The AFC East race came down to the wire last season, with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills pulling ahead of Mac Jones and the New England Patriots at the end of the regular season to earn their second straight AFC East crown. Things got even juicer in the playoffs, with Allen’s offense posting the NFL’s first-ever “perfect” offensive game, scoring a touchdown on Bill Belichick’s defense each and every drive and eliminating New England from the postseason. Buffalo went on to lose an overtime thriller to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the next round, but the new order has certainly been established: the Buffalo Bills are the team to beat in the AFC East.
The Miami Dolphins had a rollercoaster season and an outside shot at the playoffs last season, starting 1-7 but winning eight straight games and finishing 9-8. Miami made a slew of offensive improvements in the offseason, highlighted by acquiring former Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and could definitely be a team to watch in 2022.
After finishing 4-13 last season, the New York Jets may have already it rock bottom, as a strong draft class and free agent signees will help Zach Wilson and Robert Saleh finish with a better record in their second seasons with the team.
How will the AFC East shake out in the 2022-23 season? Read on for my predictions, and if you’d like to debate or discuss any predictions, join the conversation with @SakSports on Twitter.
1. Buffalo Bills (13-4)
The Buffalo Bills enjoyed a very strong season in 2021, finishing hot to win the AFC East at 11-6 while scoring the third-most points in the NFL and owning the league’s best point differential (+194.) Josh Allen, who I consider to be the most talented all-around quarterback in the NFL, threw for 36 passing touchdowns and ran for another six scores as he commanded Buffalo’s high-flying offense.
The Bills did let Cole Beasley walk in the offseason despite his dependable play in the passing game, but Buffalo is not without receiving threats: in addition to perennial Top 10-wide receiver Stefon Diggs, youngsters Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie have evolved in to solid options for Allen’s passing attack.
Buffalo’s defense can play some smash mouth football and win games for the Bills, and they allowed an NFL-low 17.0 points per game last season. But this year, the defense could be even stronger, with the addition of former Broncos and Rams Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller.
Throw in a decent draft class, and I think the Bills should be even better in 2022. I’m obviously high on this roster’s prospects: I ranked Josh Allen as the #1 quarterback in the NFL and the Bills as the best team in the NFL heading in to the preseason. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that I have the Bills winning the AFC East at 13-4: a two-win improvement from last season. Furthermore, without spoiling too many of my other predictions, my projected 13-4 record gives Buffalo the #1 seed in the AFC and ties with one other team for the NFL’s best regular season record in 2022-23.
Buffalo had a heart-breaking overtime loss to the Chiefs last postseason, but could be primed for a deeper playoff run this year.
2. Miami Dolphins (9-8)
By pretty much every measure, the Miami Dolphins got better this offseason. Miami shored up their offensive line with Terron Armstead, giving Tua Tagovailoa more time to hit his new marquee target: Tyreek Hill. The Dolphins backfield will also feature the new additions of Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. Jaylen Waddle and Cedrick Wilson Jr. round out a talented receiving corps, and Miami even brought in Teddy Bridgewater, one of the most reliable backup/step up when called upon quarterbacks the league has to offer.
Make no mistake, Miami will be a more competitive, more complete team in 2022. Unfortunately, in a crowded AFC field, I wasn’t able to increase the Dolphins year-to-year win total, and the Dolphins miss the playoffs by one game in my projections.
Instead of the obscure 1-7 start to 9-8 finish the Dolphins had last season, I think Miami will be a decent, sometimes good, team for the whole season this year. This absolutely means Miami will be in the playoff mix in the final month of the season, and if I only have them missing the postseason by one game, it’s certainly possible they sneak in.
But the reasons I’m not sold on the Dolphins taking a significant leap in 2022-23 include:
- Not sure how high Tua Tagovailoa’s ceiling is as an NFL quarterback
- Not sure Tyreek Hill can carry an offense without Patrick Mahomes
- Miami’s defense was middle-of-the-road in 2021 (21.9 PPG allowed) and most offseason improvements were spent on offense
The Dolphins could definitely make a push for a wildcard spot this season, but I have them just on the outside for at least one more year.
