AFC East Preview

WILL TOM BRADY'S EXPECTED SUSPENSION OPEN THE DOOR FOR A NEW AFC EAST CHAMPION IN 2015?

There's been a lot of media talk about the upcoming suspension of Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2015 NFL season. Between now and then...it could be reduced in litigation, or conceivably eliminated entirely. But...on the assumption that Brady will miss a month...what does that mean for the AFC East race?

That's the question we'll tackle today as we resume our NFL divisional previews just in time for the big Green Bay/New England Preseason game Thursday night. We'll do one division per game-day this weekend...and then finish things off next week. Hopefully you've already printed out the NFC North report from this past weekend!

2014 AFC EAST DIVISION STANDINGS
New England: 12-4 (+12 turnovers, #4 rated schedule)
Buffalo: 9-7 (+7 turnovers, #6 rated schedule)
Miami: 8-8 (+2 turnovers, #7 rated schedule)
NY Jets: 4-12 (-11 turnovers, #2 rated schedule)

Notebook: The Patriots struggled early last season, but looked like their old selves once "Gronk" got healthy. That took them all the way to division, conference, and league titles. Still, it's easy to remember how sluggish the team was when not at 100%. That's what gives the other AFC East teams some hope during the first month. Note that this division played a brutal schedule in 2014. That's what made the Pats battle-tested for January. Those numbers alone are painting Buffalo and Miami as legitimate sleepers moving forward. They might have both been 10 win teams last year in other divisions!

We obviously have to mention the coaching changes. Rex Ryan left the NY Jets for Buffalo...which may not be a good sign for Buffalo given the numbers above. Todd Bowles, former defensive coordinator of Arizona will be the new Jets head coach. How is that going to help the struggling Jets offense?! As we were preparing this preview for you, Geno Smith was knocked out of the Jets early season plans with a broken jaw. Hard to say at first...but that may actually help the team! He hasn't been a quarterback...and his presence has always rubbed some teammates the wrong way. One sucker-punched him as a result!

2014 YARDS-PER-PLAY
New England: 5.5 on offense, 5.3 on defense
Buffalo: 5.0 on offense, 4.9 on defense
Miami: 5.4 on offense, 5.3 on defense
NY Jets: 5.0 on offense, 5.4 on defense

Notebook: Respectable considering the strength of schedule issues. But, New England was actually pretty poor for a playoff or Super Bowl team. They won with turnover differential, and the ability to consistently make the most of the yards they were gaining. This also suggests some vulnerability for the Pats when Brady is out...or if he starts showing signs of aging down the stretch. Buffalo's defense was already very good...so bringing in Ryan isn't a difference-maker on that side of the ball. Obviously the Jets need help on offense...and didn't address that beyond bringing in Ryan Fitzpatrick as insurance at the QB position. Miami's sitting in a nice spot with a slightly favorable differential against a tough slate.

2014 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
New England: 44% on offense, 40% on defense
Buffalo: 37% on offense, 33% on defense
Miami: 40% on offense, 44% on defense
NY Jets: 39% on offense, 45% on defense

Notebook: New England's 44% was among the best in the conference...as this skill set is taking a bit of a beating across the league at the current time. You can see that the Jets really started falling apart on defense last season. Ryan stayed one year too long...and there's a danger the league caught up to his preferences. What were you thinking Buffalo?! Miami's youth and inexperience is really hurting them in this very important element of pro football. They have to fix this to be a sleeper in '15.

2015 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS
New England: 11
Miami: 9
Buffalo: 8.5
NY: 7.5 or 8

The betting markets still see the Patriots as the class of the field even if Brady misses some time. Our numbers show that Buffalo is really flirting with disaster by bringing in Ryan. They were already fine in his traditional area of strengths. And, it's possible his time should be up as an NFL head coach anyway. There's clear optimism about the Jets that really isn't borne out by our numbers. Again, even if Todd Bowles turns out to be a great NFL head coach....his presence doesn't address the many offensive issues the team has at the moment. Miami is probably the best darkhorse given last year's stats vs. a tough schedule. If they can shore up third down issues...they could become a very important AFC team in a finger snap.

Three of the four AFC East teams will take the field Thursday evening as the first FULL week of the Preseason begins. Here are the matchups to monitor...

New England at Green Bay (live on the NFL Network)
NY Jets at Detroit
Miami at Chicago
Carolina at Buffalo
(Friday)

Be sure you join JIM HURLEY for big Week One football releases beginning Thursday. Game day BEST BETS in both football and baseball can always be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended and full-season service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours. It's time to hook up with our "Dollars of August" bankroll building package!

NFL divisional previews continue through the weekend...

Friday: NFC West Preview to get you ready for Seattle hosting Denver
Saturday: AFC South preview to get you ready for Houston hosting S. Francisco
Sunday: NFC East preview to get you ready for Philadelphia hosting Indianapolis
Monday: MLB Series Preview...SF Giants at St. Louis Cardinals
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview...NY Mets at Baltimore Orioles
Followed by: AFC North, AFC West, and NFC South to wrap up NFL divisional previews

We'll see you again Friday here in the NOTEBOOK. In the meantime, go grab those BIG, JUICY WINNERS from the strongest handicapping force in the nation...JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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