The Gridiron Grind: AFC East 2023

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By Ron Johnson

AFC EAST

With the NFL returning in a few weeks for preseason purposes, the barrage of predictions is coming in hard and fast. From Bills Mafia screaming that Josh Allen will bring the Lombardi Trophy to Buffalo to Cowboys Nation screaming that this is their year, the confidence of many starts to show for their respective teams. 

So I figured we should take a shot at these as well. With that, we start with the AFC East.

AFC East

New England Patriots

The Patriots were once a dominant team, they had a massive stranglehold on the AFC East. Then Tom Brady left them for Tampa, Mac Jones stepped up to starter and the team has been convoluted ever since. In fact, prior to their Week 10 game, they were sitting pretty at 6-4 and eyeing a potential wild card spot. After Week 10 though, the team failed to keep that momentum, ended the season at 8-9 and missed the playoffs for the second time in three years (or to be honest, the last three years cause they didn’t even bother to show up in that playoff game against Buffalo in the first place). 

The schedule for the upcoming season seems a little insane on paper for the Patriots (in theory) because of how they start the season. They open up the campaign with a home opener against a very irate and motivated NFC Champion Philly team, followed games against the Dolphins, A-A-RON Rodgers and the Jets and a road game against the Cowboys before returning home to face the Saints and visiting the Raiders. 

After those massive tests to start the season, they have their first showdown with the Bills, but get a little reprieve as they battle the Dolphins, Commanders, Colts and Giants before entertaining Justin Herbert and the Chargers, Kenny Pickett and the Steelers.

Another string of huge test finishes their year as they welcome in the defending champs in December, followed by “Mr. Unlimited” and the Broncos on Christmas Eve, Josh Allen and the Bills on New Year’s Eve and finishing up with Rodgers and the Jets.

Tons of questions for the Patriots, including whether it will be the Mac Jones Show or the Zappe Hour with Bailey program. But anyone who knows Bill Belichick knows that he does not stay down forever. Patriots may not make the playoffs, but they will do everything to shake the postseason foundation up a bit this season.

2023 Outlook: 9-8 (Misses Playoffs)

Miami Dolphins

If there was a team last season that was the epitome of dysfunction, it was the Miami Dolphins. If Any Given Sunday was a live feature, this team fit that bill. From questions of their medical team rushing Tua back onto the field to Tyreek Hill underperforming in my opinion, this team should not have been in the playoffs.

But they were. At 9-8, Miami managed to not only amass their third consecutive winning season, but they also were able to end a six-year playoff drought by clinching the 7th seed and having a shootout with the Buffalo Bills which ended in a 34-31 loss. 

Unlike the Patriots, the Dolphins have a winnable schedule on paper. Whether those wins will materialize is a completely different story. After opening the season on the road against the Chargers and Patriots, they have a brief stay at home against the Broncos before traveling to New York to face the Bills in a rematch of that Wild Card game.

Tua was kind of healthy in that game, so imagine what a fully healed Tua will do against Josh Allen and the Bills. They return home for a pair as they welcome the Giants as well as Bryce Young and the Panthers before heading to Broad Street to face the Eagles.

This is where the schedule gets interesting because of a home game with the Patriots followed by a trip to see the defending champs. After visiting Jimmy G and the Raiders, they return home to welcome Rodgers to the AFC East before going to DC to battle the Commanders. Following visits from the Titans and Jets, the Cowboys come knocking, and by this time, we should know what the playoffs may look like since that game against Dallas is on Christmas Eve.

The Fins conclude their season with a quick trip to Baltimore to face Lamar and the Ravens before ending the year at home against the Bills. In theory, the Dolphins should be in the playoffs this season, but there are those who believe that this is the team that will challenge the Bills for the AFC East and ultimately win the division.

2023 Outlook: 11-6 (Clinches Playoffs)

New York Jets

The ending of the Jets’ 2022 Campaign can be summed up in one word: Shit. The team had a hot start as they were 5-2 at one point, then 6-3 and 7-4, respectively. Then they lost six straight to finish the season at 7-10. There is no nice way to describe the dismal season of Zach Wilson. Between controversies surrounding his off the field shenanigans and his inconsistencies on it, the Jets needed a miracle to fall in their lap. In their eyes, that miracle came in the form of A-A-RON Rodgers.

