NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
COACH: Bill Belichick, 19th season (214-74, .743)
LAST SEASON: 13-3, 1st place
PLAYOFFS: beat Tennessee, 35-14, in divisional; beat Jacksonville, 24-20, in AFC Championship; lost to Philadelphia, 41-33, in Super Bowl.
OUTLOOK: An era of dominance that began in 2001 shows no signs of changing, even with Tom Brady turning 41. With the Brady-Bill Belichick combination still going strong despite recent reports of some infighting, the Patriots remain the team to beat in the division and the conference. But there are some challenges ahead: Wide receiver Julian Edelman has been suspended the first four games for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs program, and the team lost first-round offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn with a season-ending Achilles injury. The Patriots also lost defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who is now the Lions head coach. But Belichick has overcome these issues before, and there’s no reason he won’t yet again.
COACH: Adam Gase, 3rd season (16-16, .500)
LAST SEASON: 6-10, 3rd place
OUTLOOK: Ryan Tannehill is back from a season-ending knee injury, and the Dolphins are hopeful he can show the kind of improvement he seemed to be making before getting hurt. The Dolphins tried to patch things together with Jay Cutler last season, but to no avail. Wide receiver Danny Amendola brings his championship experience to Miami from the Patriots, and the defense features pass rushers Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn. It’s a solid roster, but will need everything to go right to think about earning a wild card.
COACH: Todd Bowles, 4th season (20-28, .417)
LAST SEASON: 5-11, 4th place
OUTLOOK: There’s plenty of promise for the future in Sam Darnold, who did a superb job of improving on a daily basis in his first NFL preseason. But as is the case with almost every young quarterback, the beginning stages of his development are often filled with mistakes and growing pains. The Jets have a steady group of receivers featuring Robbie Anderson, Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa. A big key will be how a defense that no longer has underachieving defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson and Mo Wilkerson will perform. The Jets need a big year from defensive tackle Leonard Williams and a major improvement from former first-round linebacker Darron Lee. Safety Jamal Adams looks like a big-time player, but he’ll need to make a jump in Year 2.
COACH: Sean McDermott, 2nd season (9-7, .563)
LAST SEASON: 9-7, 2nd place
PLAYOFFS: Lost to Jacksonville, 10-3, in wild card
OUTLOOK: Josh Allen is the Bills’ future, but with accuracy problems plaguing him in college, this will be an uncertain early time for him. Without steady veteran presence Tyrod Taylor, it falls to second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman and journeyman A.J. McCarron to provide help. The offensive line is in transition without center Eric Wood and guard Richie Incognito, and former Panthers first-round receiver Kelvin Benjamin will be counted on to provide a downfield threat. The defense is counting on first-round linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to make an immediate impact.