Since 2001, the New England Patriots have won the AFC East every year with the exception of 2002 and 2008. That’s 15 out of 17 years and in that span they’ve made it to seven Super Bowls and won five of them. To call them the “favorite” to win the AFC East in 2018 might be the understatement of the young century. Especially since the Patriots have dominated the 2000s so thoroughly.
The modern AFC East was created back in 2002 when the NFL realigned both conferences and added the Houston Texans as an expansion franchise. Before that it was a five-team division that housed all the current members plus the Indianapolis Colts. Originated after the NFL-AFL merger, the Colts (then in Baltimore) and the Miami Dolphins dominated the division in the 1970s. The 1980s belonged almost solely to the Dan Marino-era Dolphins and the 90s was the home of the Jim Kelly/Thurman Thomas era Buffalo Bills who went to, and lost, four consecutive Super Bowls.
2018 AFC East Betting Odds
New England Patriots -8,000
Miami Dolphins +1,600
Buffalo Bills +25,000
New York Jets +25,000
New England Patriots Betting Odds
Win totals: Over 11.5 (-116), Under 11.5 (-114)
When you hone in on your AFC East betting, there’s no question where you’re going to lay your money. But betting on the Patriots to win the AFC East isn’t going to give you a big payoff at -800. If you want to talk yourself into betting against them, maybe I can help.
I’ve written at length about the quarterback cliff that awaits Tom Brady at some point. His seed-filled smoothies can only do so much to fight off age and father time. The slow decline other position players experience in the latter portion of their careers doesn’t seem to affect quarterbacks. So much of the game is played between a guy’s ears that he can, over the course of a long career, compensate for his diminished physical skills. But there’s a point where that ability to compensate goes away and, for quarterbacks, it goes away quickly.
Kurt Warner retired before hitting the cliff, so did Joe Montana. Dan Marino did not retire in time and plummeted over it, as did Brett Favre and most recently Peyton Manning.
Two seasons before Marino’s cliff, he led the NFL in completions (319) and attempts (548). His cliff year, 1999, he completed just 55.3 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a career-low (by far) 67.4 quarterback rating. He missed four games and went 5-6 as a starter.
The year before Favre’s cliff was probably his finest as a passer in the NFL. His 68.4 completion percentage with the Minnesota Vikings was a career high, he threw for 4,202 yards (third highest total of his career), 33 touchdowns (tied for the fourth highest total in his career and just seven interceptions (the lowest total in his career and his only single-digit pick season). His QB rating of 107.2 was a career high, he went 12-4 as a starter and got the Vikings all the way to the NFC Championship. The next season, he barely hit 60 percent of his passes, went 5-8 as a starter, threw 11 touchdowns to 19 interceptions and posted a career-low 69.9 QB rating.
When you’re looking at how to bet the AFC East, you must take into account the possibility that Brady has played one season too many. And you can’t look at last season’s stats and results to make that call. It’s a race that Brady has won up to this point and the AFC betting odds suggest he can beat it again.
The problem there is that Brady, less so than in any season in recent memory, won’t have a lot of help on offense. Julian Edelman will miss the first four games with a suspension. Brandin Cooks is gone, as is Nate Solder from the offensive line. This will also probably be the weakest, in talent, defense the Patriots have taken the field with in a decade. Unlike Manning’s cliff year, Brady won’t have a lot of help.
What does that mean for your AFC East betting? Nothing concrete. New England is still, by far, the safest bet. You just have to decide if that -800 is worth your time.
Projected win total and finish: 12-4, first place in the AFC East
Miami Dolphins Betting Odds
Win totals: Over 7 (-130), under 7 (+100)
Ryan Tannehill was in the midst of the best season of his career in 2016, his first with head coach Adam Gase, only to see a late-season knee injury derail it and Miami’s chance at a lengthy postseason stay. Tannehill should be healthy this season and that will make a major difference in the Dolphins’ end-of-season win total. I just don’t see it mattering when it comes to winning the division and neither do the AFC East odds.
The problem with the Dolphins as a team is that they’ve chosen to cut bait on some quality players. Last year at the trade deadline they shipped running back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles. This offseason they cut Ndamukong Suh and traded their best wide receiver, Jarvis Landry, to the Cleveland Browns.
There’s still plenty of talent there, so when you’re betting in the AFC East, I like the over on Miami’s win total. I just don’t see them competing for a title unless Brady goes over the side of the mountain.
Projected win total and finish: 9-7, second place in the AFC East
New York Jets Betting Odds
Win totals: Over 5.5 (-110), Under 5.5 (-120)
For some reason the AFC odds have put the Jets at the bottom of the division. I think that’s giving the Buffalo Bills far too much credit, and the job Todd Bowles did in New York last season too little credit.
This was a team that was undeniably trying to tank for the top pick last year and Bowles just would not let that happen. The Jets finished 5-11 when they should have been battling the Browns for that historic 0-16 mark.
The sooner Sam Darnold plays the better, not only for the Jets fans, for but your NFL and AFC East betting needs. I like what New York did in the offseason, but it’s not going to pay off in 2018, though I do like the over on their win total.
Projected win total and finish: 6-10, third place in the AFC East
Buffalo Bills Betting Odds
Win totals: Over 6 (+100), Under 6 (-130)
Last and certainly least we come to the Bills, who enjoyed one of the strangest offseasons in recent memory. They finally decided to pull the trigger on drafting a quarterback, but picked the guy most likely to be a bust in Josh Allen. They shipped Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns and brought in free agent A.J. McCarron to take his place.
Buffalo made a huge mistake in making the playoffs last season, creating unreal expectations all over upstate New York. That’s something you can take advantage of in your early AFC East betting. I think when the final whistle blows this will be one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Projected win total and finish: 4-12, fourth place in the AFC East