My personal thoughts on Rodgers notwithstanding, the Jets feel they got the better end of the deal that sent an arsenal of picks and players to Green Bay to acquire the former MVP. You get him to practice and build relationships with his receivers, and the sky could be the limit for the Jets. But like everyone else in this division, they didn’t wait to test the fires.

After getting a welcome basket from the Bills, the Jets travel to Dallas for another round of Dak vs. Rodgers, followed by a pair of home games against the Patriots and Chiefs. After these, they get Mile High with the Broncos before welcoming the Eagles, their annual Governors Cup Game with the Giants and a home game with the Chargers before going on another road trip.

After a pair of road games with the Raiders and Bills, they welcome the Dolphins, Falcons and Commanders to Met Life Stadium before heading to Ohio for a showdown between Rodgers and Deshaun Watson. The playoffs are in sight for the Jets, but the Patriots look to play spoiler, and they will indeed play spoiler to some.

The Jets will make noise this season, but not enough noise to clinch a playoff spot. I see six tough games just in their division alone, I do not see them beating the Chiefs OR the Eagles, and depending on which Russell Wilson shows up, expect that monkey on Rodgers back to get a little heavier this year.

2023 Outlook: 8-9 (Misses Playoffs)

Buffalo Bills

If there is any team that needs to step up or step aside this upcoming season, it is the Buffalo Bills. With so many offensive weapons led by Josh Allen and a smashmouth defense anchored by Von Miller, there truly is no understanding as to why the Bills have not won at least ONE Super Bowl, let alone been in one during Allen’s tenure as quarterback. But the reality is tougher to swallow than the fiction:

The Bills are great, but they just cannot seem to get out of their own way. After surviving the Dolphins in the Wild Card Round, they fell flat at home against the Bengals losing 27-10 after posting a 13-3 mark in the regular season. Let’s add in the fact that Stefon Diggs showed major frustration during that game to the point that he didn’t even bother walking back out on the field at the end of that game.

All the pieces of the puzzle are together for the Bills to make a legit run for their fifth Super Bowl appearance. But can they stay out of their own way this time around? That will be a question that needs to be answered immediately as they head to New York to talk shop with Rodgers and the Jets before welcoming Jimmy G and the Raiders.

After a stop in DC, they get to dance with the Dolphins and fully healed Tua in their rematch of last year’s Wild Card, a showdown with Trevor Lawrence and the Jags, and a game against Daniel Jones and the Giants before traveling to Foxborough for a date with Mac Jones (WHO?) and the Patriots.

The keep the festivities going with a visit from the Buccaneers followed by a trip to Cincinnati for a rematch with the Bengals, back at home for a pair of games with Broncos and Jets before preparing for four of the most nail biting games on the schedule: Cyber Sunday with the Eagles at the Link, Christmas Shopping with the Chiefs at Arrowhead,

Last Minute Christmas Shopping with the Cowboys at home and Gift Swapping with the Chargers at SoFi. Their season concludes with two divisional opponents (hosting New England and finishing in South Beach vs. Miami), and by the end of the season, we may see déjà vu. The division could be decided either before, during or after this game with the Dolphins. Buffalo should be in the playoffs, but will they sneak in or establish dominance early and often?

2023 Outlook: 11-6 (Clinches Playoffs)

I see the Bills repeating as Division Champs, but don’t be surprised if Miami makes a legitimate push for the crown. A healthy Tua means the Dolphins are more dangerous that anticipated. The Tua-Tyreek Connection should give the Mahomes-Kelce Connection and Allen-Diggs Connection a run for its money in the AFC. Expect Jalen Waddle to improve on last year’s numbers, and expect the Patriots to fight to the bitter end. The Jets? Well, you know how they say polish a turd, it’s still a turd? Well, throwing in a hall of fame quarterback with a diva complex that chugs ayahuasca like it’s beer will not change the outcome. It’s still the Jets.

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