Tha Sports Junkies 101

2016 AFC East Projected Order of Finish

Keith Allison via Flickr

Team Name: Miami Dolphins

2015 Record: 6-10 (4th)


Major Addition: Laremy Tunsil

 The Dolphins got arguably the best player in the 2016 NFL Draft when they selected Laremy Tunsil with the 13th pick that they acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tunsil is a physical specimen, measuring in at an impressive 6’5” and 305 lbs. It was widely-assumed that he would be the top non-quarterback taken in the draft, until a video was released moments before the draft on his social media accounts that showed Tunsil smoking a gasmask bong. It was revealed that his account had been hacked, but that put enough questions in the heads of twelve other teams to either move him down their boards, or remove him completely.

The rookie guard will be an intimidating presence from day one on the Miami line. He will eventually move over and become the left tackle of the future, but he will play along savvy veterans Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey.

This will improve their offense from top to bottom. With Ryan Tannehill still trying to find his way, and a second-year running back expected to carry the load in Jay Ajayi, having stability across the board will improve them from top to bottom. Buying Tannehill more time in the pocket should also improve the performance of the Dolphins young, but talented receiving corps of Jarvis Landry, Devante Parker, and Kenny Stills.

Look for Tunsil to establish himself as one of the premier guards in the league before he makes the move to tackle. He’s a truly special player.


Major Loss: Olivier Vernon

This was an easy one. The Dolphins lost arguably the best player on their defense, and it’s going to hurt.

Vernon signed a massive contract with the New York Giants that weighed in at an astounding six years, $85 million. Vernon earned himself a record-breaking $52.5 million in guaranteed money.

The loss of Vernon will severely impact their ability to get after the quarterback. With two aging edge rushers in Cameron Wake and Mario Williams, there is a good chance the Dolphins, who lost top cornerback Brent Grimes, will struggle to remain in games in a tough division. They acquired Byron Maxwell in their deal with Philadelphia, but he was less than impressive after moving away from the Legion of Boom. It will be interesting to see if he is able to bounce back in a new system.

Look for the loss of Vernon to negatively impact the Miami defense across the board in the 2016 season. They will likely have a chance to draft a top-tier pass rusher in the 2017 draft.




My favorite part of this Dolphins team is their young, talented wide receivers. They are stacked, with three quality players that could make them one of the best passing attacks in the league, if Tannehill is able to take a step forward, and the line is solidified by the addition of Laremy Tunsil.

Jarvis Landry is known for his ability to run quality routes and make acrobatic catches, as he’s displayed in practices and pre-game warm ups since he entered the league. The LSU product could become a legitimate go-to receiver in his third year in the league.

Devante Parker and Kenny Stills are both capable number two’s that use their combination of speed and size to beat defenders. While they play in a strong, defensive division, I think this group can be a strong force that would create headaches for opposing players.


2016 Projection:


The Dolphins are a team full of potential, and that’s about it. Their quarterback situation has been less than desirable, as Ryan Tannehill has not taken the steps necessary to become the franchise caliber quarterback they hoped he would be. They are weak at linebacker and in the secondary, as well.

Ultimately, I just don’t see this team being strong enough defensively or being able to put up enough points to win many games. They have a tough schedule highlighted by matchups with the Seahawks, Bengals, Steelers, and Cardinals. Oh, they also play the Patriots twice a year, and stingy Jets and Bills teams.


Good luck to the Dolphins, they’ll need it.

Record: 5-11



Team Name: Buffalo Bills

2015 Record: 8-8


Major Addition:

Shaq Lawson


The Bills actually have a fairly solid defense, but Shaq Lawson, their first round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft will help them take the steps necessary to being a top unit in the league.


Rex Ryan’s teams will always have a ‘get after the quarterback at all costs’ mentality, and a pass rusher of Lawson’s caliber will help them alleviate some of the pressure on a group of cornerbacks who lost Leodis McKelvin to free agency. While Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore have established themselves as one of the top young cornerback duos in the league, they are lacking depth at the position.



Major Loss: Mario Williams


While he had a down season in 2015, recording only 5.0 sacks in 15 games, Mario Williams is one of the top pass rushers of the last decade, and simply put, that’s hard to replace.


They will look for Lawson to replace his production, and he may, but likely not right away. Williams signed a deal to play for the Bills divisional rivals down in Miami, so they’ll learn whether or not they made the correct move fairly soon.


The loss of production in the pass rush could expose a secondary and linebacker core that lost Leodis McKelvin and Nigel Bradham to the Philadelphia Eagles.


Like Williams, the Bills will attempt to replace Bradham with a rookie. It will likely be second round pick Reggie Ragland, a linebacker from the University of Alabama.





The Bills are in a tough spot. They’re in a division that is home to some of the best defense in the league, and they aren’t sure where they stand. They’re trying to find out if Tyrod Taylor is their quarterback of the future, and if the pieces they’ve added in the off season are good enough to put them over the edge. My guess is that he isn’t the answer, and while those pieces are certainly capable players, Lawson is the only one with potential to be a game changer.

This should be the year that Sammy Watkins establishes himself among the rest of the top young wide receivers in the league. He’s been impressive so far at a glance, but he hasn’t necessarily been what the Bills expected when they paid a small fortune to move up and select him with the fourth pick in the 2014 draft.


