Contender or Pretender: AFC East Edition

Eric Espada/Getty Images

Contender or Pretender: AFC East Edition


Contender or Pretender: AFC East Edition


Eric Espada/Getty Images

With the NFL Draft now over and the majority of big names signed in free agency, we can look at teams and see what they will be going into the 2023 season. Every year we have teams that go into the year as one of the favorites and for whatever reason just aren’t good (I’m looking at you 2022 Denver Broncos). The NFL is one of the more unpredictable leagues when it comes to predicting what teams are going to make the playoffs, but why not try it anyways? So without further ado, here is the first article in a series I’m calling Contenders or Pretenders: AFC Edition, here is the AFC East. 

Buffalo Bills: Contenders

This should come as no surprise to anyone. The Bills have been one of the best three teams in the AFC for the last couple of years. Josh Allen has developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and he and Stefon Diggs make one of the best quarterback/wide receiver pairs in the league. They added another weapon for Allen on offense in Dalton Kincaid, and James Cook should continue to help the run game. O’Cyrus Torrence, who they drafted in the second round, will help fix one of the weaknesses of the team in the offensive line. They still have some work to do on defense, but the return of Von Miller should really help their defense get back to where it needs to be. When Miller went down with injury last season, the defense wasn’t getting consistent pressure, and it affected the rest of the defense. They do have to replace Tremaine Edmunds in the middle of their defense and that will be no easy task, but the rest of their defense returns and should be able to help makeup for the loss of his production. The Bills do have some small holes, as does every team, but as long as Josh Allen stays healthy and is their quarterback, they will be a contender.


New York Jets: Contenders

The Jets were part of one of the long-running storylines of the offseason, which we will call What Will Aaron Do? After finally getting Aaron Rodgers, the Jets became a contender. I’m not as sold on them as a lot of people are, but when you trade for an MVP quarterback, you shouldn’t be overlooked. The Jets also have something the Green Bay Packers lacked this year after trading Davante Adams, and that is a true number one receiver in Garrett Wilson. The Jets also brought in a couple of Rodgers’ old friends in Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb to help round out the receiver room. Add to those guys an extremely talented running back group, boasting Breece Hall, Michael Carter and rookie Israel Abanikanda, and the Jets have one of the better running back rooms in the AFC. They also boast one of the best defenses in the league, led by young stars Quinnen Williams and Sauce Gardner. The Jets have a strong pass rushing duo on the edge with John Franklin-Myers and Carl Lawson, and they added to that pass rush by drafting Will McDonald in the first round this year. They also have a very good linebacker duo in CJ Mosley and Quincy Williams that will help clean up any plays that happen to make it past that ferocious defensive line. The Jets will be a fun team to watch this season and have the potential to be absolute contenders. 


Miami Dolphins: Pretenders

I know this will be one of the more controversial ones, but I just don’t think they are true contenders with Tua Tagovailoa as their quarterback. It’s not just Tagovailoa that keeps me from believing they are contenders, though. Their offensive line still isn’t very good and with a quarterback, who has concussion issues already, that isn’t a good combination. They do have one of the best groups of weapons in the NFL, led by speedsters Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and slot extraordinaire Braxton Berrios. The loss of Mike Gesicki does take away some explosiveness from their offense, but he wasn’t featured in their offense as much as their receivers or running backs anyway. On defense, much like their offense, they have one of the best duos in the NFL in Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard. The rest of their defensive backfield is also very good. However, last year they were tied for the second least number of takeaways with 14, and I still don’t trust their pass rush. They just gave a huge contract to Bradley Chubb, but outside of his rookie season in Denver, he has never looked like an elite pass rusher. Jaelan Phillips, his edge mate, has played well his first two years, but also hasn’t shown the ability to take over a game as a pass rusher. This prediction could absolutely come back to bite me, but as of right now, I believe the Dolphins are pretenders. 


New England Patriots: Pretenders

As much as I respect and believe in Bill Belichick, the Patriots are absolutely pretenders. The problems with the Patriots start with the most important position on the football field, and that is Mac Jones. Mac Jones just isn’t a good enough quarterback to succeed without an absolutely perfect team around him, and the Patriots just don’t have that. The offensive line is worrisome, and their weapons just don’t inspire a ton of confidence that they can help take Jones to the next level. I do really like Rhamondre Stevenson and the addition of Mike Gesicki to a tight end room with Hunter Henry. Yet, having JuJu Smith-Schuster as your best receiver isn’t going to work unless you have a guy named Patrick Mahomes. On defense, I like what I see a bit more. The Patriots are really strong in their front seven with perennial Pro Bowler Matthew Judon and Christian Barmore, who has really started to come into his own. Draft picks Christian Gonzalez and Keion White will step into big roles early and add some athleticism and youth to the Patriots’ already stout defense that was top 11 in yards against and points against and top three in takeaways. If the Patriots can upgrade the quarterback position, they can get back to being one of the best teams in the AFC fairly quickly. 


For more NFL content, check out the links below!

Top 10 NFL Wide Receivers Heading into 2023

2023 NFL Draft Steals: AFC East Division

Three AFC Teams That Will Surprise People In The 2023 Season


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