<
>

AFC East Q&A: Who will win the division and how many teams from the division will make the playoffs?

It's unanimous: Our AFC East team writers are all picking the Patriots to win the division again. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

ESPN.com's AFC East reporters don't expect anything to change when it comes to the division winner this season. Each reporter picked the Patriots to repeat as division champs.

Mike Rodak, Buffalo Bills reporter: Patriots, one team. The Jets are not making the playoffs, the Bills are unlikely to, and I remain on the fence about the Dolphins' chances. The strength of the AFC still lies in the West and North divisions, from which I believe both playoff wild cards will emerge. If the Raiders and Steelers are the class of each of those divisions, I see the Chiefs as the most likely wild-card team, followed by a glut of teams, including the Bengals, Dolphins, Ravens and Broncos. It would not surprise me if Miami snuck in a second consecutive wild-card appearance, but I am not yet sold on Ryan Tannehill as the quarterback to lead the team any further than that. After five seasons, I think we have seen close to Tannehill's ceiling.

James Walker, Miami Dolphins reporter: The reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will win the division. This has been the safest bet in the NFL over the past 16 years. The Dolphins appear on the right track with first-year head coach Adam Gase, but keep in mind they were swept by the Patriots last season. The gap still remains in terms of head-to-head games and total wins. I expect only one playoff team from the AFC East. The Bills are rebuilding under a rookie head coach in Sean McDermott, and the New York Jets appear to be waving the white flag by dumping veteran talent and not solving their quarterback position. The Dolphins have a chance, but they have the sixth-toughest strength of schedule and nine road games, if you include the "home" date in London. That's going to catch up to them. Miami won 10 games last year beating up on a last-place schedule, and the team won't have that luxury this season. The Dolphins might be a better and deeper team, but right now I don't expect them to produce double-digit wins.

Mike Reiss, New England Patriots reporter: Since 2001, there have been just two seasons in which the Patriots have not been AFC East champions (2002, 2008), and there are no obvious indicators that this year will be any different. That can always change with a run of injuries, but based on the present snapshot, the Patriots are the clear class of the division. The Jets are in full rebuilding mode, the Bills are in the initial year of building a foundation under first-year coach Sean McDermott, and the Dolphins hope to take the next step in Adam Gase's second year as coach after a surprising 10-win season that included a playoff berth. Sometimes taking the next step for a team like Miami can be even more challenging than the initial first-year spike, and with that in mind, I'll go with just the Patriots earning a playoff berth in the division.

Rich Cimini, New York Jets reporter: For the ninth consecutive year, the winner of the AFC East will be ... come on, you know the answer. It will be an upset if the New England Patriots don't win the division by at least three games. Yes, they're that much better than everyone else, especially with their new, souped-up offense. The Dolphins have the next-best roster, but they're a borderline playoff team. I could see them taking a small step backward in Adam Gase's second year, primarily because they have some age on defense. The Bills could surprise if they get big years out of LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins and the defense improves under the new coaching staff. The Jets? Please. They'll be closer to the No. 1 overall pick than a playoff spot.