NFL: Rising in the East

Within a few years we should see Tom Brady retire, which could open up the AFC East to the other three teams.

Of course, Bill Belichick could be armed with a new passer by then and the Patriots’ dominance could continue.

With two rookie quarterbacks drafted in 2018 and a new era beginning in Miami, things are looking up in the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets are showing promise, but which is capable of dethroning New England.

3. Miami Dolphins

Sitting in a mire of uncertainty is Miami. There just doesn’t appear to be a clear plan in place in South Beach. Although not official, current Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores is expected to be their new head coach. His staff is unknown, and it’s also unclear if Ryan Tannehill will be with the team much longer.

Chris Grier seems to be finding his feet, and while he’s added some nice pieces, the roster is far from complete. Grier and Flores need to figure out how the team will be styled to make the Dolphins relevant in a year or two.

The first step is getting an offensive system in place with the right offensive coordinator and signal caller. Youngsters Kenyan Drake, Mike Gesicki, and DeVante Parker have all shown flashes of promise.

Miami’s offensive line and their playmakers need to start playing at a higher level more consistently. On defense, they have a strong front, althoughthey would need to replace Cameron Wake if he leaves in free agency. Reshad Jones and Minkah Fitzpatrick are a high-quality pair of safeties, but aside from Xavien Howard the corners need improving.

To get back to the playoffs, the Fins need their potential met and pair it with an effective offense. But it will take a year or two before they’re at that point. Until then, they will just have to content themselves with beating the Patriots at home every season.

2. Buffalo Bills

There are probably some of you surprised that the Bills were given more chance than the Dolphins to usurp the Pats. But let’s not forget that they made the playoffs in 2017, and may have found their franchise quarterback in Josh Allen.

The jury seems to be out still on head coach Sean McDermott. If they can clear those doubts in 2019 and Allen makes Goff-like progress in year two, the Bills could be a very competitive team.

Buffalo’s defense is littered with playmakers at every level and adding a few more pieces in the front seven should solidify them. In 2018, they had the fewest passing yards per game and second fewest yards allowed per game.

The Bills’ big issue was moving the ball on offense, especially through the air. The Bills must find receivers for Allen and should add a back to eventually replace LeSean McCoy.

Buffalo is a sneaky pick to finish with a winning record in 2019. And with that in mind, they’re that little bit closer to challenging the Patriots than the Dolphins are.

1. New York Jets

Finally, the Jets might be set up for the long-term even if the Bills are a bit closer to success in the short-term.

If rookie Sam Darnold becomes the franchise cornerstone many believe he can be, New York is primed to replace the Patriots as the team to beat in the AFC East. There are lot of foundational players on this team, namely Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, and Darnold.

The Jets have over $100 million in cap space this upcoming offseason too. We could easily see Le’Veon Bell land in New York. Another receiver or two along with building the offensive front could go a long ways in helping Darnold.

The defense will need a few years to be ready, but the offense is almost ready to go toe-to-toe with most teams. New head coach Adam Gase should be able to develop Darnold despite the criticism and bizarre press conference that kicked off his tenure.

Remember, Gase took Miami to the playoffs with Tannehill before his injuries and made Brock Osweiler look semi-functional. The Jets are on the right track and ready to overthrow the Patriots over the next few years.

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