With the NFL Draft a week behind, let’s take a look and grade the four NFL teams in the AFC East—the Super Bowl Champion Patriots, Jets, Bills and Dolphins—and see if anyone has made any ground on NE in terms of Free Agency and Draft Picks and see if there are any odds worth jumping on.
The NFL never sleeps. The league should never be allowed to actually use the word “offseason” either. My goodness. Seriously. It’s the second week in May and Spring has sprung, the Kentucky Derby and Mayweather-Pacquiao have taken place, the NBA and NHL Playoffs are in full swing and MLB is just starting to get going, the NASCAR and PGA seasons are humming along, the UEFA Champions and Europa League are both smack dab in the middle of their Semifinal series’ and all European soccer leagues are beginning to wrap up play. So, of course, today we are again talking about professional American football, NFL style...in the second week of May. It’s finally become quite obvious what the bastards have been seeding the clouds with all these years with those so-called ChemTrails—NFL juice. And extremely heavy doses of the stuff obviously as the possibility of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady maybe missing some games from a potential suspension for his part in the Deflategate fiasco is getting more publicity than Lionel Messi’s stellar performance over Bayern Munich in Leg 1 of their Champion League Semifinal series in Spain or the upstart Memphis Grizzlies superb humbling of the Western Conference’s top-seeded Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of their NBA Playoffs earlier in the week. So, after looking at some potential Season Team Total Over teams and some potential Season Team Total Under teams in the NFL and ranking the Divisions, the time has come to grade both the AFC and NFC in a two-part series. And by orders of Commissioner Roger Goodell, we shall start alphabetically and geographically with the AFC East, and in the spirit of Kindergarten teachers worldwide, we shall be giving no D’s or F’s, and honestly, no D’s or F’s are actually deserved. Improving a professional football team on an annual basis is a constant process, and with Free Agency and the NFL Draft changing the perceptions of many of the NFL’s 32 teams, it’s important to remember that the NFL season is still over four months away (Sept. 10), getting rid of dead weight and players (addition through subtraction) should never be underestimated, and things are happening on a daily basis, as we saw today (Friday) when Jacksonville Jaguars Round 1 Pick and the #3 overall pick in the Draft, LB Dante Fowler Jr. (Florida) suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee one hour into the first day of Jaguars 11-on-11 team Drills. Brutal. Absolutely brutal for both the kid, the team and hungry Jacksonville (AFC South) fans. Even invisible things like Bad Luck affect teams the feel of sports teams, and losing a guy you drafted to help turn your Defense around an hour into Spring Drills has to affect an organization’s psyche.
Grading the AFC East
The New England Patriots (off Betting Board), Head Coach Bill Belichick and star QB Tom Brady are dealing with the immediate after affects of Deflategate and the thought of suspensions and when one of the clubhouse guys allegedly responsible for taking part in this whole deflating of the footballs mess has a handle of ‘Deflator,’ then any suspensions, fines and/or losses of Draft Pick(s) seems legitimate. But this is the NFL and Big Business, brother, and with the defending Super Bowl champions scheduled to open up the 2015 NFL Season against the Pittsburgh Steelers at home at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 10 (NBC, 8:30 p.m./5:30 p.m PT), not having Brady there or having mass suspensions would definitely taint the proceedings. And ain’t nobody got the Time these days to have their proceedings tainted. As far as offseason moves, getting caught and punished for this goofiness is worth the docking of at least one level and losing CB Darrelle Revis (Jets) and NT Vince Wilfork (Texans) are negatives, so New England starts at a D grade. But snagging Texas DL Malcolm Brown with the 32nd Pick in Round 1 of the NFL Draft washes out Wilfork’s loss and may be an upgrade long-term; picking OL Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason in Round 4 was very smart; and, re-signing WR Danny Amendola were all good moves by the Patriots, but having the stigma of being cheaters now with 31 other teams looking on and also wanting to beat you because you’re The Champs and losing Revis in such a short span is devastating in its own context.
New England Patriots Grade: C-
The Buffalo Bills (23/1 to win AFC, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) had no Round 1 Pick in this year’s NFL Draft, but were pretty busy prior to last Thursday’s affairs in Chicago. Buffalo got RB LeSean McCoy from the Eagles in a trade for LB Kiko Alonso, potentially a wise move for Buffalo if McCoy can return to his top form; acquired QB Matt Cassel—who will fight with EJ Manuel for the starting job— in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings; signed G Richie Incognito; re-signed DE Jerry Hughes; signed WR Percy Harvin to join young WRs Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods; and, signed backup QB Tyrod Taylor. In the aforementioned NFL Draft, the Bills selected Florida State CB Ronald Darby with the 50th Pick. So with everything that has happened up to this point, the Bills look like they have have added some nice parts on Offense (McCoy, Harvin) while keeping their improved Defense at the level to which it has now evolved.
