AFC East preview: Can the Bills overtake the Patriots?
The Buffalo Bills haven’t won a division title since 1995, but the opportunity to claim top spot in the AFC East has arrived now that Tom Brady has moved on from the New England Patriots.
It’s been a long time – a very long time – since the Bills reigned supreme, but they’re in position to change that this season, and have the second best odds to win the AFC East at BetAmerica.
Odds to win the AFC East
|Team||AFC East Odds|
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Bills need Josh Allen to continue to improve
Josh Allen was the third quarterback taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but outside of Lamar Jackson, Allen took the biggest step forward in his development at that position during his second year.
As a rookie in 2018, Allen threw 10 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, and struggled at times with the sophisticated NFL defenses he faced.
Fortunately for the Bills, Allen rebounded nicely as a sophomore. His completion rate increased from 52.8% to 58.8%. He threw for 3,089 yards, and had 20 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions.
Oddsmakers clearly expect him to take another step forward this year as evidenced by the quarterback props at BetAmerica. Allen's total passing yards have been set at 3,150.5 with odds of -125 on the Over. His total for passing touchdowns is now 21.5 with odds of +100 on the Over.
On top of that, Allen isn’t afraid to run the ball, adding 510 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground last season. He helped Buffalo’s run attack to rank among the top in the league. These are promising signs as Allen preps for his third year in the league.
The Bills front office made a major move to help Allen by adding Stefon Diggs to their offense. That gives their quarterback a very dangerous target in an offense that saw steady production from receiver John Brown last season. The pieces could be falling into place for Allen and the Bills offense to build on what they did in 2019.
Bills defense could be a difference-maker
The Buffalo Bills defense didn’t give up much last season. They finished third in the league with only 298.2 yards allowed per game, and gave up only 16.2 points per game. Only the New England Patriots gave up fewer points on defense.
The Bills had a top-10 run defense and a top-five pass defense. Their pass rush should get a boost this season, with the addition of A.J. Epenesa, who was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Not only did they bring in Epenesa, a standout with the Iowa Hawkeyes in college, but they also signed defensive tackle Vernon Butler, defensive end Quinton Jefferson, and defensive back Josh Norman.
The Patriots are still favorites
The Patriots have won the division every year except 2003, but their dominance in the AFC East is, at least right now, in jeopardy.
Tom Brady has taken his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer are now the quarterbacks in New England. It’s been two full months since the start of free agency, and so far, the Patriots haven’t landed a big name at QB, either through the draft or free agency.
Despite the many question marks, the Patriots are still favored to win the division with odds of +115 at BetAmerica.
The Patriots defense last season allowed only 14.1 points per game, the lowest average of points against in the NFL. Perhaps their defense will give them a fighting chance on most Sundays, but it's fair to wonder whether their offense can do enough to win games.