3. New England Patriots (8-9)
In their second season post-Tom Brady, the New England Patriots finished 10-7 and earned a wildcard berth, but fizzled out towards the end of the season and lost both the AFC East title and their Wildcard playoff matchup to the rival Buffalo Bills. While I don’t like to bet against Bill Belichick, New England doesn’t seem to have gotten much better in the offseason, and may actually take a step back in 2022.
The Patriots got a necessary upgrade in wide receiver DeVante Parker, adding talent to a mixed bag of wide receivers including Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, and Nelson Agholor. Damien Harris is talented but not quite an every down kind of running back, but my biggest gripe with the Patriots offense might just be Mac Jones. He definitely can produce some decent results in Belichick’s offense, but much like Tagovailoa, I don’t think his ceiling is too much higher than his current level of play.
New England lost starting guard Shaq Mason and starting cornerback J.C. Jackson in the offseason as well, and drafted a class of prospects which many experts considered reaches. It could be Belichick’s genius at work again, or maybe, just maybe, the Patriots aren’t the powerhouse they once were without Brady at quarterback.
In this prediction, the Patriots miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons without Brady, but still post a pretty respectable record.
4. New York Jets (6-11)
The New York Jets will be better in 2022 than they were in 2021, thanks to a ton of cap room utilized in free agency and a plethora of draft picks used to improve multiple positions of interest. 6-11 might not seem like a great record, but for this Jets team, entering year two with head coach Robert Saleh, it will mean a step forward.
The Jets already suffered a scare with Zach Wilson’s knee injury, but luckily it turned out to be a 2-4 week injury as opposed to a season-ending ACL injury. To be frank, losing Wilson even for the entire season only would have changed the Jets win total by a couple of wins, as with every other quarterback in the AFC East not named Josh Allen, I’m not sold on Wilson as a franchise quarterback.
But Wilson does have the tool to lead the Jets to a better record than the 3-10 mark he personally posted in 2021. On Wilson’s side of the ball, the Jets added free agent tight ends Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah, 10th overall pick and wide receiver Garrett Wilson, and running back Bryce Hall, the first running back selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. New York’s defense is looking better too, with free agent cornerback D.J. Reed, cornerback Sauce Gardener (#4 pick in the draft), and edge-rusher Jermaine Johnson II (#26 pick in the draft.)
New York will be better on both sides of the ball, and though I only added two wins to their 4-13 finish from last season, the team won’t be as much of a pushover or laughing stock, and even has the chance to be the best team in MetLife Stadium this season.
2022-23 NFL Predictions
Previous AFC East Predictions
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- One-Year Prediction: Top Ten Super Bowl 57 Contenders
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- Top Landing Spots for Jimmy Garoppolo in 2022 and 2023
- Las Vegas Raiders Will Work Out Colin Kaepernick, Per Reports
- 8 Potential Trade Destinations for Deebo Samuel
- Denver Broncos Acquire Russell Wilson from Seattle Seahawks in League-Changing Trade
- NFL 2021: Playoff Bracket and Super Bowl 56 Matchup
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: Playoffs and Super Bowl
- New York Giants Hire Bills Assistant GM Joe Schoen as General Manager
- New York Giants Fire Joe Judge After Two Seasons, 10-23 Record
- One-Year Prediction: Top Ten Super Bowl 56 Contenders
- Eli Manning is a Sure-Fire Hall of Famer
- BREAKING: Kyrie Irving Likely to Test Free Agency, Lakers and Knicks Top Destinations
- 2022 NBA Finals Prediction: Boston Celtics vs. Golden State Warriors
- 2022 Eastern Conference Finals Prediction: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics
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- Grizzlies Beat Thunder by NBA Record 73 Points in 152-79 Win
- Top Ten Players Heading Into the 2021-22 NBA Season
- 2021-22 NBA Predictions: Playoffs and NBA Finals
- 2021-22 NBA Predictions: Western Conference
- 2021-22 NBA Predictions: Eastern Conference
- Grading the Lakers-Wizards Russell Westbrook Trade
- 2020-21 NBA Standings, Playoffs, NBA Finals Predictions
- Top Ten Players Heading Into the 2020-21 NBA Season
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Header Photo (L-R): ESPN, Michael Reaves/Getty Images