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NFL Season Preview: AFC East
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 8/5/2014  at  12:00:00 PM
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To get you prepared for the upcoming NFL season, we begin our run of all 32 team previews, rolling out two divisions per week throughout August. For complete coverage, download your copy of the 2014 StatFox Edge Football Preview. Up first is the AFC East, with the New England Patriots once again tabbed as the heavy favorite to win the division.

BUFFALO BILLS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 6-10
ATS Record: 8-8
Over/Under: 9-6-1
Points Scored: 21.2 PPG (22nd in NFL)
Points Allowed: 24.3 PPG (20th in NFL)

2014 Odds:
(For the latest Odds, connect to Sportsbook.com)
Odds to Win AFC East: 10/1
Odds to Win AFC Championship: 32/1
Odds to Win Super Bowl XLIX: 75/1
Regular Season Wins Over/Under: 6.5

2014 Preview:
Offense:
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett brought a much different look to the Bills’ running game in his first season with the team in 2013, and it didn’t do C.J. Spiller any favors. Buffalo uses a lot of read option plays to try to take advantage of quarterback EJ Manuel’s mobility. Spiller was hesitant in read option situations, and Manuel was fragile as a rookie, so they might move back to a more traditional look this year. Spiller figures to take back more of a No. 1 workload from Fred Jackson, though that was the plan a year ago and Jackson proved too valuable to keep off the field. Bryce Brown provides insurance for the aging Jackson. In the red zone, the Bills quickly moved away from Spiller in goal-to-go situations, opting for Jackson’s more decisive running instead.

Hackett uses play-action and crossing action in the middle of the field. Rookie Sammy Watkins will likely be penciled in at flanker, where they’ll rely on his YAC ability to make Manuel’s life easier. After spending the early part of the year on the perimeter last year, No. 2 WR Robert Woods should work a larger set of routes, similar to what former No. 1 receiver Stevie Johnson used to run. Marquise Goodwin figures to overtake T.J. Graham as their primary deep threat, while Mike Williams comes in as a red zone specialist. Tight end Scott Chandler will be utilized as a receiver underneath.

Defense:
The Bills will be playing for their third defensive coordinator in three years with Jim Schwartz replacing Mike Pettine, who improved this group a lot in 2013, especially with sacks and interceptions. Free agent outside linebackers Keith Rivers and Brandon Spikes will greatly help Buffalo’s transition to a 4-3 scheme.

Key Offseason Moves:
ADDITIONS
RB Bryce Brown (Eagles)
RB Anthony Dixon (49ers)
WR Mike Williams (Buccaneers)
G Chris Williams (Rams)
DE Jarius Wynn (Cowboys)
MLB Brandon Spikes (Patriots)
OLB Keith Rivers (Giants)
CB Corey Graham (Ravens)

SUBTRACTIONS
QB Kevin Kolb (released)
WR Stevie Johnson (49ers)
DT Alex Carrington (Rams)
ILB Arthur Moats (Steelers)
FS Jairus Byrd (Saints)
S Jim Leonhard (Browns)

StatFox Take: The Bills have not won eight games in a year since 2004, dropping at least 10 contests in each of their past five seasons. Don't expect a subpar offense led by quarterback EJ Manuel to suddenly make this a winning team. Buffalo has a brutal road schedule (Denver, Chicago, Detroit and Houston) and will be a frequent home underdog with visitors such as San Diego, New England, Kansas City and Green Bay, who all made the playoffs last season. Take the plus-money and bank on another double-digit-loss season in Buffalo.
Prediction: UNDER 6.5 wins (+160)

Here is the BetDSI Sportsbook breakdown of odds for the first week of the NFL preseason:

MIAMI DOLPHINS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 8-8
ATS Record: 9-7
Over/Under: 6-8-2
Points Scored: 19.8 PPG (26th in NFL)
Points Allowed: 20.9 PPG (8th in NFL)

2014 Odds:
(For the latest Odds, connect to Sportsbook.com)
Odds to Win AFC East: 8/1
Odds to Win AFC Championship: 35/1
Odds to Win Super Bowl XLIX: 75/1
Regular Season Wins Over/Under: 7.5

2014 Preview:
Offense:
Miami has a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, a new offensive line coach in John Benton, a new starting RB in Knowshon Moreno, and a revamped offensive line. It may take a few games to get the zone-blocking scheme going. The Dolphins were the third-most pass-heavy team in the NFL last year—considering Lazor’s background as a quarterbacks coach, they figure to keep relying on the passing game. Moreno figures to take the bulk of the work, with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas (if he makes the team) battling for scraps behind him. Thomas took the bulk of the red zone touches as last year went on, but Moreno is expected to take most of these reps in 2014.

