Step over Billy B, there's a new team in town. After 11 straight seasons winning the AFC East, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots not only didn't win the division last year, but missed the postseason for the first time since 2008. What can we expect from this division this year? Let's take a look.
Win AFC East (-150)
Win AFC (+650)
Season win total OVER 11.5 (+120), UNDER (-145)
The Bills, last year, did a lot of things right. Quarterback Josh Allen was brilliant, surpassing his 2019 totals by 17 touchdowns and more than 1,500 yards passing. Allen’s improvements helped the team to a 13-3 season, including a trip to the AFC championship game. Though the Bills lost against the Chiefs in that matchup, the Bills can ride that momentum into the 2021 season.
What powered the Bills' success? Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll turned the Bills into the most pass-heavy team on first down and the second-most pass-heavy team on early downs after ranking 19th the year before. Something NFL data expert Warren Sharp always says: Passing on early downs leads to a higher success rate. That’s exactly what happened with the Bills. According to Sharp's 2021 football preview, the Bills gained at least 20 first downs in every game, the second team to do so in NFL history, and punted just 42 times, also the second team in NFL history to punt that few times.
The question is: Can the Bills replicate that success? As long as Allen has Daboll calling plays, I’m rolling with yes. The Bills have a top-half offensive line, top 10 wide receiver unit and play nine games against teams ranked in the bottom 10 for passing defense. A 12-win season is a big ask, but this Bills team should still be the top team in this group of four.
Betting Option: Buffalo Bills to win AFC East (-150)
Win AFC East (+350)
Win AFC (+2200)
Season win total UNDER 9.5 (-130), OVER (+110)
When first evaluating a team, evaluate the quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa was not good under pressure last season, with just a 34 percent success rate and 5.5 yards per pass attempt compared to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 52 percent success and 9.6 yards per pass attempt. Most quarterbacks see a boost in their second year behind center, but this Dolphins offensive line is ranked 28th in the league. Tagovailoa does get receiver Jaylen Waddle, but no longer has Fitzmagic to come in for the assist.
Aside from having a questionable offensive line and a quarterback that hasn’t proven his worth, this Miami defense could see some major regression. The Dolphins were first in the league In takeaways per game, top five in fumbles recovered, and first in limiting opponent's third-down conversions by a near 3% margin. The strength of this defense covered for a poor offense. The Dolphins ranked 23rd in yards per play, bottom 10 in third-down conversions and 21st in offensive touchdowns but were ninth best in defensive touchdowns per game.
If this defense holds strong, then sure, the Dolphins can stay on the same level as last year. However, I need another year to see what this offense can really do under Tagovailoa.
Betting Option: Miami Dolphins UN 9.5 wins (-130)
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