josh Allen in 2019 due to the success of the defense. While the Bills struggled offensively, their stop-unit was one of the best in the NFL last season. They ranked in the top five in points and yards allowed and were third in the league in defensive efficiency. The strong-armed signal-caller will most likely receive a similar ratio of run to pass plays this year as he did a season ago from offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

Pass Plays: 513
Running Plays: 465

Allen is in the third season of his rookie contract with Buffalo. Last season, Allen improved his completion percentage and touchdown-interception ratio. However, all things are not as they seem. Despite his statistical improvements Allen’s QBR fell to 47 in 2019, 24th out of the 30 qualified quarterbacks. Allen topped the NFL starting quarterbacks with the highest rate of uncatchable passes thrown in 2019. The number of throws off target? According to Pro Football Focus the third-year pro tossed uncatchable balls 27 percent of the time.


Key Additions: WR Stefon Diggs; OL Daryl Williams, DE Mario Addison; LB A.J. Klein; DT Vernon Butler, DL Quinton Jefferson and RB/KR Taiwan Jones
Key Losses: DT Jordan Phillips; DE Shaq Lawson and LB Lorenzo Alexander (retired in 2019)

Season Win Total: 9 wins (o -115 / u -105) current odds at Caesars Entertainment as of July 13, 2020.
AFC East Odds: +115

MIAMI DOLPHINS
2019: 5-11, last in AFC East

Returning Starters
Offense: 10 | Defense: 11

Projected Starting Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Backups: Tua Tagoviloa, Josh Rosen, Jake Rudock

With the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 draft, the franchise nabbed Alabama’s Tagovailoa. The rookie QB is unlikely to earn a Week 1 start as he continues to rehab hip and knee injuries. Veteran journeyman Fitzpatrick is slated to be behind center for the season opener. After scuffling for most of the first two months of the 2019 campaign the Dolphins finished at the bottom of the division. Miami was aggressive in free agency and the end result saw the franchise spend nearly 150 million dollars. The front office directed their resources and energy on improving a porous offensive line. Miami finished last in the league in arguably the most important variable for teams that play from behind; the pass block win rate (41.2 according to source NFL Next Gen Stats data.

Cover-corners Jones (83.3% coverage grade) and Howard 71.9% passer rating in his coverage zone earned over-the-top grades a season ago. The numbers the two produced are repeatable. Miami isn’t likely to trail in 80 percent of their game minutes in 2020 as they did last year but never say never.


Key Additions: RB Jordon Howard, CB Byron Jones, CB Xavien Howard, DL Shaq Lawson and LB Kyle Van Noy
Key Losses: DE Taco Charlton

Season Win Total: 6 wins (o -115 / u -105) current odds at Caesars Entertainment as of July 13, 2020.
AFC East Odds: +800

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
2019: 12-4, first in AFC East

Returning Starters
Offense: 9 | Defense: 7

Projected Starting Quarterback: Cam Newton
Backups: Brian Hoyer, Brian Lewerke, Jarrett Stidham

With or without Tom Brady it is hard to completely ignore the history of the Kraft family and head coach Bill Bellichick. The Patriots under the guidance of coach Bill have been the consensus Vegas oddsmakers favorite to win the division in the last 16 seasons. New England has won the East a record 11 straight times.


Key Additions: S Adrian Phillips, WR Damiere Byrd, DT Beau Allen, FB Danny Vitale, S Devin McCourty (resigned), ST Matthew Slater; DE Keionta Davis, OL Joe Thuney (franchise tag), Tendered restricted free agents DT Adam Butler and OL Jermaine Eluemunor.

Key Losses: QB Tom Brady, C Ted Karras, LB Elandon Roberts, , LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Jamie Collins, DT Danny Shelton, S Duron Harmon; S Nate Ebner, ST Matthew Slater, DE Keionta Davis

Season Win Total: 9 wins (o -140 / u +120) current odds at Caesars Entertainment as of July 13, 2020.
AFC East Odds: +120

Ready to dive into some homework for the 2020 NFL season? Ralph Michaels has released his 24-page NFL Betting Guide, which includes three years’ worth of stats, regular season win totals, power ratings, strength of schedule numbers and much more! The best part? It’s completely free. Just head to Ralph’s page and download your copy today.

2020 NFL Predictions, Odds and Betting Tips: NFC East

In this episode of the Opening Line Report, professional handicappers Teddy Covers and Drew Martin break down the NFL regular season win totals for the AFC East and review updated odds for NFL Rookie of the Year and NFL Coach of the Year.

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