After a year as a quarterbacks coach in Philly, Lazor figures to bring a more up-tempo, spread philosophy to the Dolphins. Miami is expected to rely on Mike Wallace more often this year, especially in more catch-and-run situations. Moreno will see heavy work in the screen game. Brian Hartline figures to be more of a traditional possession receiver, with he, Jarvis Landry and tight end Charles Clay working a lot of deep crossing routes. Clay is likely to work downfield much more often than he did last season. It’s an offense with some slow developing routes, so quarterback Ryan Tannehill is probably going take a ton of hits again. When the Dolphins throw in the red zone, Clay was targeted often, as was Brandon Gibson before his season-ending knee injury.

Defense:
The Dolphins were able to improve their secondary this offseason by signing a couple of seasoned veterans in cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Louis Delmas, but this unit doesn’t have a whole lot of star power other than defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, who combined for 20 sacks last year.

Key Offseason Moves:
ADDITIONS
RB Knowshon Moreno (Broncos)
WR Damian Williams (Titans)
WR Kevin Cone (Falcons)
C Samson Satele (Colts)
OT Branden Albert (Chiefs)
OT Jason Fox (Lions)
G Shelley Smith (Rams)
G Daryn Colledge (Cardinals)
DT Earl Mitchell (Texans)
CB Cortland Finnegan (Rams)
S Louis Delmas (Lions)

SUBTRACTIONS
WR Marlon Moore (Browns)
OT Jonathan Martin (49ers)
OT Tyson Clabo (Texans)
G John Jerry (Giants)
DT Paul Soliai (Falcons)
LB Austin Spitler (Ravens)
CB Dimitri Patterson (Jets)
CB R.J. Stanford (Bengals)
CB Chris Owens (Chiefs)
CB Nolan Carroll (Eagles)
FS Chris Clemons (Texans)

StatFox Take: The Dolphins posted a .500 record last year for the first time since 2008, and there's no reason they can't win at least eight more this season. The Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin hazing incident loomed over this club like a dark cloud last year, and four of their losses in 2013 came by four points or less. Miami had a strong offseason with picking up a top-tier running back in Knowshon Moreno and upgrading the secondary with two heady veterans, CB Cortland Finnegan and S Louis Delmas. If QB Ryan Tannehill continues to progress, this should be a team that challenges New England for the division title.
Prediction: OVER 7.5 wins (-110)

Here is the BetDSI Sportsbook 2014 season preview for the Dolphins:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 12-4
ATS Record: 8-8
Over/Under: 9-7
Points Scored: 27.8 PPG (3rd in NFL)
Points Allowed: 21.1 PPG (10th in NFL)

2014 Odds:
(For the latest Odds, connect to Sportsbook.com)
Odds to Win AFC East: 33/100
Odds to Win AFC Championship: 7/2
Odds to Win Super Bowl XLIX: 9/1
Regular Season Wins Over/Under: 10.5

2014 Preview:
Offense:
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has always had a strong preference for the power running game, using a lot of classic looks with pulling guards opening up room on between-the-tackles runs. Stevan Ridley had every chance to become a full-fledged feature back the past two seasons, but his tendency to put the ball on the ground will likely lead to a committee approach again, with Ridley splitting time with Brandon Bolden. Shane Vereen is more of an outside-the-tackles, change-of-pace back.

This is a pick-your-poison passing game. The fact that New England played all of 2013 without Aaron Hernandez and most of it without Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola makes it difficult to pinpoint what they’d like to do, but Julian Edelman and Amendola working underneath will be a primary focus. Gronkowski, who often stays in to pass protect, stretches the middle of the field, with either Aaron Dobson or Brandon LaFell working on the boundary. Vereen runs a lot of wheel routes, and he and Edelman are used frequently in the screen game. When the Pats throw in the red zone, Gronkowski is often the primary target, but Edelman will continue to benefit from the attention Gronk draws in the end zone. Vereen had three receiving TDs on four targets inside the 10 last season.

Defense:
The Patriots give up gobs of yards, but still placed among the top-10 NFL defenses in points allowed, turnovers and sacks. They finally bolstered their lackluster secondary by inking star cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and will also get unit leaders DT Vince Wilfork and MLB Jerod Mayo back from injury to man the middle.

