New England Patriots (12-4)
A massive tail spin over the last six weeks of the season left the Patriots at 12-4, the #2 seed in the AFC. A plethora of injuries hindered the high-powered offense as Dion Lewis, LeGarrette Blount, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman all missed extended time as the main skill position players. The defense was the surprising strength of this team, led by Malcolm Butler, Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower. The Brady/Belichick era seems to age with no loss off success as the Patriots look for yet another championship.
New York Jets (10-6)
Entering Week 17, the New York Jets needed to defeat the Buffalo Bills. Unable to do so, the Jets missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season. First year coach Todd Bowles made great strides with this team, but came up short. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall combined for one of the best duos in the league as they both hauled in over a dozen touchdowns. The defense was stong, led by Darrelle Revis, Mo Wilkerson, and Sheldon Richardson. The loss of Wilkerson in Week 17 to a broken leg leaves his future with the team in jeopardy, but the Jets have a promising future.
Buffalo Bills (8-8)
First year coach Rex Ryan missed the playoffs yet again, but won a major game against the Jets to keep them out of the post-season. The Bills were hindered by LeSean McCoy’s nagging injuries all-season, but Sammy Watkins passed 1,000 yards on the season despite having only 147 yards through 8 weeks. The defense was strong (as expected), but Mario Williams was rendered ineffective by their shift to the 3-4. Rookie Ronald Darby was a huge bright spot for this team as he looks to be one of the bright young stars in this league. Had the Bills not lost Tyrod Taylor for games in the middle of the season, they may have pushed for a playoff spot. With Rex Ryan back for another season, a few good off-season moves could push them into the post-season.
Miami Dolphins (6-10)
Dismissing coach Joe Philbin part of the way through the season, changes will be coming for the Miami Dolphins. Big signing Ndamukong Suh had an underwhelming season given his contract. Lamar Miller struggled early, but came on strong after the coaching change. Committed to Ryan Tannehill for the next five years, the Texas A&M graduate failed to make the step the team had hoped. The future is not completely dim as Jarvis Landry set a record pace through his first two seasons for receptions, and first year wide out Devonta Parker looked strong in the few games he did play. A victory over the Patriots in Week 17 gives promise to what this team can do in the future, but the selection of a new head coach needs to be more successful than the last time through.
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