Few divisions boast the star power at quarterback and depth of explosive young talent as the AFC East does, and it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see the AFC's representative in the Super Bowl emerge from the rubble of one of the most competitive divisions in football.
Aaron Rodgers' arrival changes the entire landscape, both for the New York Jets and the division race.
However, questions persist for the Jets about how much closer the four-time MVP is to his peak 4,115-yard and-37 touchdown performance in 2021 than a disappointing 2022 campaign that saw the 39-year-old toss double-digit interceptions for just the third time in his career.
In Buffalo, Sean McDermott taking over defensive play-calling duties for one of the most menacing front-seven units in football will be interesting to watch unfold. Especially given the Bills' postseason disappointments the past two seasons.
Finally, the Dolphins aim for their first postseason victory in 22 years, after returning to the playoffs in 2022, and have the pieces in place to go much further than that in 2023.
What NFL Insiders are Saying
"That's going to be a wild division. To me, it all comes down to Tua. If he's good and can stay healthy, the Dolphins will be really exciting. If he goes down, or stinks, they'll be a major disappointment. Buffalo is going to be really good again. The Jets are overrated. None of their players are as good as the media pushes them to be. Then there's the Patriots, who got left behind personnel wise, and are average at best." - NFC North Personnel Director
Offseason Addition Who Will Shape the Race: Aaron Rodgers, QB, New York Jets
Few moves made across the NFL this past offseason have the potential to seismically shift the outlook of a franchise or the playoff picture more than the New York Jets trading for Aaron Rodgers. General manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh are betting big that Rodgers can turn back the clock to the kind of performance that propelled him to the MVP award in 2021, while leading an insurgent core of young superstars through the AFC's gauntlet.
AFC East Projected Standings
Miami Dolphins (11-6)
If it weren't for Aaron Rodgers moving to Gotham, Vic Fangio would be far and away the most impactful addition any of the AFC East teams made over the offseason, and his arrival as defensive coordinator solidifies the Dolphins as championship caliber.
If Tua Tagovailoa can stay healthy and on the field, brilliant offensive playcaller Mike McDaniel has one of the most lethal set of skill players in the league, headlined by burners Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle at wide receiver. All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, as soon as he can get back on the field following a meniscus injury, should make a significant impact opposite Xavien Howard, and Ryan Long buttresses a disruptive front-seven with an addition veteran presence in the linebacker corps.
Much like the rest of this division, it's a grueling road to the postseason and beyond. However, the Dolphins' explosiveness on both sides of the football combined with an elite pair of offensive and defensive playcallers give optimism that Miami's time has arrived.
Buffalo Bills (10-7)
As long as the Bills have Josh Allen, Buffalo is going to be one of the toughest outs in the NFL, and legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
However, as the rest of the division has improved, and the AFC continues to boast some of the most dominant quarterback play we have seen in a decade, the Bills' road to Super Sunday is could prove more difficult than ever thanks to a first-place schedule in 2023.
The Bills shored up the offensive line in front of Allen by signing Connor McGovern, plus the arrival of tight end Dalton Kincaid should add another element underneath to Buffalo's downfield aerial attack. But, losing linebacker Tremaine Edmunds could prove significant. Talent nor experience are the least of the Bills' concerns, but the margin for error in a stacked division and loaded conference is thinner than it has been for Allen and Co.
New York Jets (9-8)
Aaron Rodgers' first observation upon arriving to Florham Park was how lonely the Jets' lone Super Bowl trophy appears, and the future Hall of Fame quarterback has Jets fans everywhere dreaming about a second arriving soon.
This is one of the more exciting young rosters in the entire league, especially given the additions of cornerback Sauce Gardner and wide receiver Garrett Wilson from a standout 2022 draft class. Meanwhile, the Jets' significant interest in running back Dalvin Cook underscores the desire to keep building around Rodgers, pushing all chips into the middle of the table, as the team awaits the return of explosive rookie back Breece Hall from a torn ACL.
There is no question the Jets are going to be in the mix. However, the Bills and Dolphins are two of the deepest and most explosive rosters in the league, which will make the climb to the top of the AFC East a steep one for the Jets. If Rodgers, in his reunion with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett can prove that last season's struggles are a fluke, then those Super Bowl aspirations will be justified.
New England Patriots (6-11)
How the mighty have fallen.
The Patriots' dynasty built to a crescendo with Tom Brady walking off the Mercedes Benz Stadium field with his fifth Lombardi in hand following Super Bowl 53, and came to a careening close when Logan Ryan intercepted Brady to cap an ugly New England loss to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Wild Card the following January.
New England's roster, and to a certain degree Bill Belichick's mystique, are shells of their former selves. Mac Jones is an open question at quarterback, there's limited talent at wide receiver, and the only real hope that this team can stay in games is that Belichick still boasts a pretty talented defense. As the rest of the division suddenly developed into legitimate Super Bowl contenders, the Patriots have fallen sharply behind.
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