It seems like so long ago that Buffalo dragged themselves off the mat an into their first playoff appearance in decades. But that was 2017, and last year the Bills were… not good. At least on offense. Buffalo ranked in the bottom three in the league in yards and points per game. But that defense that ushered them into the postseason way back in 2017? That’s still there. Last season the Bills were the best offense in the league against the pass and allowed the second-fewest yards overall. The question for the Bills becomes: Will Josh Allen regress? Or progress into a legitimate NFL starter? I’m guessing it’s the latter.
Bold Prediction: Josh Allen will rush less and throw more this season. It
somehow went almost unnoticed that Josh Allen ran for more yardage that Lamar Jackson last season. Most of that was scrambling and evading. I can easily see Allen hanging in the pocket a bit more this year for a few reasons. Firstly, the addition of veteran slot receiver Cole Beasley should provide a steady stream of easy completions for the Bills young signal caller. With that comes confidence. And with confidence comes the balance on offense that can get the Bills Mafia body slamming picnic tables for sport once again. Secondly, Josh Allen has an absolute cannon for an arm. The Bills would be absolutely foolish to not turn that into some quick strike big gains when opposing defenses least expect it.
If the rumors out of Miami (and the word of new coach Brian Flores) are to be believed, it’s not Josh Rosen, but Ryan Fitzpatrick that is providing the “wow” moments in Dolphins camp. In either case, the fans in South Beach will be thrilled to start the season without Ryan Tannehill under center. The Dolphins weren’t abysmal last season at 7-9 and seemed only a step away in bursts (like that ludicrous Hail Mary defensive collapse that got them a win over New England). But like most Miami units over the last few seasons, injuries and inconsistencies plagued them like humidity in South Beach in August.
Bold Prediction: Ryan Fitzpatrick showed flashes of magic (must be the beard) last season as he flopped back and forth between starting and backup roles in Tampa Bay. But Miami needs to move forward, and not with a guy who came into the league almost a decade and a half ago…Josh Rosen will see meaningful time at quarterback this season, and the mistake Arizona made will be plain as day.
New England Patriots
In a year dominated by gaudy offensive numbers, the Patriots became a defensive juggernaut to win it all last year, using a high risk, high reward strategy dependent on disguised blitzes and aggressive pass rushes. The Rams simply weren’t prepared for it. Sorry, Patriot fans, but I anticipate the annual appearance of mediocre defense early in the year, followed by some flashes of brilliance as the weather turns colder. The pattern is too consistent to ignore.
Bold Prediction: Sony Michel will carry the rock. A lot. In his sophomore
campaign the former Georgia Bulldog will amass the most rushing yards for the Patriots since Corey Dillon in 2004 (1,635). I’m thinking just under 1,300 yards or so. The emphasis on the running game will make play action deadly for Tom Brady again, but this will be a run-first Patriots team in Brady’s golden years.
New York Jets
Hopes seem a little artificially inflated in New York. The 4-12 Jets seem to think that the addition of Le’Veon Bell will instantly fix all of their woes. And yes, Bell is a singular talent. But slow your roll, Fireman Ed. There are a few problems here. 1) The Jets defense allowed the fourth-most points per game last season. 2)Le’Veon Bell isn’t in Pittsburgh anymore. The addition of Quinnen Williams and Jachai Polite will likely help the first problem, but the second is a whole other can of worms.
Bold Prediction: Le’Veon Bell will struggle. Mightily. Bell always benefitted from the balance of the Steelers offense with Antonio Brown stretching the field. He also has a very patient running style, he follows his blockers and lets the field open up in front of him. Without Brown, defenses will be keying on Bell first and foremost, and learning to run behind a new offensive line will be rough, especially in the earlier part of the season. Between those two new challenges, I’m thinking this might not be the year to pick Bell first overall in your fantasy draft. I’m not saying that Sony Michel will outgain Bell this season, but it’s going to be way closer than you think.
Image Source: AP Images/Seth Wenig