Before all the crazy news of the past week broke out, I was a proponent of the Dolphins once again making the Wild Card in the AFC East, with a 10-6 record. However, with Ryan Tannehill officially out for the 2017 season, and Jay Cutler in as the starter, many people are sour on Miami’s playoff chances. I want to break down what I think the Dolphins chances are, and also what I think the Bills and Jets are doing. This is because it is quite obvious to most of us that the Patriots are winning the division yet again this year. So, how do the other teams plan to compete?
New York Jets
From the moment the Jets signed Josh McCown, it seemed to be a given that the Jets were putting the tank into full gear. It’s a general consensus among NFL fans that the Jets are the most likely team to finish with the worst record this year. So what pieces do they have for the future, aside from high draft picks? Well, they have a front 7 that features Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams. Don’t sleep on them, as all 3 of them are first round draft picks for a reason. Drafting Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye should help bolster that secondary. It’s clear that the Jets want to be a defensive team moving forward, as they have practically no good pieces on offense. If I was the Jets GM, I would’ve thought Matt Forte to be good trade bait for a tanking team, as he is 31 years old. After all, I think Bilal Powell is one of the few capable players on the offense. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year (granted, it was a limited sample size), and is also a solid threat in the receiving game. However, with Quincy Enunwa injured, their best receivers are Robby Anderson and Charone Peak. And I’ve already mentioned that the Jets don’t have a legitimate starting QB. You can already begin to hear “With the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Sam Darnold.” That appears to be their plan.
Any thought I had of the Bills competing for a playoff spot in 2017 vanished with yesterday’s news. To me at least, the NFL’s longest playoff drought will unfortunately continue for Bills fans. Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby were two of the best players in Buffalo, and now they’re gone. I’m not too happy about these trades for the Bills, for the same reasons MJ mentioned in his video. Why would you trade players in their prime when you could trade players like Kyle Williams or LeSean McCoy? However, the Bills wheeling and dealing also landed them a wide receiver and cornerback. Jordan Matthews and EJ Gaines joined the team, and to me, they’re just not as good as the players they traded away. Plus, it’s a completely new locker room for both of them, so how will they adjust to that? One of the reporters for the Bills asked their GM, “How do you convince the veterans in the locker room that you’re competing this year?” I thought that was the perfect question, because how can you actually do that? The Bills are trading away some of their best assets, and to me it makes no sense. However, they have six picks in the first 3 rounds in the 2018 draft because of this trade. This front office better get those picks right, or the Bills could be in trouble for years to come. If they do get it right though, the AFC East could be the Bills division in the near future.
With the Jay Cutler signing, I think there’s a higher ceiling for the Dolphins, but also a lower floor. A lot of their season depends upon how he plays. His 2015 year in Adam Gase’s system was a solid one, where he had a 92.3 passer rating. Though that plummeted to a 78.1 rating the next year, I think Cutler’s reunion with Gase will at least make him a halfway decent QB. There is a lot of talent on this Dolphins team, and having average QB play would still make them a playoff team in my opinion. I think the Dolphins are perfectly capable of sweeping their season series versus the Jets and Bills, and may even surprise us by taking a game from New England. That would put them at 5-1 in the division. Now that’s an optimistic look at things, they could split with the Bills, lose both to the Patriots, and… I still see them sweeping the Jets. I’ll go with the middle route, and say they go 4-2 in the division. They still have to face the NFC South and the AFC West, two of the tougher divisions in the NFL. However, I’m still optimistic about the Dolphins’ chances, and think they will return to the playoffs this year. Don’t be surprised if they completely flop, though.