AFC East (2014 Finish: Patriots, Bills, Jets, Dolphins.)
Overall Notes: I did a good job of picking the order last year, but I made a number of mistakes about the details along the way.
None of the teams in this division were particularly lucky or unlucky, with all of their Pythagorean win totals being within 1 of their actual win total.
I don’t see a great deal of change in the order this year, simply because of Tom Brady. None of the other teams can come close. I will say I would not be surprised if both wildcards come from this division, as I think both Buffalo and Miami can win 10 games.
New England Patriots
2014 Record: 12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 11.8)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 12th
2015 Age Rank: 13th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 4th (6th / 11th / 5th)
I said last year there are cracks in the armor, and if I was right, there wasn’t much sign of it. They ended up 4th best in the NFL in overall DVOA, peaking at the end. Worse, I suggested that they would get carried by their defense. I was wrong there too. Their defense was 11th in the NFL, but their offense was 6th and their special teams was 5th. In other words a very good to great offense and special teams propelled them to the Super Bowl.
I think my biggest mistake was thinking they were older than they were. Had I done better research I would have known they’re middle of the pack, so my anticipation that they would fall off some was based on lazy information.
They remain middle of the pack in age and injury. I do think the 2015 Patriots won’t be as good as the 2014 Patriots. I see a slight dropoff in efficiency, say overall in the 5th or 6th in DVOA. Will that be enough for the Bills or Dolphins to catch them? I doubt it.
The won the AFC East by 3 games last year. I think they’ll win only by 1 game this year, with a record around 11-5, in part because I think all of the other teams in the AFC East are better.
2014 Record: 8-8 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.4)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 21st
2015 Age Rank: 4th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 15th (7th /17th / 32nd)
Last year I thought they’d be mediocre on offense. I was wrong, they were 7th. I predicted an average defense and I was correct as they ended up 17th. With awful special teams, this team ended up middle of the pack.
Where I was wrong was my evaluation of Ryan Tannehill. For some reason, I just don’t like his game, yet the statistics show that he is both consistent and good. Is he a great QB, no, but he’s much better than I felt.
Hence, this year, I see some continued development on the offense. They’ll remain in the 7th overall range. Ndamokung Suh will help that defense. I think they’ll move up a little, say 10th in DVOA. The key to me will be if they can improve their special teams, because they were truly wretched last year.
Part of the reason I anticipate they’ll do well is that they’ve gotten younger, at 4th in the NFL. I see this team making mistakes and losing some games they shouldn’t early but peaking in December. Overall, I think they’ll end up 10-6ish and a wildcard team.
2014 Record: 9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.6)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 10th
2015 Age Rank: 10th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 9th (26th / 2nd / 4th)
Consider the Bills 2014 DVOA. 26th in the NFL in offense, 2nd in defense, and 4th in special teams. Which of these is not like the others?
Last year, I said that if E.J. Manuel could be solid, they would surprise people. Clearly, if their offense was 26th, he was awful.
I’ll say it again, if Tyrod Taylor and the skill position players can give the Bills an average offense, something around 15th, then this team will make it to the playoffs and will have a puncher’s chance of dethroning New England. This defense is really good.
That’s a big if, of course, as Taylor is on his 2nd team and really hasn’t shown that much. There are signs he’s improved, but we have to see something in the regular season.
Until I see something from Taylor, I’m going to put the Bills in 3rd place in the AFC East, but don’t go to sleep on this defense.
New York Jets
2014 Record: 4-12 (Pythagorean Wins: 4.8)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 2nd
2015 Age Rank: 27th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 27th (25th / 21st / 16th)
This team is better on paper. Todd Bowles is an amazing coach. But…
I said last year they’d be inefficient on offense. I was right, they ended up 25th in the NFL. I said last year they’d be inefficient on defense. I was right there too, as they finished 21st. Average special teams didn’t help. They did all of this despite being the 2nd most lucky team when it came to injuries.
This year they’re old, being the 27th youngest team, having brought in aging veterans to paper the cracks. This won’t work. These veterans will get hurt and this team will probably be worse in 2015.
2-14 is not out of the question. This kind of a record would be a good thing if they’re willing to stay to the path with Bowles. They need talent. Sadly, Jets fans are not patient and Jets ownership hasn’t been good.
Things don’t look good here.