By Steve Tomasin
New England Patriots (+650)
Last Season (11-5)
The New England Patriots had a bit of an “off” year during the regular season in 2018. Usually the Pats are a lock for 12 wins per season. But despite this un-Patriot like year, they still managed to win another Super Bowl. The dynamic duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady continues to defy the odds and look to add to their dynasty this year.
Behind possibly the greatest quarterback in NFL history, the Patriots did what they always seem to do, beat opponents with a balanced attack through the air and on the ground. Rookie running back Sony Michel (first round - Georgia) ran efficiently with a 4.5 yards/carry average. Pass catching specialist running back James White also experienced a breakout year. Fun loving tight end Rob Gronkowski, was banged up all year. He only appeared in 13 games and was limited to starting only 11 games. Gronk has decided to hang up the cleats and retired in the offseason. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots offense looks in the post-Gronk era. Trusted wide receiver Julian Edelman is still around and presumably healthy this year. However, there are a gaggle of “just a guy” wide receivers and tight ends who will need to step up.
Final Thoughts: If anyone can turn a bunch of nobodies into productive NFL players, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady can.
As usual, the New England Patriots defense bent but didn’t break. They were great against the run (11th in yards and 2nd in TDs allowed) but just OK against the pass (22nd in yards and 20th in TDs allowed). The Patriots fought injuries throughout the defense at different points in the year. This year, the Pats brought back veteran defensive end Michael Bennett from the Philadelphia Eagles. Bennett should solidify a much better pass rushing unit to improve upon the defensive pass rankings from 2018.
Final Thoughts: The Pats defense is susceptible to giving up points during periods throughout the year, but usually step up when it really matters.
Betting Outlook (Preseason)
Benefitting from one of the worst divisions in football, the New England Patriots are always a good bet to outperform their win totals, no matter how high they might be set. Same goes for their Super Bowl odds. Despite having the worst odds, there is a reason for that as they are constantly playing in the big game.
Miami Dolphins (+15000)
Last Season (7-9)
In a forgettable 2018 season, the Miami Dolphins have made quite a few changes in order to hopefully stop toiling in mediocrity. Former head coach Adam Gase is gone to the Meadowlands, now coaching the division rival New York Jets. Many believe the Dolphins are taking a “tanking” approach to improve down the line. But if 2018 taught us anything, it is possible to win 7 games behind the likes of quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler.
Long time starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was shown the door along with coach Gase. The Miami Dolphins brought in journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and traded for quarterback Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals. Rosen will be heading into his second year and news out of training camp has Fitzmagic well ahead in the QB competition. The Dolphins have a stable of young talent at running back, including last year’s disappointment Kenyan Drake. Drake wasn’t fully utilized by the previous offensive regime and may get the chance to be the lead bell cow this year. Wide receiver DeVante Parker was signed for two more years. His talent is undeniable and the new coaching staff hopes he can fully reach his potential and also stay healthy.
Final Thoughts: The interception machine that is Ryan Fitzpatrick may set the Dolphins up for what they ultimately are hoping for: a top-3 pick in the 2020 draft.
The Miami Dolphins were bad on defense in just about every category imaginable. They drafted a top defensive tackle in Christian Wilkins from Clemson, hoping to start somewhere and plug up the running lanes. The Dolphins have some talented, youthful players in their linebacking core and secondary, including cornerback/safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. But those players will need some top notch coaching to play together as a unit.
Final Thoughts: One top draft pick on the interior defensive line does not fix a defense. I would expect more of the same bad play from the 2018 season.
Betting Outlook (Preseason)
The Miami Dolphins are amongst the worst teams in terms of both Super Bowl odds and win totals. I might take a hail mary on them winning more games than they are projected, but no chance they make a Super Bowl run.
Buffalo Bills (+10000)
Last Season (6-10)
After making their first playoff appearance in almost 20 years in 2017, the Buffalo Bills came crashing back to reality when their magic carriage turned back into a pumpkin in 2018. Head coach Sean McDermott had the defense continuing to play decently, but the offense was among the worst in the league.
The Buffalo Bills were actually an OK running team, ranking 9th in yards and 11th in TDs scored. Behind aging veteran LeSean McCoy, who returns as the lead back in 2019, the Bills should be able to effectively run the ball. The passing attack is what needs to severely improve. Second year quarterback Josh Allen showed great athleticism and was a great rushing threat himself. However, delivering accurate downfield passes proved to be difficult. Allen has one of the strongest arms in the league, but will need much help to better the Bills bottom three offense. Newly signed wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley will work with third year wideout Zay Jones to bring Josh Allen along.
Final Thoughts: It could get worse before it gets better for the Bills "O". They have attempted to get some weapons but the key lies with Allen improving his QB ability.
Playing good defense has always been synonymous with professional football in Buffalo. Despite some really bad records over the years, the Buffalo Bills usually have an average/above average defense. This was the story in 2018, ranking 18th in overall team defense. Rookie linebacker Trumaine Edmunds is going to be an elite player for years to come. The Bills secondary is also one of their strong points. Where they, and many other NFL teams, lack is in the pass rush. The Bills are hoping top 2019 pick defensive tackle/end Ed Oliver out of Houston will fix that problem.
Final Thoughts: With an incredibly balanced defense, the Buffalo Bills should creep back closer to the top 10 range in overall defense in 2019.
Betting Outlook (Preseason)
“Defense wins championships” This couldn’t be proven more false than in the case of the Buffalo Bills. Despite having a good D, the offense is just nowhere close to putting the Bills into winning contention. I wouldn’t expect much success from the Bills to exceed their win total and definitely not to win the Super Bowl. If I’ve got any action on them it will most likely be on the unders of a few of their games this year.
New York Jets (+8000)
Last Season (4-12 )
Despite drafting one of the big name rookie quarterbacks, Sam Darnold, in 2018, the New York Jets stunk yet again. Head Coach Todd Bowles was fired and the Jets decided to bring in Adam Gase from the division rival Miami Dolphins to lead them in 2019. Running back Le’Veon Bell signed an enormous contract and will be the star of the Jets offense.
Time will tell how the Le’Veon Bell contract works out for the Jets, but history says "not well". Le’Veon was also a touch monster in Pittsburgh for the Steelers; while Adam Gase-run offenses usually are a bit slower paced and run less plays. Heading into his second year, quarterback Sam Darnold has reportedly progressed well and could experience a bit of a breakout season.
Final Thoughts: Bell brings high expectations for the Jets offense but they still might not have the right coaching staff to unleash the talent in the best way possible.
When a team only wins four games, that means you don’t have a very good defense. This was absolutely true for the New York Jets. A poor pass rush and no run defense allowed opposing offenses to feast on the Jets in 2018. However, the Jets used their 3rd overall pick on Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams who can stuff up running lanes. The Jets also made another big name free agent signing on the defensive side of the ball. Star linebacker CJ Mosely joins the team after establishing his resume with the Baltimore Ravens for the past five years.
Final Thoughts: Things are looking much brighter for the Jets on the defensive side of the ball. They should see a finish more in the mid-high teens in overall defense.
Betting Outlook (Preseason)
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets outperform their projected season win total with an improved defense and young, talented offense. A Super Bowl run would be very unlikely.