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The State of the AFCE


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I thought it might be interesting to look at a few areas that give an indication of where the Bills are as a franchise right now in comparison to the rest of the AFCE.  The AFCE is a division in transition with all four teams undergoing significant change. Gone are the days of the Pats automatically winning the division and the rest of the teams scrambling for one Wild Card spot. How long the Bills can stay on top is affected by how each of these five areas play out over the next several seasons. 

 

1.  AFCE Quarterbacks;  Right now the Bills have the only franchise QB in the division. When is that last time a Bills' fan could say that?  We don't just have a franchise QB, I think it's fair to say that we have one of the best QB's in the NFL.  The Phins are likely going to roll with Tua, the Jets will likely draft Lawrence, and the Pats are wandering in the wilderness right now.  I don't think Cam will be back.  I also don't expect Belichick to draft a QB high, I expect he will go shopping for a vet QB to plug into the team.  Time will tell about Tua and Lawrence and we'll have to wait to see what Bill pulls out of his hat, but there is no arguing that the BIlls currently hold a huge advantage at the most important position in the game.

 

2. AFCE Cap Space;  Beane has been great in managing the salary cap and has been making contracts based upon the anticipated salary cap next year at pre-COVID levels.  That plan has been blown up and it is projected the cap will be $30+ million less next year than expected.  Beane is going to have to let some key pieces of this roster walk.  The current Spotrac projections for 2021 have the Bills sitting at $5mm of available cap space, Jets $82mm,  Pats $69mm, Phins $36mm. The Bills have gone from having one of the best cap situations in the League to far and away the worst numbers in our division.  The Phins, Jets, and Pats should be able to be a bit more active in free agency and have the potential to improve their roster while we will be scrambling to maintain what we have.

 

3.  AFCE Draft Capital;    The Bills will have a 1st round draft pick this year, probably in the high 20's (I'm hoping for pick #32). The Pats should be drafting in the mid-teens.  The Jets and Phins have stocked up on draft capital.  The Jets have two 1st rounders (likely the first overall pick) and the first pick in the 2nd round, #33.  The Phins have two 1st round picks and two 2nd round picks.  During the first 33 picks in next year's draft, our AFCE opponents have six selections.  That means on roughly one out of every five picks at the top of the draft we will have an ACFE foe on the clock.  The Jets and Phins should be able to narrow the talent gap with the Bills this off season through the draft.

 

4. AFCE Rosters;  Right now, from top to bottom, I think Beane has assembled the most talented roster in the division.  As noted above, with cap space and draft capital the Jets and Phins should be able to close that gap some this off season.  The Bills have the most talented offense and special teams units in the division. I don't think it's close.  The Bills' defense is starting to get hot and regain its 2019 form, but as of right now, I think that the Dolphins' defense has the edge over the Bills, and the Pats' defense is frustratingly close.  The Pats' defense should instantly get better next year just by getting their COVID opt-outs back. Hopefully Star's return will bolster the Bills defense and we are able to keep Milano.  I'm worried more about the future of the BIlls' defense than I am about the Bills' offense or special teams.

 

5.  AFCE Coaching;  Belichick is the best coach in the AFCE.  Sure he cheats, yeah he's a jerk, but the guy finds a way to win.  He almost never makes a game management mistake and always puts his team in a position to win.  They just beat the Cards.  They had no business beating the Cards.  Flores looks like a promising coach, time will tell with him.  Adam Gase got hit in the head with a lawn dart when he was a kid and will be out of the NFL one second after the last play of the season. With Lawrence, draft capital, cap space, and a big market, I think the Jets' HC job will be the best job out there next year and they should be able to land a solid candidate.  McDermott is the second best coach in the division and I think he is still getting better.  The Bills are in good shape with McDermott extended through 2025.  Losing Daboll this off season would hurt, hopefully that doesn't happen.

 

My take away...  The Bills are clearly at the top of the heap in the AFCE.  How long they can maintain that position is hard to say.  The Bills have several key advantages, a real franchise QB, solid coaching, and a talented roster top to bottom.  The question is can the Bills keep that roster together as the rest of the AFCE rushes to catch up with more resources.  We are in a small window right now with Josh Allen on his rookie contract, the Jets just beginning a rebuild, and the Pats without a QB.  I think the next couple seasons will be a throwback to when I was a kid and it was the Bills vs Dolphins every year for the division title.  I trust Beane and McDermott to continue to work together to put a solid squad on the field, but COVID19 has clouded what should be a very bright future.  I think the Bills win the AFCE this season and next season as the rest of the division improves but not enough to knock the Bills off the top spot.  After that I think it's really up in the air.  The AFCE should be a very competitive division for the foreseeable future.  The days of the AFCE being the Pats and the also-rans is over.

 

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I think Lawrence stays in school rather than be drafted by the Jets.  Didn't Manning spurn them in this way as well years ago?

 

Also, Beane has some relatively easy methods to generate enough cap space to do whatever he needs to do in the offseason. Some big cap space players have relatively little dead cap space(like Butler and Jefferson) attached to them.  One of these players likely is expendable when Star returns.  In addition, there are some relatively easy targets for either pay cuts, restructures or cap maneuvering extensions.  

