The AFC East is arguably the best division in the NFL.
The NFC East is pretty good. So is the AFC West. The AFC North has a couple battle-tested teams, too. But when you look at the quality of the coaching, the starting quarterbacks, etc., the AFC East is pretty impressive.
The Buffalo Bills have won the division three straight years, and they are favored to extend that streak. But they will face difficult competition from the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.
While each of these four teams have a path to double-digit wins and a potential playoff berth, they all have genuine concerns as well.
In the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, our insider Tom E. Curran hosted an AFC East roundtable with one reporter who covers each of New England's division rivals: Omar Kelly of Sports Illustrated (Dolphins), Rich Cimini of ESPN (Jets) and Sal Maiorana of the Democrat and Chronicle (Bills).
Curran asked each of them to explain the main concern with the team they cover.
New York Jets
"Without question their two offensive tackles," Cimini said. "It's been a narrative all summer. Duane Brown is 38 years old. He's coming off shoulder surgery and didn't play in the preseason. Their right tackle is Mekhi Becton, who's got a ton of talent, but he basically hasn't played in two full years because of two knee surgeries. When they're healthy, I think they'll be OK, but durability is a major question. (Aaron) Rodgers, he's 39 going on 40. He's got to be kept upright. That's a concern."
"I think we're right there with Rich in terms of settling the left side of the offensive line right now," Kelly said. "Terron Armstead, he was lucky and fortunate enough that it was just an ankle sprain and nothing more serious that he suffered in joint practices with the Houston Texans. But this is a guy who barely practiced last season to play games and somehow made it to a Pro Bowl season.
"So I think we're probably going to be looking at a do-over again where this guy just shows up to gameday after doing a walkthrough on Friday and has to play the season. And then their left guard spot, it's inherited right now by Isaiah Wynn, a former 40-game starter for the New England Patriots ... He hasn't really won them over. But Liam Eichenberg, Christian Wilkins was the Grinch who stole his confidence and he just proved that he wasn't the starting caliber player and is probably in transition moving to center for the future.
"So offensive line -- it's got to get stabilized, but I think they're better from a run-blocking standpoint. But you know what your situation is with Tua (Tagovailoa); he's a quarterback that absolutely has to be protected, and it'll be interesting to see if they can do that."
More Patriots coverage
"There's no doubt it's middle linebacker," Maiorana said. "I mean, they lost Tremaine Edmunds. They were never going to pay him what he ended up getting from the Bears. But the Bills did a poor job of replacing him. For whatever reason, they went into training camp thinking that one of Tyrel Dodson, a journeyman, Terrel Bernard, an undersized third-round pick from 2021, and then A.J. Klein was over the hill -- they somehow believed one of those three guys was going to step up in camp and the preseason and win the job. And none of them did. None of them really played well. So that's going to be a big situation. Tremaine Edmunds did so much in coverage. He's so big and long, and they don't have that anymore.
"I think what you're going to see, and we've been talking about this a lot, they signed Taylor Rapp, who was a very good safety for the Rams, a Super Bowl champ. I think you're going to see the Bills going to some dime defense this year on passing downs. They're going to have (Matt) Milano on the field. And I think Taylor Rapp is going to be in there as sort of the middle linebacker covering that middle zone, because I don't think any of the guys they have on the roster can do that job at middle linebacker. So no doubt middle linebacker."
Also in this episode: The AFC East roundtable debates whether teams fear the Patriots anymore, they rank the four starting QBs, and they debate if Bill Belichick remains the best head coach in the division.