The AFC East has long been dominated by the New England Patriots, but after the departure of Tom Brady, and resurgence of the Bills and Dolphins, the division has flipped. The Patriots now find themselves with the New York Jets as the two worst teams in the division. After each team drafted, and now plans to start a rookie quarterback, anything seems possible this year.
Let’s take a look back at the Jets and Patriots 2020 seasons, and look forward to how each could be more competitive going into their 2021 campaign.
A couple years removed from winning the Super Bowl in the 2018 season, the Patriots finished the 2020 season with a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since Matt Cassel was under center for the majority of the season in 2008.
While no one could likely expect another Super Bowl appearance from last year’s Patriots, many were disappointed in the play from former MVP quarterback Cam Newton. Perhaps more surprising was that New England’s defense, usually one of the best in the league, struggled throughout the season.
A Lackluster receiving core did little to help Newton move the ball downfield. The QB did have success on the ground running in 12 TDs, but his success through the air was limited throwing only 8 TD’s and 10 picks.
The Mac Jones era begins. After the surprising release of Cam Newton, it will be the rookie from Alabama who starts under center for the Patriots. Jones has shown promise during the preseason, but rookies are known to struggle mightily throughout their first season in the NFL.
Many Covid opt-outs return to New England in 2021, but still, this roster isn’t full of the world beating talent that it once had. The tight end position has been upgraded with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. The wide receiver core is still questionable employing Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers as their top two options.
This Patriots team might be even more unpredictable than last season’s. The AFC East competition has only gotten better, and I see New England struggling to return to playoff form. My best guess for the 2021 season is another 3rd place finish with a 9-8 record.
TE Jonnu Smith
LB Mathew Judon
WR Nelson Agholor
The New York Jets had a season last year that fans and personnel alike would like to forget. They started the season with 13 straight losses, had injuries to key players like Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell, and eventually ended up releasing Bell in October.
They finished the season 2-14, which ultimately meant they would miss out on Trevor Lawrence and the number one pick in the draft. After week 12, Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams was fired. Following the end of the season, Head Coach Adam Gase was also let go.
From top to bottom, the Jets may be the team with the most new faces this season. It starts at the top with Robert Saleh, who left the Defensive Coordinator position in San Francisco to be New York’s newest Head Coach.
With last year’s QB traded to the Panthers, and Trevor Lawrence almost a lock to go #1 in the draft, it was a question as to who the Jets would take as their 2021 starter. It ended up being Zach Wilson out of BYU who was taken by the Jets with the second pick. Although he’s only seen preseason action, Wilson has impressed thus far and may be exactly what the team needs.
The O-line still looks shaky at every spot except for left tackle, where Mekhi Becton holds down the blindside. Corey Davis is the biggest weapon Wilson will have at wide receiver, and TE Chris Herndon will look to finally play to his full potential.
Saleh will have to transform one of the worst defenses in the league. The team is especially weak at cornerback and the front office has done little to address this deficiency. Opposing wide receivers will likely fly down the field against the Jets.
The 2021 New York Jets will be better than the 2020 edition. It’d be hard for them to be worse. However, they still play in a tough position and are rolling out a rookie QB and Head Coach. I see them finishing last again in the AFC East with a respectable 7-10 record.
WR Corey Davis
DE Carl Lawson
DT Sheldon Rankins
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