A look at some betting angles for the AFC East in 2021.
The favorite: Bills
Once ruled by the New England Patriots, the AFC East has a new favorite in the Buffalo Bills. At -150 at BetMGM, the price implies Buffalo has a 60 percent chance to win this division, and it is hard to quarrel with that. Should Josh Allen maintain his level from last season, in which he completed 69.2 percent of his passes and threw for 37 touchdowns, it would be hard to make a real case against the Bills. They have questions with defensive personnel, but given the status of other teams in the division, the AFC East still runs through Buffalo.
The division, however, has improved from top to bottom. The Dolphins are coming off a 10-win season, and big things are expected from second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with a full offseason under his belt. The Patriots revamped their offense completely, reverting to the two-tight-end set they employed to terrorize the NFL 10 years ago, and should push for a playoff spot.
The New York Jets will not likely reach those heights, but there is no denying the offensive personnel is solid. They have two first-round picks along the offensive line, perfect for breaking in rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The Jets also have plenty of weapons at the skill positions for first-year head coach Robert Saleh. Buffalo deserves its place atop the division, but this will not be the same AFC East that took the field in 2020.
Live ‘dog: Patriots
Many will point to Miami (+325) as the live underdog in this division, but New England (7/2) should be the first team to consider. The Patriots boast one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the NFL, and with tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry now in the fold, this offense could be good — if the quarterback play is solid. On defense, two high-caliber players return. At the forefront is linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who opted out in 2020, and pass rusher Kyle Van Noy, who returns after a season with the Dolphins.
Prop Play: Damien Harris to lead NFL in rushing (66/1)
The Patriots’ running back was excellent last season, finishing as the second-highest-graded rusher (90.3) to Derrick Henry, according to PFF. Part of Harris’ success is due to an offensive line that is one of the best in the NFL in run blocking. PFF graded this unit as the sixth-best run-blocking group in the league (76.2) in 2020, and according to Football Outsiders they were third in adjusted line yards per carry (4.82). Bill Belichick has been vocal in his support of Harris, and given the shape this offense is taking, bettors can expect a focus on the running game. I took this at 100/1 and it’s down to 66/1, but I still like the value.
Prop Play: Dolphins to miss playoffs (-140)
Too many signs point toward a regression for Miami. This defense led the league in takeaways and interceptions, which does not tend to repeat. The Dolphins have no dominant pass rusher, and their defense against the run in 2020 was lacking. Football Outsiders ranked them 22nd in defensive rush DVOA, and their front seven was 22nd in defending power situations. If this defense takes its expected step back and Tagovailoa continues his current trajectory, there is no reason to believe this will be a playoff team.
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