Before the start of the NFL season, we’re going to go division-by-division for some more in-depth looks at the teams we previously called shots on in our preseason power rankings.
Buffalo Bills (15-2)
Ranked third in my initial power rankings, the Bills got an MVP-caliber performance from quarterback Josh Allen last season, but that wasn’t quite enough to actually earn the award in a world where Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes exist. Heading into his fourth NFL season and with more talent than he’s had before thanks to the addition of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, look out for what this young man can do.
Two areas for improvement from the Bills and two places where they could potentially see a few extra losses slip into the mix. Their rushing attack was pretty bad last season—and not necessarily by design. They were in the bottom half of the league in both attempts and average yards per attempt. Defensively, they were right in the middle at 16th giving up 23.4 points per game. The defense saw a huge overhaul this offseason, and if the team can get both rankings at or near the Top 10, this is the team to beat in the entire league.
New England Patriots (12-5)
This is likely where I lose many of you…
For years, I fought the general NFL-fandom’s hatred of the Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick and former QB Tom Brady and have consistently been right when people said things like, “the team is washed” or “the dynasty is over.” Maybe this is the time my own personal luck with the Patriots runs out and Belichick really is just a product of what Brady was able to do.
Yet, this team spent almost $160 million to overall this roster in the span of nine days earlier this offseason bringing in new faces like tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry as well as bringing back old faces like LB Kyle Van Noy. Maybe QB Cam Newton is a flop once again and Mac Jones isn’t ready for primetime either (that would certainly drop this ranking and win total) but this team is ready to do two things—be a Top 10 team defensively and present innumerable different looks on offense. Those are Belichick’s hallmarks, which make me feel great about this team’s chances to make the playoffs in 2021.
READ MORE: 2021 NFL Season Pickwatch Predictions
Miami Dolphins (11-6)
Most of you are going to focus on the ranking of third in the division, but please notice I’m giving the Dolphins 11 wins here!
The Miami Dolphins should easily be in the running to have the top defense in the league this season. Taking care of business and re-signing cornerback Xavien Howard was one of the top moves of the offseason and adding safety Jason McCourty from the Patriots was *chefs kiss.* The additions to the wide receiver corps—Will Fuller via trade and Jaylen Waddle in the draft (as well as getting Albert Wilson back from COVID-19 opt-out)—are similarly set to make a huge impact.
Still, the media seems to be putting a lot of carts before horses when it comes to the Dolphins chances in 2021. QB Tua Tagovailoa is still an unproven commodity after a really rough rookie season. The offensive line isn’t going to do the second-year player any favors, either.
New York Jets (3-14)
Are things for the Jets looking up? Almost certainly! Early returns haven’t been great with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, but there’s no need to worried any time soon. HC Robert Saleh was one of the most heralded candidates this season. The other offseason additions are both underrated and impactful. I especially love the additions of defensive end Carl Lawson and rotational defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. If nothing else, this defense will not be a pushover.
The building blocks are there, but the time is not now. Wilson will need more help than he will have this season and that’s likely to come with another Top 5 pick in next year’s draft.