 

This is a long way of saying Beane has plenty of flexibility to get whatever he wants done under the cap for next year.

 

Special Teams, I think we are good, but according to DVOA, Miami has the best special teams in the NFL at 10.2 and NE is actually 4th at 5.0. Bills are at 8th at 3.5, which is still very good but not quite up to NE or Miami. Sanders the K for the Dolphins has only missed 1 FG and been perfect on XP.  Grant is the leading punt returner in the NFL, thanks to an 88 yard return for a TD against the Cards I believe.  Hauck has been solid if not spectacular as a punter for them. Jets are terrible at -4.8 which is 28th.

Edited by matter2003
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Good write-up.

 

In a way, it reminds me of the '90's, when the Bills were on top, but the Dolphins were usually the main competition w/ Marino at the helm.  It seemed like we were always battling w/ them for the division, while the Jets and Pats fought it out over who would finish last.

 

It's going to be a long road back for the Patriots.  As you mention, they currently have the worst QB situation.  Belichick can make any roster competitive, and he has done that to an extent this year - but to build a true contender will take a few years, and who knows if he wants to even coach that much longer.  Once he leaves, they're really back to being the Patsies.

 

I know some think Lawrence will stay in school, but I'd have a hard time believing that.  Being a top pick in the NFL draft is a huge accomplishment, and there is a lot of money involved there.  Barkley made a mistake staying in school one more year.

 

That would certainly be interesting if the Jets got him.  Maybe it's weird, but I like the idea of getting real rivalries going in the division again, and the division title coming down to the last few games of the season.  I also like that it will likely be us, Miami and maybe the Jets fighting for the title - while the Pats are in the cellar.

 

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1 minute ago, YattaOkasan said:

Gonna disagree on the Jets being the best HC spot.  I think the Chargers are the most desirable HC spot.  They have talent and a QB already.

 

Fair point Yatta.  I agree the Chargers will be a good coaching gig.  

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24 minutes ago, matter2003 said:

I think Lawrence stays in school rather than be drafted by the Jets.  Didn't Manning spurn them in this way as well years ago?

I think Lawrence declares and privately tells the Jets to go kick rocks, like Eli did 16 years ago.  He wants his money and there's no point in risking injury or regression his senior year.  He's good enough to have the leverage necessary to do this, and the Jets will be able to trade his rights for several major pieces.

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32 minutes ago, RiotAct said:

the only thing that worries me a little bit is New England hitting on a QB in the draft this year. 

 

Here is something to keep an eye on after the season. If he becomes available and the Pats move on from Cam then I could see NE having interest.

 

https://sports.yahoo.com/detroit-lions-qb-matthew-stafford-003117336.html

 

Edited by Greg S
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30 minutes ago, YattaOkasan said:

Gonna disagree on the Jets being the best HC spot.  I think the Chargers are the most desirable HC spot.  They have talent and a QB already.

Chargers be my 1st destination and Jaguars 2nd yet problem with Jags is their owner I think he might be worse than the Jets but less of a media spot light down there and think AFC South easier to compete in than the AFC East. 

3 minutes ago, Greg S said:

 

Here is something to keep an eye on after the season. If he becomes available and the Pats move on from Cam then I could see NE having interest.

 

https://sports.yahoo.com/detroit-lions-qb-matthew-stafford-003117336.html

 

I think New England would take a hard look at Jimmy G if he's cut or could see them trying to bring Brissett back and draft a QB in mid rounds to compete too as not sold on Stidham at all. 

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Nice writeup Ingio!  I agree with most of your thinking...I am hoping the cap is spread out so it isn't a huge hit and I am thinking the patsies will be better than most think as they WILL get a huge amount of talent back next year that has sat out this year.....as the Bills have seen w Star, ya lose one key cog and things get gummed up...imagine losing 3-4 key cogs and you have the patsies....and yet they still remain competitive.  Crazy.....

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17 minutes ago, InEnemyTerritory said:

I think Lawrence declares and privately tells the Jets to go kick rocks, like Eli did 16 years ago.  He wants his money and there's no point in risking injury or regression his senior year.  He's good enough to have the leverage necessary to do this, and the Jets will be able to trade his rights for several major pieces.

If Lawrence does this it will benefit him greatly long term, it will cause some obvious embarrassment for the jets ownership, but it won’t cause any beneficial change, in that it’s the jets after all. 

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3 hours ago, matter2003 said:

I think Lawrence stays in school rather than be drafted by the Jets.  Didn't Manning spurn them in this way as well years ago?

 

 

 

 

After watching how they drafted Darnold and then did absolutely nothing in the draft or FA to help him develop why would any QB, collegiate or pro want to play for that garbage franchise. I thought I'd never see a more dysfunctional team than the Browns.

 

I was so wrong..

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1 hour ago, billsbackto81 said:

After watching how they drafted Darnold and then did absolutely nothing in the draft or FA to help him develop why would any QB, collegiate or pro want to play for that garbage franchise. I thought I'd never see a more dysfunctional team than the Browns.

 

I was so wrong..

 

Browns look like they turned the corner with Stefanski's hiring...

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