Buffalo Bills Grade: B-
The Miami Dolphins (14/1 to win AFC, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) landed the biggest Free Agent prize in the offseason by signing NT Ndamukong Suh (Lions) and did an admirable job in the NFL Draft, landing talented Louisville WR DeVante Parker with the #14 Pick in Round 1, NT Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma) in Round 2, G Jamil Douglas (Arizona State) in Round 3 and RB Jay Ajayi (Boise State) in Round 5. The Fish also acquired three potential DBs in the latter rounds, so this team made some decent efforts to strengthen themselves on both sides of the ball and after getting QB Ryan Tannehill last season, the future looks pretty bright in Miami. I really like what Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey and Head Coach Joe Philbin have done so far this Offseason, spending some big bucks on Suh to anchor the D-line and bring a sense of intimidation to that side of the ball while possibly landing two talented young skill position guys and potential future starters on Offense in Parker and Ajayi.
Miami Dolphins Grade: B+
The New York Jets (Week 1 NFL Odds: Jets -2½ over Cleveland Browns, Total: 41, GTBets) should be proud of themselves and General Manager Mike Maccagnan and head Coach Todd Bowles deserve some major credit for what they have done so far this Offseason. Really. One thing this team that seems really smart to me—especially with having the more-than-suspect Geno Smith competing for the starting QB with New York AFC—was to sign Free Agent veteran (32 years old) QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to give some Wisdom, Depth, Experience and Security at a position which will have the wobbly Smith, Matt Simms and now rookie and Round 3 Draft Pick Bryce Petty (Baylor) in its Depth Chart ranks. Look for Harvard-graduate Fitzpatrick to ultimately win the Jets starting QB job this Summer, and with WR Brandon Marshall coming over from the Chicago Bears in exchange for a Round 5 pick, and Eric Decker, this team will have the potential to have a decent Passing game. And cutting the cord on Problem Child WR Percy Harvin (Bills) seems like one of those Additions through Subtraction. Pretty nice, huh? Dude, we’re just getting started with these J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, so grab some popcorn and a beverage or nine of your choice (not your pet’s) and settle in. We have more for your mental digestion.
The Jets also signed All-Pro lockdown CB Darrelle Revis (Patriots) and Antonio Cromartie (Cardinals)—good in like a trillion ways but primarily in creating an instant great Pass Defense (forcing opponents to run more), landing the best CB in the NFL in Revis, and, stealing him away from your biggest rival (Patriots) while he still has some top-notch years left in him. Genius. And New York bolstered its Defensive Backfield even more, signing S Marcus Gilchrist (Chargers), CB Buster Skrine (Browns) and the team also brought in highly-regarded G James Carpenter (Seahawks). Seemingly all money well-spent and some really well thought out deals. Maybe having to cut their teeth on the Patriots every year has left the Jets longing the Glory Days again. If so, this is a really intelligent starting point.
What? You say you want more? You fiend. This team also drafted star USC DL Leonard Williams (Round 1, #6 overall), Ohio State WR Devin Smith (Round 3), DE/Louisville OLB/DL Leonard Mauldin (Round 3), aforementioned Baylor QB Petty (Round 4), Texas G Jarvis Harrison (Round 5) and Northwestern State NT Deon Simon (Round 7), almost all of whom have already signed with the club. And although New York didn’t pick a RB in the NFL Draft, the Jets did swap their Round 7 pick to the St. Louis Rams for former Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy. Despite the fact that QB Fitzpatrick will have to shine if he does get his shot at starter, and Petty and Stacy potentially being busts long-term, for me , the Jets won the NFL Draft, as well as the NFL Offseason so far. This team has done a major rehaul and is setting themselves up for a very bright future, although both the QB and RB positions seem to still need some refining.
New York Jets Grade: A+
Quick Conclusions on the AFC East
Why not take a flyer on the Jets at between 80/1 to 100/1 or maybe to win the conference or their division with your NFL picks? That’s my spin here. This team has done so much, so quickly, and if they can somehow just rid themselves of Geno Smith and get another nice QB in there with Fitzpatrick, the NFL could explode from the Jets instant success. But we all know success doesn’t come overnight and it’s important to remember that this was a 4-12 team last season that scored 283 points, allowed 401 and finished with an ugly-ass Point Differential of -118—the only team in the AFC East in The Red in that category. But this is gambling, and as the great Fred Flintstone once said, “Bet-Bet-Bet-Bet-Bet-Bet,” and for $5 or maybe $10 at current odds of 80/1 to 100/1, you can have a nice ride (for maybe a month or two), pull against the hated Patriots and at least know you have your extremely humble amount of money on a team which has really brought some nice talent—both young and old—into the fold. But as we talked about in our 15 NFL Teams Who Really Need QBs piece here yesterday at Sportsbook Review, the last 12 winners of the Super Bowl have had star QBs at the helm, so to win this long, long, long-shot bet, Fitzpatrick will have to become an Instant Star in 2015 and everything else will have to go right offensively for this New York team, which should at least be much-improved on the defensive side of the football. And, there’s always a reason teams are lined 80- and 100-to-1 and defined as “long-shots.” Still, the Jets have done tons so far.
NFL EAST FUTURES PICK: New York Jets to win Super Bowl, 100/1 (888Sport, Unibet, 32Red)