Sustained Success of the Bills: AFC East’s 2023 Frontrunner

By Stephen Juza

July 12th, 2023

After a two decade run of Patriots domination, the Buffalo Bills have made a statement the last three years that the division now runs through the Bills. Expect that to continue through the upcoming season, where despite moves from the other three teams will still leave them looking up at the Bills in the standings.

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The Buffalo Bills Rise:

The Bills recent success started back in 2017 with the hiring of first-time head coach Sean McDermott, who after an inaugural 9-7 season broke the sixteen season long playoff drought for the team. The following draft, the team drafted Josh Allen seventh overall. Over the past five years together, the Bills have won the division three times, made the playoffs as a wildcard one other time, and won 10+ games each of the last four seasons, the first time the Bills have accomplished that since the 90s.

Allen has become a shining star for the team, consistently ranked in the top three of any QB ranking in the league. Between him, Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, and Joe Burrow in Cincinnati, those three quarterbacks will have many years of battling for AFC supremacy between them.

They may not have made any flashy moves in free agency, but they didn’t really need to. After winning the division three consecutive seasons, and bringing back their biggest contributors, they are still the team to beat in the division. Despite some headline-grabbing moves by others, it won’t be enough to unseat the Bills. Look for them to claim their fourth consecutive AFC East title, the first time since the 90s that a team other than the Patriots have accomplished the feat.

New York Jets Make a Splash:

Despite the team’s improvement in the win column the last two years, the New York Jets saw a major opportunity to jump into Super Bowl contention when they traded for future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Beyond the potential impact he will bring to the field this season, and maybe 2024, it also gives the Jets a chance to reset at quarterback. After Zach Wilson showed last year that he wasn’t starter material in his second season, it gives him a chance to sit on the bench and work on his game away from the pressure. It remains uncertain if he will ever regain a starting role in his career.

It’s not uncommon for a team to go worst-to-first in a division, and the Jets are a strong contender if the Bills falter during the season. Either way, look for the Jets to finish at least second in the division and end their longest playoff drought in franchise history.

Miami Dolphins Treading Water:

Coming off Mike McDaniel's inaugural season as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, along with their first playoff berth since 2016, the future felt bright for the Dolphins. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s advanced performance statistics place him among the top of the QBs in the league. Additionally, the Dolphins big acquisition this offseason, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, should be instrumental in slowing down the potent aerial offenses throughout the league.

However, despite Tua’s success when he’s been on the field, he’s missed about a quarter of the games the last two seasons with injuries. The Dolphins need him on the field all seventeen games this season to have a chance to improve on their 2022 season. Without that, look for them to slide to third place in the division.

New England Patriots In The Cellar:

The New England Patriots have themselves in unfamiliar positions the last few years. After Tom Brady left the team before the 2020 season, the team has posted two losing seasons in the last three seasons. Despite Bill Belichick’s personal greatness as a head coach, the offensive coaching staff failed second-year quarterback Mac Jones last year. At a critical point in his career development, the offense was entrusted to former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and former special teams coordinator Joe Judge.

While the Patriots have an experienced offensive coordinator now with Bill O’Brien, the fierce competition in the AFC East suggests they are likely to end up at the bottom of the standings for the first time since Belichick’s first season in New England. Assuming the other teams remain healthy, the Patriots will need Mac Jones to make a monumental leap in ability this season to compete against the other teams in the division.

Read our other division predictions:

Chiefs Continued Dominance: Predictions for the AFC West

NFC South Rankings: Analyzing the Division's Teams and Outlook

The Ascendancy of the Lions: NFC North's 2023 Frontrunner