The AFC East looks like a competitive division in 2022 and it will be – for second place. Defending division champ Buffalo should have gone to the Super Bowl last season and even in the brutal AFC, the Bills are my pick to represent the conference this year.
Miami will be improved and New England is hard to figure, while the Jets will be more competitive than they’ve been in years.
Here are my 2022 ManoPicks:
Buffalo Bills (14-3)
Mistakes by the coaching staff led to the stunning loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs last year, but it’s important to remember that for most of that game, Buffalo was the better team.
The loss will only motivate the Bills this season and I expect superstar quarterback Josh Allen to have his best season yet. That will be something for Allen, who in 2021 accounted for more than 5,000 yards and 42 touchdowns.
The Bills said bye to a couple of fading receivers, but Allen will not miss a beat with Isaiah McKenzie, Gabriel Davis and veteran Jamison Crowder. The backfield will use a committee approach but I like Zack Moss and second-round draft pick James Cook (Georgia) is showing he is an effective receiver.
The defense was very good last year and will get a boost with the signing of linebacker Von Miller. The secondary is young but talented. With the power of the Bills offense, the defense just needs to be solid, and it will be. Barring injury, the Bills figure to be one of the league’s elite teams.
Miami Dolphins (10-7)
I’m certainly not a Tua Tagovailoa hater. He’s a pretty good player and the Dolphins definitely added to their offensive firepower in the offseason, trading for Chiefs star Tyreek Hill and signing Cedrick Wilson Jr. away from Dallas. That’s going to help Jaylen Waddle, one of the league’s most exciting players who caught 104 passes last year, a rookie record. Miami also upgraded its offensive line by signing free agent left tackle Terron Armstead from New Orleans. Running back Raheem Mostert was a nice p ickup.
It’s all there for Tagovailoa and the question is whether he will prove to be a decent NFL starting quarterback or a great one. It’s just hard to have much confidence that he has what it takes to surpass Allen and the Bills. I like to judge these things by ranking the quarterbacks in the division and in my book Tagovailoa is probably in third place behind Allen and Mac Jones of the Patriots.
New England Patriots (8-9)
No current coach in the league has won more Super Bowls than Bill Belichick, but the number he has won without Tom Brady remains zero. Jones has been a surprise at quarterback, a smart player who takes what the defense gives and has a better arm than most realize. But I have more confidence in Jones than I do in offensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who was a disaster as a head coach in Detroit, is a defensive coach to begin with – he has not been on an offensive staff since 2005. Belichick choosing Patricia to run his offense is going to end up being a mistake.
The Patriots have had a weird offseason, capped by a weird draft in which they stunned everyone by taking Tennessee-Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange in the first round. Look for the loss of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel’s, now the head coach in Las Vegas, to be the primary reason the Patriots take a step back from last season’s 10 wins.
New York Jets (6-11)
The Jets had the worst defense in the league last year but in the final month of the season this looked like a team on the way up. Quarterback Zach Wilson started to show his talent, the Jets went toe-to-toe with Buffalo, Miami and Tampa Bay, dropping three close games.
New York then had its second consecutive excellent draft, landing major upgrades with cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall. Look for all three to get playing time right away, with Gardner the most likely to emerge earliest.
Second-year coach Robert Saleh has this team on the way up. If QB Wilson continues to progress from what he showed the last month of the 2021 season, it would not be a shock to see the Jets overtake the Patriots.