In some ways, the 2021 season in the AFC East played out to the script. In others, it did not. The Bills and Patriots topped the division, with the Dolphins just behind and the Jets, unsurprisingly, bringing up the rear.
Despite ranking near the top of the NFL in offense and defense, the Bills struggled to run away with the division and wound up as the #3 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Patriots scrapped their way to a playoff berth behind rookie QB Mac Jones, solid defense, and a conference-best 6-2 road record. The Dolphins, meanwhile, nearly made the playoffs at 9-8 after furiously rallying back from a dismal 1-7 start.
What this division will look like in 2022 has NFL bettors somewhat divided. The Bills remain the AFC East odds-on favorites. Behind them, though, the Patriots have shown some concern in the preseason with Mac Jones and the offense. Meanwhile, Miami upgraded at receiver with former K.C. standout Tyreek Hill, who should help QB Tua Tagviolova and the running game.
There are many questions about the division heading into the 2022 season. Let’s look at how the sportsbooks view each team, find some value, and make some AFC East predictions.
It's crazy that an NFL team can win 11 times in 17 outings and “underachieve.” That, however, is what the Bills did. Kind of. Make no mistake, this team was excellent. In 2021, the Bills ranked third in the league in points scored and first in points against, with an elite +194 (483-289) point differential. Where they “underachieved” was in inexplicable losses to the Steelers and, yikes, the Jaguars (9-6!). They also lacked defensively against top competition, allowing (in losses) 34 points to the Titans, 41 to the Colts, 33 to the Buccaneers, and 42 to the Chiefs (in the playoffs).
The Bills head into 2022 as the “super favorites” to win the AFC and lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy. If they can live up to these expectations with a schedule that kicks off on the road at the Super Bowl champion Rams and includes road games against the Ravens, Chiefs, and (defending AFC champion) the Bengals, the Bills should up their win total (by one) to 12 along the way.
If things go remotely according to plan in 2022, Josh Allen, who got off to a tough start in 2021 but still topped 4,400 passing yards (and tossed 36 touchdowns), should have little trouble with this year’s passing yardage line of 4,320 and offers a solid AFC East pick.
This, of course, would prominently feature All-Pro receiver Stephon Diggs, who’s racked up an incredible 230 receptions over the last two years. If he stays healthy, another season of triple-digit receptions (with double-digit touchdowns and something approaching 1500 yards receiving) seems like a pretty solid bet too.
AFC East Prediction - Recommended Bets:
The Dolphins’ defense, which was solid in 2020 and improved in the second half of 2021, was awful in the early goings last season. The offense, led by much-scrutinized third-year passer Tua Tagviolova, severely lacked playmakers and was mired in the bottom third of the NFL throughout the season.
Points Conceded per Game (21/22)
Green Bay Packers
One of this team’s top priorities was acquiring a true #1 wide receiver. Suddenly, Chiefs superstar wideout Tyreek Hill, fresh off of a third career 1,200+-yard season (with nine TDs), came available, and GM Chris Grier did not waste time. After a blockbuster of a deal, the three-time Pro Bowler is poised for a fresh start in South Florida.
Miami’s fate rests with the enigma that is Tua Tagviolova. Though hardly the force he was in his days at Alabama, Tagviolova started to show signs of improvement. Tua and second-year star Jaylen Waddle (who had 1,015 receiving yards as a rookie) should benefit from the attention Hill will command, which raises the ceiling for this offense. On a related note, the running should also improve.
The Dolphins’ fate rests in the health and improvement of their third-year quarterback. If Tua is healthy and takes a step forward, with New England potentially taking a step back, the door to the postseason could be open to the Dolphins.
AFC East Prediction - Recommended Bets:
Last year, the Patriots had just spent their top draft pick (#15 overall) on quarterback Mac Jones, renowned as an elite game manager and a steady hand in the clutch while in college at Alabama. New England rode the ebbs and (mostly) flows of their rookie quarterback and an AFC-best 6-2 road record (thanks mainly to their defense, which ranked second in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed on the season, actually playing better away from home) to a playoff berth.