Watkins has had two seasons with over 1,000 yards, but has not experienced the complete “break-out” season that many have expected. Being drafted ahead of players like Odell Beckham Jr. and Allen Robinson has it’s downside, and if Watkins doesn’t put up a monster stat line soon, he may begin to hear about it.


2016 Projection:


The Bills are a mediocre team in a strong division. The AFC East could send two teams to the playoffs, and I have the Patriots and Jets ranked ahead of them. Simply put, they’re more complete teams, and I don’t think the Bills have the ability to keep up. An improved defense could put them in contention with the Jets for a second place finish, but it’ll be tough for them to do.



Record: 7-9


Team Name: New York Jets

2015 Record: 10-6



Major Addition: Christian Hackenberg

The young Penn State product really had to choice but to leave after suffering through the inexcusable negligence by head coach James Franklin towards his teams offense.

Hackenberg was a five star recruit coming out of Fork Union Military Academy; the same school that produced 13 other first-round picks. It’s extremely easy to see why scouts and coaches fell in love with him. Standing at 6’4” and 228 lbs, ‘Hack’ possesses ideal size to play the position. When you take that into consideration and add in top-tier arm strength and above average pocket mobility, you get a highly touted prospect.

In his first year at Penn State, Hackenberg added to the praise that he received just several years earlier. Projected to be the first pick in the draft when he declared, he was on top of the world.

When Bill O’Brien left to coach the Houston Texans, he took Hackenberg’s future with him. Playing behind a neglected offensive line, and with subpar skill players, he struggled and played with fear in the back of his mind.

The Jets were able to see the skill set that he possesses, and selected him with the 51st pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

While he may take more time than other top-talent players to develop, due to his lack of development over the past two seasons, he should be able to play in this league. He’s more talented than Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, the two likely candidates for the starting job this year.

Regardless if he plays or not, Hackenberg should be the most impactful player the Jets have selected in the past few drafts.



Major Loss: Damon “Snacks” Harrison

 The New York Jets appeared to be trending in the right direction following the 2015 season. They finished 10-6 and were very close to making a playoff appearance. They built their team around a strong defense, a power run game, and the ability to accurately throw the ball to many different short to intermediate route combinations.

Damon Harrison was the type of defensive tackle  they needed. He didn’t wow anyone, but he was good enough to make the Jets a dangerous team. He isn’t the first defensive lineman that comes to mind when you think ‘irreplaceable’ but his loss could potentially be substantial for this season.

The Jets have some aging players in their secondary, and they had a decent chance to win right now.

Keep in mind, they lost players with more talent, such as D’Brickashaw Ferguson .

Update: Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets have agreed to a one year, $12 million deal this afternoon. 




The way that Todd Bowles has coached this team makes it possible for them to repeat what they did last season, and that may be good enough to get them into the playoffs. They’ll continue to play strong defense, with one of the best fronts in the league, and an impressive secondary.

Whether or not their run game will take some of the pressure off of their quarterback with the addition of Matt Forte remains to be seen, but that will likely be the goal. Forte has a lot experience being a workhorse, but his age has seemingly factored in to his performances over the last few seasons.


2016 Projection:

The New York Jets will fall short of the playoffs with Fitzpatrick resigned. *Now that he has signed, things will be brighter for the Jets. While the idea of younger, more talented players may appeal to Jets faithful, it doesn’t normally work out for young quarterbacks.


Record: 8-8




Team Name: New England Patriots

2015 Record: 12-4


Major Addition: Chris Long

The Patriots traded star pass rusher Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals for interior lineman Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick.

Losing a player like Jones is detrimental to any team, but Chris Long could help their pass rush situation. He has 54.5 career sacks and should help an already impressive defensive line.


Major Loss: Tom Brady

Ok, so Brady will only miss four games, and there’s a good chance that the Patriots can go .500 during those with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. But, what if they don’t?

Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback of all time, and certainly the best player in Patriots history. If the Patriots don’t impress at the beginning of the year, it could be devastating to their success.

When Brady gets back, it’s likely that he’ll regain his form, but as an aging quarterback, getting in a rhythm is more important than ever. You don’t want Tom Brady to have to get comfortable playing football again. Knowing how committed to the game Brady is, that’s unlikely, but just the possibility of having that happen, and the ramifications of that happening are enough to make his loss the most significant of the year.

Yes, even if it’s just for the first four games.



The Patriots could very well struggle early on. They’re scheduled to play Arizona, Miami, Houston, and Buffalo the first four weeks. They could easily go 2-2 or 1-3 in those games if Garoppolo isn’t ready to roll.

Luckily for them, Brady returns against arguably the weakest team in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns. That should give him a chance to find his groove, and win a game at less than full strength.

They’ll probably go on a roll and they will win the AFC East, probably by a good margin.

Prepare to see what life will be like after the Hall of Famer hangs up his cleats, though. It could be encouraging to see the long-deemed quarterback of the future shine for the Patriots in his first real, significant NFL games, or it could be absolutely horrifying.

Hurry back 12, the NFL needs you.


2016 Projection:

My prediction is the Patriots go 2-2 in their first four. After that, they will probably go on a run with an angry, intense Tom Brady. I feel bad for anyone that has to play him in the weeks following his return.

They will rely on their strong defense while he is gone, but once Terrific Tom returns, the show is his, as always.


Record: 11-5, winners of the AFC East