It's always fun to look back on the season that just passed to get a new perspective on the year. Team-by-team I will describe each franchise's 2016 season in three words and then break it down further from there. Let's look at the AFC East in edition #1.
'GLAD CLEVELAND'S AROUND'
Sorry Bills fans, but this wasn't your year either and the playoff drought continues. It's now been 17 years without a postseason berth for Buffalo. The last time they even saw the field after week 17 was back in 1999 - when they got bounced in the wild card round by the Tennessee Titans in a play that everyone remembers ...
Not only have the Bills not been in the postseason since they lost in Nashville thanks to the 'Music City Miracle,' but they haven't won a playoff game since 1995. They only team to appear in fewer postseason games is the Browns while Cleveland and Detroit are the only teams to not win a single playoff match up since 1995. Now Buffalo will be looking for a new coaching staff, making a decision on Tyrod Taylor as a franchise QB (and if they let him walk, then what? Is Cardale Jones the answer?), not to mention the injury questions that will plague their studs in LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins year in and year out. They rarely have all the pieces and when they do they can't seen to put it all together. Life as a Bills fan is tough and 2016 didn't make it any easier but hey, at least you aren't the Browns!
'KEEP IT CLOSE'
The Miami Dolphins are heading in the right direction. New head coach Adam Gase led his Fins to the postseason for just the 2nd time in the last 10 seasons. While Miami ultimately got chewed up and spit out in Pittsburgh in the wild card match up, it was a positive step for the franchise. Had Ryan Tannehill been under center, maybe the game ends differently and the Dolphins reach the divisional round for the first time since 2000, but alas that wasn't the case. Miami did, however, have their 2016 season defined by close, gutsy wins. They came through in the clutch as they achieved 8 of their 10 wins by 7 or fewer points. Even in losses they kept it close, losing 2 games by a touchdown or less - both those games coming in the first two weeks of the season in Seattle and New England. In the end the Fins played 10 of 16 games down to the wire, coming out victorious in 80% of those match ups. With a healthy Tannehill, the emergence of Jay Ajayi as a legitimate rushing threat, and Adam Gase's clever offensive mind this Miami team should once again be fighting for a playoff spot in 2017 and maybe the AFC East. Of course to become AFC East champions they need to go through the buzzsaw that is the ...
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
'DOMINATION ... YET AGAIN'
Ah yes, the Patriots. What else is there to say other than this team is the definition of complete domination. They went on to win their 8th consecutive division title this season, an NFL record. Not even the Packers of the 60s, Steelers of the 70s, Niners of the 80s, or Cowboys of the 90s (the other most recognized dynasty's of the Super Bowl era) can claim that accomplishment. Even more impressive is the fact that the Pats would have won the division an even more insane 14 straight years had Tom Brady not missed the entire 2008 season due to injury - Matt Cassel led the Pats to a 11-5 record which was tied with the Dolphins for tops in the division but lost to Miami because of tie-breakers.
Making their 8th straight division title that-much-more impressive is the fact that Tom Brady missed the first four games of the season due to suspension. Did that slow down New England? Not a chance as Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett combined for just shy of 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns in Brady's absence leading the Pats to a 3-1 record - better then even Patriots fans were expecting at the start of the year. Brady also set the NFL record for TD:INT ratio in a single season at 28:2 and he did the with Rob Gronkowski missing the second half of the year. New England looks to reach the AFC championship game for the 10th time since Bill Beliechick took over in 2000, and bring home their 5th Super Bowl title in that span. Love them or hate them, no one can deny the pure domination (yet again) that is the Patriots.
NEW YORK JETS
'STOP LOOKING BACKWARDS'
It's time to start looking towards the future Gang Green! While many can see why you made the moves you did in the 2016 offseason, your fanbase will be nowhere as forgiving should you make more moronic moves heading into the 2017 campaign. It seemed like the Jets - who missed the postseason in 2015 at their own hands in the final minutes of the year - thought 2016 would just be a repeat performance but with better results. Well Ryan Fitzpatrick held out and New York didn't seem to have a back-up plan and had to wait as every other quarterback-needy team made move while the Jets just expects Fitz to come back and play up to his career-numbers in 2015. He was not even close. He went from a career-high 31 touchdown passes in 2015 to a career-low (when starting more than 8 games) 12 passing scores. He also had his interceptions jump up (from 15) to 17 - 2nd most in a single-season for him. Fitzpatrick was also benched multiple times in favor of Bryce Petty - a guy who should have played this year to get the experience and then 2017 would have looked like a year with some upside instead of a daunting task of player evaluation and a slim-to-none opportunity at the postseason ... yet again.
To add injury to insult, Eric Decker went down midway through October and need surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and was out the rest of the year, then it come out he need an additional surgery on his hip and his 2017 season is also in danger of being marked as incomplete on his resume. Add in the fact that Brandon Marshall had his fewest career receptions (59) and touchdowns (3) while compiling his 2nd fewest yards (788) over his 11-year career (not counting his rookie season when he saw just 37 targets). The Jets also signed Matt Forte, a 30-year old back at the time and now 31, who on the surface had a decent year but break it down and 75% of his touchdowns came in just three games and he managed just four 100-yards-from-scrimmage performances - fewest in a single season in his career and just the 2nd time he had fewer than 6 game in a year with 100 from scrimmage (2009 he had 5).
New York needs to start envisioning the future and building towards that if they want a chance to make the postseason and maybe, just maybe, be the team that becomes the cream-of-the-crop of the AFC East once the Patriots lost Belichick and Brady but that can't happen if you're signing 30+ year old players past their prime. It's one thing to be a piece or two away but the Jets are more like 10 pieces away. Build now and get bragging rights in the not-too-distant future.
That's your AFC East season recap in just three words per team. What would your three words be for each team in the AFC East? Let me know in the comments below and check out my other 'Three Word' breakdowns by division!