Key Offseason Moves:
ADDITIONS
WR Brandon LaFell (Panthers)
DE/OLB Will Smith (Saints)
OLB James Anderson (Bears)
CB Darrelle Revis (Buccaneers)
CB Brandon Browner (Seahawks)
SS Patrick Chung (Eagles)

SUBTRACTIONS
RB LeGarrette Blount (Steelers)
TE Matthew Mulligan (Bears)
OT Will Svitek (Bengals)
NT Isaac Sopoaga (released)
MLB Brandon Spikes (Bills)
OLB Dane Fletcher (Buccaneers)
CB Aqib Talib (Broncos)
S Steve Gregory (Chiefs)
SS Adrian Wilson (released)

StatFox Take: New England has won at least 10 games for each of the past 11 seasons, averaging 12.5 wins per year during this amazing stretch. The Pats will have to face four 2013 playoff teams on the road (Chiefs, Colts, Packers and Chargers), but they also play in what is arguably the worst division in football, with all three AFC East opponents predicted to have losing records this season. The odds are steep, but with the major upgrades at cornerback with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner plus a healthy receiving corps, expect New England to pile up another dozen wins and yet another division title.
Prediction: OVER 10.5 wins (-200)

Here is the BetDSI Sportsbook 2014 season preview for the Patriots:

NEW YORK JETS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 8-8
ATS Record: 9-6-1
Over/Under: 9-7
Points Scored: 18.1 PPG (29th in NFL)
Points Allowed: 24.2 PPG (19th in NFL)

2014 Odds:
(For the latest Odds, connect to Sportsbook.com)
Odds to Win AFC East: 9/1
Odds to Win AFC Championship: 30/1
Odds to Win Super Bowl XLIX: 75/1
Regular Season Wins Over/Under: 7

2014 Preview:
Offense:
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg turned to a much more run-heavy approach than he traditionally had, and that was because of the fact that he had an erratic rookie under center last season in Geno Smith. This scheme skews toward zone blocking, but they still do a fair amount of gap blocking as well. Chris Johnson figures to lead the committee in touches, especially between the 20s. Chris Ivory provides a power complement and could also be their closer. The Jets were run-heavy in the red zone last season, and Ivory figures to be the goal line back this year.

Mornhinweg is a West Coast guy, but he went vertical off play-action often last season, and figures to do so again regardless of whether it’s Michael Vick or Smith under center. Eric Decker gives them more of a traditional, big-framed target to lean on as a possession receiver and in the red zone. They use three-wide often, and slot man Jeremy Kerley figures to serve as their No. 2 target again. TE Jace Amaro will work the middle of the field in a secondary possession role, and he can exploit the deep seam against linebackers. Johnson will be used frequently in the screen game. Mornhinweg has a history of getting cute with the passing game inside the 20, and Vick’s arrival could allow him to do so again. When the pair was in Philly, Vick was often put on the move around the goal line.

Defense:
The Jets led the league by allowing only 3.4 yards per carry last year and were fourth in red-zone defense, but this unit needs to do a better job forcing turnovers. They had the second-fewest takeaways in the NFL (15) and downgraded their secondary with cornerback Dimitri Patterson trying to replace top CB Antonio Cromartie.

Key Offseason Moves:
ADDITIONS
QB Michael Vick (Eagles)
RB Chris Johnson (Titans)
RB Daryl Richardson (Rams)
WR Eric Decker (Broncos)
WR/KR Jacoby Ford (Raiders)
OT Breno Giacomini (Seahawks)
DE Jason Babin (Jaguars)
CB Dimitri Patterson (Dolphins)
CB Johnny Patrick (Chargers)

SUBTRACTIONS
QB Mark Sanchez (Eagles)
RB Mike Goodson (released)
WR Santonio Holmes (released)
G/T Austin Howard (Raiders)
G Vlad Ducasse (Vikings)
LB Josh Mauga (Chiefs)
CB Antonio Cromartie (Cardinals)
CB Isaiah Trufant (Browns)

StatFox Take: The Jets upgraded their horrific offense by bringing in QB Michael Vick, RB Chris Johnson and WR Eric Decker, but there are still a lot of holes to be filled on this team, especially with the passing defense. New York finished 22nd in the league in passing yards allowed (247 YPG) and tied for 22nd with a mere 13 interceptions. Losing top corner Antonio Cromartie will likely worsen these numbers. The Jets also have a very difficult schedule, especially early on as these new offensive players look to gel against first-team competition. Of their 10 games before the bye week, New York will likely be favored only two times (vs. Raiders, vs. Bills). Take the plus-money and expect a 6-10 season for the Jets.
Prediction: UNDER 7 wins (+130)

Here is the BetDSI Sportsbook 2014 season preview for the Jets:

All NFL Previews

AFC East
AFC East
AFC North - Thursday, August 7
AFC South - Tuesday, August 12
AFC West - Thursday, August 14
NFC East - Tuesday, August 19
NFC North - Thursday, August 21
NFC South - Tuesday, August 26
NFC West - Thursday, August 28

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