With Tom Brady missing the first four games of the season, the rest of the AFC East has a great chance to do something it’s done just twice in the last 15 years: win the division.
Indeed, the Jets won the AFC East in 2002 and the Dolphins won it in 2008. Aside from that, it’s been all New England since 2001. The Patriots have won the division 12 of the last 13 years, including seven straight.
So, if the Patriots don’t win the AFC East in 2016, which team will topple them?
“I think the Bills are the team that’s closest to being able to do it, purely because I think their quarterback situation might be the best,” Pro Football Focus analyst Sam Monson told Jay Berman, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Miami is going into that new system with Adam Gase and Tannehill has taken steps back over the past couple years, so they’re a bit of a question mark. I think they could be better than I’m giving them credit for, but equally they could potentially be worse as well. The Bills, with Tyrod Taylor, was really good last year. It earned him that new contract.”
Taylor, 27, threw for 3,000+ yards, rushed for 500+ yards and had 24 touchdowns (20 pass, four rush) to just six interceptions in 14 games last season. Last week, he signed a five-year, $90 million extension to stay in Buffalo.
“Even in practice, he looks pretty good,” Monson said. “He needs to improve in the short and intermediate levels of his game, but he can hit those deep passes. He throws a deep ball as well as anybody in this league, and it’s not just straight go routes down the field. It’s the really deep sideline stuff, it’s deep over the middle, it’s all the difficult passes that most quarterbacks struggle to be able to make. He seems to be able to make those fine, and it’s the short and easy stuff that he seems to struggle with a bit more. But I think he’s a guy that could raise that team and actually take them somewhere if that defense is able to play to a dual Rex and Rob Ryan kind of standard. So I think the Bills are the best team to have the potential to be able to do that.”
While Taylor has looked good in practice, not all of his teammates have. In fact, many Bills seem to be going through the motions.
“The Bills just didn’t seem to be hooked up when it came to practice,” Monson said. “There seemed to be a lot of wasted time and a lot of wasted movement, whereas some teams were just military precision with the way they were running practice. And the Jets, it was a similar kind of atmosphere. It was almost as if the entire camp was taking place at 80 percent speed. I think part of that was Ryan Fitzpatrick being only just back in the fold after that holdout and contract dispute. But again, I wonder just how far he can take them.”