AFC East Divisional Breakdown Recap for 2021 (Fantasy Football)

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With NFL football (finally) around the corner, the Fantasy Footballers are working through divisional deep dives! On the most recent episode, Andy, Mike, and Jason give an AFC East Breakdown.

We recap each team below. Keep reading for highlights on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, the team narrative beyond the wins and losses columns, fantasy options and ADPs, and the biggest questions for each team this year.

Editor’s Note: Looking for full statistical projections for the players on these teams? From Tua Tagovailoa‘s projected touchdown output to the outlook for the 2021 New York Jets, every team is statted out in full in the 2021 Ultimate Draft Kit!

Buffalo Bills

Head Coach: Sean McDermott

Offensive Coordinator: Brian Daboll

Offense

  • 2nd overall in points per game and total yards
  • 3rd overall in passing yards, 20th in rushing yards
  • Led the league in 3-WR sets and passing first downs
  • Led the league in percent of snaps with 4+ WRs on the field, after just 3 total snaps out of these sets in 2019

Defense

  • 17th against the run and 13th against the pass in 2020
  • 16th in points allowed

The Bills posted a 13-3 record in 2020 (overachieved against an expected win total of 9) and finished atop the AFC East.

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Schedule

  • First Four Matchups: vs PIT, @ MIA, vs WSH, vs HOU
  • 2021 Projected Vegas Win Total: 11, second only to the Chiefs

Current ADP

As Jason put it, 2020 was a ‘dream come true’ for Bills fans. The offensive numbers (through the air) were elite: Josh Allen became one of three QBs ever to throw for 4,000 yards and rush 100 times in a season, joining the ranks of rookie-year Cam Newton and 2015 Russell Wilson. Stefon Diggs led the league in targets, receptions, and receiving yards and saw 6+ receptions in all but one game; he is locked in as a top WR this year.

The question marks start after these two stud fantasy options. The Bills running back room doesn’t raise eyebrows: Andy and Mike prefer targeting Zack Moss as a late-round option, but don’t see much potential in the ground game (beyond Josh Allen‘s rushing output, that is). Cole Beasley, after soaking up targets in 2020, likely still has the inside track as the team’s number two pass catcher. Emmanuel Sanders was brought in to replace the loss of John Brown but doesn’t project to move the needle too much.

Jason does note that, after outlier seasons like 2020, a slight regression in passing production could be in the cards. This is especially salient given the high draft capital required to roster the Bills’ top options. The price might drop after the first few weeks: Buffalo opens the season against defensive stalwarts Pittsburgh, Miami, and Washington.

Biggest Fantasy Questions

  • 2020 was a ‘best case scenario’ for the Bills. Can they repeat at this level of output or will they take a step back?
  • This is a prolific offense with just two clear-cut studs; who will emerge outside of Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs as a viable fantasy asset?
Miami Dolphins

Head Coach: Brian Flores

Offensive Coordinator: Eric Studesbille / George Godsey, replacing Chan Gailey

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Offense

  • 15th overall in PPG
  • 22nd in total yards
  • 20th in pass yards, 22nd in rush yards

Defense

  • 16th against the run, 23rd against the pass
  • 6th in points against
  • Most turnovers generated in the NFL, although this stat isn’t usually sticky over time

The Dolphins had an impressive season, finishing 10-6 vs. an expected win total of 6. However, they had just one victory against a team with a winning record (LAR).

Schedule

  • First Four Matchups: @ NE, vs BUF, @ LV, vs IND
  • 2021 Projected Vegas Win Total: 9 wins

Current ADP

This was not a very exciting offense in 2020. Tua generally gets the flak, especially because he came in for free-wheeling Ryan Fitzpatrick and played conservatively. Still, it’s interesting to note that Tua had a higher percentage of throws past 20 yards than Fitzmagic (10% vs. 7.9%), which speaks to the general lack of boldness in the offense. Even when Tua threw the ball 58 times in the final game of the season he didn’t break the top 15 at the position.

This year Will Fuller V, Jaylen Waddle (drafted 6th overall), and TE Hunter Long (drafted 81st overall) were brought in to bolster the tepid passing attack. Further, the change in offensive coordinator implies that Miami wants to be a more explosive offense. As Jason puts it, this is a team where you have to call your shot; if Tua plays well and the team is more aggressive, this could be a very valuable offense.

