The New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East over the last decade, but do their division-foes stack up better this season?
First on pedestal are the New York Jets, who revamped their offense with some offseason signings and even added to a defense that is typically above-average. Michael Vick will push Geno Smith for the starting quarterback role, though the hope is that Smith is the clear winner after the preseason. Erick Decker to a weak receiving core, and Chris Johnson to make their backfield more versatile. Also, don’t sleep on rookie Jace Amaro, who along with Jeff Cumberland should make for an interesting tight end duo.
Rex Ryan doesn’t have the best record against Bill Belichick, but his Jets teams play New England very well. His younger players will have developed on the defensive side of the ball. Guys like Sheldon Richardon, Dee Milliner, and Quinton Coples should be better this season, and with the Patriots offensive line being a different group than we are accustomed, those matchups could be troublesome for the Pats.
So should the Patriots be afraid of the Jets taking the division from them?
Not this season. The Jets do have intriguing pieces on their roster, but they need to see Geno Smith make a jump this year that would be unrealistic to expect from him. If Smith develops somewhat this year, New York can dump some enormous expectations on him in two years, though Jets fans aren’t normally the most patient bunch (well is anyone these days?). Richardson is about a year away from being a game-wrecker on defense, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns into that in the middle of this season, making life easier for David Harris and the rest of the linebackers.
The Jets may get to 9-7 this season, but even 10 wins may not be enough to dethrone the Patriots from the top of the division. Keep an eye on this squad early on, as a fast start could put them on track for a playoff spot, and that wouldn’t be an ideal game for the Pats come December.