The best of the best remains perched atop the AFC yet again, as the New England Patriots look to defend their Super Bowl title with another deep playoff run. Why start the predictions there? Because everyone else in the AFC is chasing the singular giant.
The Patriots aren’t the only postseason veterans determined to keep a stranglehold on their position. The gap between the top and bottom teams in the AFC is widening, and we appear to be in store for more of the same in 2017.
Below are the full season predictions for the 2017 American Football Conference, with top over/under win-total plays highlighted where applicable:
New York Jets – 4-12, 4th in AFC East
In a world where obvious outcomes are all-but-impossible, the AFC East includes two – more on the latter in a few paragraphs. That is, the New York Jets are going to be terrible in 2017. How can it be so obvious? Because the Jets are trying to be terrible in 2017. And they should be. The franchise is in complete disarray and has been lacking at the quarterback position for years. The Jets have toyed around with the idea of competing with the big boys, but keep failing. What’s worse is that they don’t even fail in a manner from which they can rebuild, frequently avoiding a top pick in the draft.
Finally, by virtue of stripping the team of whatever talent had been left and handing the reigns to Josh McCown – he is actually capable of leading a team, but the Jets are far from a “team” – New York appears ready to accept its fate and start planning how to use the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. The only problem with the plan is that head coach Todd Bowles will likely be playing for his job and might squeeze out a few more wins than the fans would like.
Miami Dolphins – 7-9, 3rd in AFC East
Entering last season, I might have been the most optimistic person in the industry regarding the Dolphins. I projected 11 wins and a division title – with New England entering the playoffs via a Wild Card berth. Downgrading the Patriots was clearly a mistake, but I take pride in catching the Dolphins prior to their rise to double-digit wins and a postseason appearance. It was mainly due to rookie head coach Adam Gase but, unfortunately for Gase, he is about to trip over a major stumbling block.
Collectively, the football community has never bought into Ryan Tannehill as a legitimate starting quarterback, but his absence due to a season-ending injury in the preseason will be felt, especially when he is replaced by Jay Cutler – who decided to retire before getting the phone call from Miami. Cutler has a chance to surprise, as he will be reunited with Gase – who was his offensive coordinator during a prolific 2015 season – but, at this point his career, he is a step down from Tannehill, who had been coming into his own.