At the other skill positions, Jason sees Myles Gaskin as an exciting player and a great pass-catcher but not a bona fide bell-cow back; Malcolm Brown’s involvement could soak up carries as well. In the TE slot, Mike Gesicki shows promise: he was tied for the most end zone targets at the position in 2020 and is currently in a contract year. Mike Wright projects Gesicki as a ‘fine’ option, but not fully a ‘difference-maker, based on the crowded wide receiver room and his reliance on touchdowns.

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Biggest Fantasy Questions

  • Is Tua a franchise QB? The team has provided him with plenty of weapons, and it’s all on Tua to show what he’s got this year.
  • Will the Dolphins actually be more explosive this season? Will they throw the ball downfield and try to rack up points?
New England Patriots

Head Coach: Bill Belichick

Offensive Coordinator: Josh McDaniels

Offense

  • 27th in PPG and total yards
  • 30th in passing yards, 31st in passing TDs
  • 4th in rushing yards, 6th in rushing TDs

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Defense

  • 26th against the rush, 8th against the pass
  • 7th in total points

The Patriots were 7-9 in 2020, finishing under .500 for the first time since 2000 (back when Y2K was a thing!).

Schedule

  • First Four Matchups: vs MIA, @ NYJ, vs NO, vs TB (!!)
  • 2021 Projected Vegas Win Total: 9 wins

Current ADP

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The post-Brady Patriots have, so far, been found wanting. The team ran the ball well last season but an often-injured Cam Newton had tremendous difficulty passing; the offense posted 80 fewer attempts in 2020 vs. 2019. Top wideout Jakobi Meyers scored zero touchdowns, and Patriots legend Julian Edelman has hung up his cleats.

Things may be looking up in 2021. Several key defensive players opted out last season because of COVID-19, and the Pats should have a much stronger unit on that side of the ball. Belichick was very active in free agency, bringing in the top two TEs on the market (much to the chagrin of the fantasy community): Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. QB Mac Jones was selected with the 15th overall pick, although it’s unclear when the offensive controls will be handed to the rookie this season (if at all).

Still, while the Ballers expect the Patriots to have a stronger actual NFL season, the fantasy options are still dubious. Goal-line rushing touchdowns will be siphoned off by Cam Newton as long as he is starting. Wideouts and tight ends will be catching passes from Cam or Mac – neither extremely exciting prospects at the moment – and playing on a team with a good defense and a coach who likely wants to grind out wins on the ground. The Patriots have never been an easy team to project for fantasy purposes; this year promises to be just as difficult and perhaps even less exciting than usual.

Biggest Fantasy Questions

  • When will Mac Jones take the helm? What does this imply for the offense?
  • This is a team with great rushing potential. Who will be the ‘tip of the spear’ for the New England rushing attack?
New York Jets

Head Coach: Robert Saleh replacing Adam Gase

Offensive Coordinator: Mike LaFleur replacing Dowell Loggains

Offense

  • Dead last in PPG and total yards
  • 31st in passing yards, 23rd in rushing yards
  • Their average team implied points total was just 17.9

Defense

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  • 12th against the run, 28th against the pass
  • 26th in points against

The New York Jets finished 2-14 last year, although their only two wins came against playoff teams (Browns and Rams). Incredibly, they had more regular-season wins against playoff teams than the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers (1).

Schedule

  • First Four Matchups: @ CAR, vs NE, @ DEN, vs TEN
  • 2021 Projected Vegas Win Total: 6.5 wins

Current ADP

After 722 days, the New York Jets finally ended the Adam Gase era. Each game featuring the Jets last year started with a Vegas point total under 50; they are the only team to earn this dubious honor.

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The Jets were a hot mess on offense and, technically, there is nowhere to go but up. Corey Davis and Tevin Coleman were brought in from free agency and the team drafted Zach Wilson and Michael Carter (who, currently being drafted as the RB40, has sleeper potential).

Still, it will be an uphill battle. The offensive line is ranked as 29th in the league by PFF; Zach Wilson is used to an elite O-line from his BYU career. The days of hoping for a Chris Herndon breakout at the TE slot are probably over. Michael Carter will likely rise in ADP as the camp ‘hype train’ continues to chug along, but the hit rate for 4th round (NFL draft) running backs is pretty measly.

Biggest Fantasy Questions

  • The Jets were very, very bad last year. Their top fantasy option for 2021, rookie RB Michael Carter, is being drafted in the ninth round. Can they turn it around in any meaningful way in 2021?

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