How Every AFC East Team Can Win Super Bowl LVIIby Ryan Potts February 23, 2022 8 comments
With free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft approaching, franchises all have a level of excitement. Some are looking to contend this season, while others just want to move in the right direction. The league is unique in that every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl each season. The NFL can be volatile, and the smallest of breaks could launch a championship run, as exemplified by the Cincinnati Bengals last season. It may be unlikely to happen again, but football is unpredictable for a reason. There is a path for all 32 teams to win Super Bowl LVII.
Today, that path is for teams in the AFC East.
With 13 seconds left in regulation during the Bills’ Divisional Round game against the Kansas City Chiefs, it appeared destined that Buffalo would be heading to the Super Bowl. Josh Allen orchestrated a heart-stopping go-ahead scoring drive, finding Gabriel Davis for a fourth touchdown. Allen was perfect on that drive, much like he had been in all eight quarters of the playoffs. All the Bills needed was one halfway decent defensive snap from their league-best unit. They faltered. Allen called the coin toss incorrectly in overtime, and he never saw the ball again.
The Bills have a Super Bowl-caliber roster, but have stumbled at an arrow-shaped obstacle two years in a row. Allen has proven himself to be an elite quarterback, and it is not even ridiculous to say he is the best quarterback in the NFL. There are warts, yes, but No. 17 masks them like a modern John Elway. Allen has explosive weapons at his disposal with 2020 All-Pro Stefon Diggs and the aforementioned Davis. Even the defense ranked first in both total defense and scoring defense in 2021.
To win the championship, the Bills likely just have to get into the Chiefs situation once again. They are co-favorites to win Super Bowl LVII, and if they get another bite at the Chiefs’ apple, they can knock them off and go onto greener pastures. If Allen did not trip on a last-second run against the Tennessee Titans, the Bills would have secured the top seed. Perhaps they would have gone on to win the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots
The Patriots did win 10 games in 2021, but they were 3-7 against teams that had a pulse (and went above .500). They handled the Los Angeles Chargers, but their other two wins took divine intervention. The Titans fumbled five times in their Week 12 loss to the Patriots. All three running backs lost one. Eight days later, the Bills and Patriots played in a windstorm. Mac Jones threw just three passes. Even the quarterback-less 2020 Denver Broncos attempted more passes. The Patriots did go 7-0 against losing teams, but they will need to be better against good teams in 2022.
Jones made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but his selection came after Lamar Jackson (injury), Allen (a metaphorical middle finger to the event), and Joe Burrow (Super Bowl LVI) did not participate. While the Patriots had the sixth-best scoring offense, they can thank their excellent defense and special teams units. Nick Folk made 92.3 percent of his field goals, including every field goal within 50 yards. The defense gave New England the second-best average starting field position.
To win the Super Bowl, the Patriots need their defense and special teams to continue to be elite while getting subtle growth from the offense. This could come in the form of reinforcements at the receiver position (such as Calvin Ridley or Treylon Burks) or Jones’ development. J.C. Jackson appears to be on his way out, so the Patriots will have to patch up their secondary, but they had the second-best pass defense even after getting rid of Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots will find a way.
If Tua Tagovailoa is healthy for even 15 games, the Dolphins have a reasonable chance at making the playoffs. He still has room to improve, but he is significantly better than Jacoby Brissett. Miami had three losses in 2021 that they likely would have won if Tagovailoa was fully healthy. The team is flawed, but they did go 19-14 in 2020 and 2021, combined. If the Dolphins fortify the offensive line, and the Patriots regress slightly, the Dolphins could find their way into the playoffs.
Come playoff time, the Dolphins have one of the biggest X-factors in the NFL: Xavien Howard. The Dolphins might not be more talented than the tiers of contenders in the AFC, but they are unmatched in terms of their abilities to force turnovers. Howard is at the forefront of this approach. He has 15 interceptions and three forced fumbles in the last two seasons.
The Dolphins do have a limited ceiling with their abysmal offensive line, but they have a solid floor with Tagovailoa and the defense. With a several breaks, they could shock the world and win the Super Bowl. The Tua to Jaylen Waddle connection has been electric both at Alabama and in the NFL, and it could reach new heights in 2022. It would be a great time to have a top-10 scoring offense for the first time since 2001.
New York Jets
Last year, the Jets’ Super Bowl odds were placed squarely on the shoulders of a potential Deshaun Watson trade. Instead, the Jets opted to draft a quarterback with the No. 2 pick in the draft and trade up for Alijah Vera-Tucker to block for him. The first season of the Robert Saleh regime was a disaster defensively. After the bye, the Jets allowed an incomprehensible 175 points in four games including 54 to the Patriots. The Jets coupled their league-worst defense with a bottom-five scoring offense.
Outside of randomly competent runs from Josh Johnson and Joe Flacco (a combined six-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio), quarterback play for the Jets represented a toilet. Even Mike White’s legendary game against the Bengals was soon overshadowed by disgusting performances. The Jets need much better quarterback play quickly. As a team, the Jets had a passer rating of 76.0, a mark that ranks 123rd out of the 150 teams who had as many pass attempts in a season in league history.
It is time to invoke the sacred names of the Bengals. During Cincinnati’s three-year run, they won two games, drafted a quarterback, won four games then won 13 and the AFC. The Jets are entering the third year of this magical journey. There is a universe in which Zach Wilson flashes that brightly in his sophomore season, but the Jets do not have a Ja’Marr Chase to draft. The best-case scenario for the Jets might be progression to the mean defensively with a reasonable offense. New York has had a decent rushing attack (13th in yards per rush), and they would have a better offensive line if Mekhi Becton could stay on the field. If the defense is not historically bad, they have a shot.