What’s shaping up to be the NFL’s toughest division will ultimately be won by defense, not its quarterbacks. The AFC East is up for grabs in 2023, despite Buffalo’s reign atop the hill.
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Last year the AFC East was rather top heavy, although it held no terrible teams. The Buffalo Bills cruised to another division title and dominated the rest of the division. However, all of Miami, New England, and New York won at least seven games. Will we get a similar finish in 2023? The odds seem to favor it, and things on paper point to lots of winning.
According to Vegas, the top three teams in the East are Buffalo, Miami, and the Jets. All are projected to win between 9.5 and 10.5 games and are given between +100 and +300 odds to win the division. Even New England, a distant fourth, was given an over/under win total of 7.5. None of these are bad teams, but something must separate them on the field.
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How does one evaluate this division? How will it actually shake out? The AFC East could be a prime candidate for a worst-to-first jump by the Jets. The opposite feels unlikely with Buffalo dropping to last, but not much separates this quartet. We are staring at the most competitive division in the NFL, but all four teams won’t make the playoffs.
Who Wins The AFC East?
Todd Salem: Buffalo Bills Top Division Again
The Bills still feel like an elite offense who is one pass-catcher short of historic. Unless rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid breaks out in year one, there is no third option on the outside for Josh Allen. A good defense and perhaps lower expectations could help this squad, and they still might end up worse than last year. Those are the heights they are coming from.
Miami feels like it will be worse than last year too. The Dolphins are hanging everything on Tua Tagovailoa’s health, behind an average-at-best offensive line, which doesn’t seem like a great idea. It is scary to face Hill and Waddle under any circumstance, but the rest of the offense leaves something to be desired.
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It is possible the Dolphins defense is one the best in the league this year after all their offseason additions. That might not breed much separation with the rest of the division though, as all four squads project as having above-average units on this side of the ball.
It seems obvious to say that, if Buffalo and Miami drop, the big gainer must be New York. And just because it’s the obvious answer doesn’t mean it’s wrong. The Jets have a bunch of offensive weapons surrounding a new man at quarterback. Their weakest link (which is a pattern in this division) is the offensive line. But having Aaron Rodgers’ quick decision-making behind center should alleviate some of that downside.
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And on defense, what is not to love? With blue chip players at all three levels, the Jets can wreak havoc. It also helps that they project as having the easiest schedule in the division. It isn’t exactly an easy schedule at all, just that the other three squads have three of the four hardest schedules in the sport!
That leaves the Patriots, but I don’t consider this team a basement-dweller. In fact, I like them for a rebound season offensively with Mac Jones at quarterback. He essentially had no offensive coordinator last season; the o-line could actually be decent too. Though they lack a number one wide receiver, depth is a strength. It will be hard sledding to make up ground, but don’t be surprised if New England sneaks into third place.
2) New York
3) New England
Dan Salem: New York Jets Top AFC East
This is a tough evaluation to make in what may be the toughest division in football, more likely because of defense and not the quarterbacks. Let me begin with our signal callers, since they will dictate the ceiling of each team’s offense. Do we believe in the success of each man under center in the AFC East? Using last year as a guide, we absolutely should not.
Josh Allen will be very good, but struggle to be great unless his run game is vastly improved and he finds that second and third receiving option you eluded to. Aaron Rodgers will be very good and can easily be great if he avoids further dings and old-age ailments, but he is an old player and will likely get dinged up in some capacity. Mac Jones displayed his ceiling to us already, but also showed us how low his floor can sink. I’m dubious of his ability to maintain performance at or near the ceiling he’s shown, which is not anywhere near the baseline level of play from Allen and Rodgers. Then we have Tua, who I want to believe is fully healed, but kept getting injured over and over again during the only season he’s shown signs of being very good.
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Assuming the Bills and Jets offenses will be very good and the Patriots and Dolphins offenses will be average with flashes of wow, then everything comes down to how good these defenses truly are. New York’s defense is going to be better than last season, as experience and new talent improve upon an already impressive unit. New England always has a good defense and Miami should retain its level from last year. But I believe Buffalo’s defense takes a step back, because it’s time. Something has to recess with this team and it won’t be Josh Allen.
Can you tell how closely knit this division is? We’ve got offenses ranked B+, B+, B and B- with defenses ranked A-, B+, B and B- and then there’s special teams and coaching to consider. I’d be shocked if any team finishes with fewer than seven wins, but we may not get anyone with more than eleven either. Not exactly a repeat of last season, but pretty darn close.
1) New York (11 wins)
2) New England (9 wins, tiebreaker)
3) Buffalo (9 wins)
4) Miami (7 wins)
Meet our Writers:
Dan Salem is Lead Editor, Writer, and Co-owner of BuzzChomp. He’s a published author, as well as an award winning Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for his film work, or get lost in his old-school comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Todd Salem is a Staff Writer and Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also a fantasy football and fantasy baseball Staff Writer for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter or comment below for his unfiltered opinions.
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