With a 2022 schedule that includes Lions/Browns/Jets/Bears/Jets soft patch between October and November, it’s easy to see why many pundits have predicted a 10+-win season for the Pats. However, it may be wise to ease up on the optimism.
With 2021 assistants Joe Judge and Matt Patricia at the helm of the offense in the absence of Josh McDaniels, most assumed that the transition on offense would be relatively smooth. However, amid a bizarre mystery about who would be calling the plays on offense (Patricia, apparently), Jones has seemed off during training camp and the preseason. Though head coach Bill Belichick hasn’t publicly lost confidence in his sophomore signal-caller, one would imagine he’s got at least a hint of concern.
New England has a good path to a nine-win season but also faces the possibility of missing the playoffs, as the offense looks like it may struggle without Josh McDaniels calling the shots. This will be evident in Jones’s passing numbers, especially in the red zone and around the goal line. It’s tough to see Jones throwing more than the 22 touchdown passes he threw as a rookie with McDaniels calling the plays.
AFC East Prediction - Recommended Bet:
There's a ton of bad to be said for the New York Jets’ 2021 performance. After a bad start, they kept losing. In all, Gang Green lost 13 of their 17 regular season games and allowed over 500 points (a league-worst 504, or 29.7 per game, to be exact) for the first time in their 62-year history. In terms of yards allowed, the Jets are also dead last.
This season, the song may well remain the same. Last year’s #2 overall pick Zach Wilson is back for his sophomore season. Thus far, Wilson has been celebrated more for his off-field activities than for anything he achieved on an NFL gridiron. His second NFL season needs to be a big one in terms of development. Unfortunately, a knee injury cut short his preseason and will keep him out of action in Week 1. Veteran Joe Flacco will be at the helm as long as Wilson is out.
With the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the franchise added future star cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner from the University of Cincinnati. Though this is seemingly an excellent selection that will help this defense in the future, there is still an alarming lack of average-or-better talent on that side of the ball. Making matters worse is the fact that the schedule does them no favors. With early home games against the Ravens and AFC champion Bengals, back-to-back road games against the Packers and Broncos, and the Bills all in the opening nine weeks - “success” may be anything better than a 1-8 start.
In reality, the Jets’ aim this season is to get Zach Wilson healthy and back on the field for some desperately-needed development - and maybe some morale-boosting wins against a back half of the schedule that offers up matchups against the Bears, Jaguars, Lions, and Seahawks. However, in the wake of what promises to be a brutal start, it is unlikely that the favorable run-in delivers the four of five wins that will be needed to bring the Jets’ season total to six.
AFC East Prediction - Recommended Bet:
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The Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots, and the New York Jets make up the AFC East Division.
The Buffalo Bills won the AFC East Division for the second straight year. This is the third time they have won back-to-back division titles in their history. AFC East odds (-230 at FanDuel) predict a third consecutive division title in 2022.
To claim the division title, the Patriots need to count on their defense which allowed just 17.8 points per game last year and produced 23 interceptions. If Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, and Mac Jones get on the same page early, the offense can keep pace, and the Pats will have a chance at a division title. It would not hurt them if the Buffalo Bills stumbled out of the gates a bit.
If New England can win more than four games at home (as they did last season) and get one against Buffalo, they could steal this division title and make some money (+475 at Caesars) for bettors bold enough to take on such an AFC East prediction.
Written by Chris Wassel.
Chris is an experienced sports betting writer who loves sports irrationally. He has covered everything from NHL to NASCAR to March Madness, including a couple of Stanley Cups, several NHL Drafts, and award shows.
He is a veteran writer with over 30 years of fantasy hockey experience, contributing to several sports books and countless publications such as USA Today, The Hockey News, and Sportsnet.