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Fresh off a 14-win season that culminated in yet another Super Bowl victory, the Patriots seemingly got better by acquiring another weapon for Tom Brady (WR Brandin Cooks) and a quality cover corner (Stephon Gilmore). Not terrified yet? Future Hall of Fame TE Rob Gronkowski is back in the fold, too. The QB situation elsewhere is tumultuous — the Pats have the two best signal callers in the division. The Dolphins coaxed strong-armed-but inaccurate Jay Cutler out of the broadcast booth after Ryan Tannehill went down with a knee injury. Underappreciated Tyrod Taylor is trying to hold off rookie Nathan Peterman in Buffalo, while the Jets are left choosing among a trio of guys who would be better served as second or third-stringers (Christian Hackenberg, Josh McCown, Bryce Petty). Plan on a ninth consecutive AFC East title for New England.

 

QUARTERBACKS

Tom Brady (NE) threw 11 TDs on just 103 pass attempts (one TD every 9.4 Pass Attempts) against the blitz last season (NFL Rank: 1st of 29 Qualified QBs; League Avg: 21.1)

Tom Brady (NE) had no turnovers on 103 opportunities against the blitz last season (NFL Rank: 1st among QBs)

When pressured last season, Jay Cutler (MIA) gained 77.1% of his total passing yards through the air (Total Passing Yards – Run After Catch) (293/380) (NFL Rank: 1st of 30 Qualified QBs; League Avg: 60.3%)

On go routesJay Cutler (MIA) gained 90.8% of his total passing yards through the air (276/304) last season (NFL Rank: 1st of 31 Qualified QBs; League Avg: 76.7%)

Tyrod Taylor (BUF) had 2.835 seconds in the pocket per pass attempt (124 attempts) against the blitz last season (NFL Rank: 1st of 29 Qualified QBs; League Avg: 2.378)

Tyrod Taylor (BUF) led all QBs in rushing yards (580) last season, but he’s also a productive passer under duress. Taylor had a passer rating of 90.1 when pressured (104 Pass Attempts) last season (NFL Rank: 2nd of 28 Qualified QBs; League Avg: 57.3)

Josh McCown (NYJ) threw 4 interceptions on just 38 attempts (1 INT per 9.5 attempts) in close and late situations last season (NFL Rank: 35th of 35 Qualified QBs; League Avg: 36.7)

 

RUNNING BACKS

Super Bowl hero James White (NE), rewarded with a long-term contract during the offseason, was targeted 86 times last season (NFL Rank: 3rd among RBs)

During a breakout 2016 season that featured three games with 200+ yards rushing, Jay Ajayi (MIA) broke 29 tackles (NFL Rank: 1st among RBs)

Jay Ajayi (MIA) picked up 783 yards after contact last season (NFL Rank: 1st among RBs)

LeSean McCoy (BUF) averaged 5.4 Yards per Carry (1,267 yards/234 carries) last season (NFL Rank: 2nd of 36 Qualified RBs; League Avg: 4.2)

LeSean McCoy (BUF) rushed for 20+ yards on 11 of his 234 carries (4.7%) last season (NFL Rank: 1st of 36 Qualified RBs; League Avg: 2.2%)

Bilal Powell (NYJ), battling Matt Forte for carries, averaged 5.5 Yards per Carry (722 yards/131 carries) last season (NFL Rank: 1st of 36 Qualified RBs; League Avg: 4.2)

Bilal Powell (NYJ) rushed for 10 or more yards on 14 of his 63 carries (22.2%) at home last season (NFL Rank: 1st of 45 Qualified RBs; League Avg: 10.3%)

Matt Forte (NYJ) had his least productive season as a receiver in 2016, gaining just 263 yards. Forte caught just 30 of 43 passes when targeted (69.8% Reception Pct) last season (NFL Rank: 34th of 38 Qualified RBs; League Avg: 74.6%)

 

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

Julian Edelman (NE) might be undersized, but he plays a big receiver’s game. Edelman broke 11 tackles last season (NFL Rank: 1st among WRs)

Julian Edelman (NE) had 28 receptions on 3rd down last season (NFL Rank: T-1st among WRs)

Jarvis Landry (MIA) had 26 receptions on 3rd down last season (NFL Rank: T-4th among WRs)

Brandin Cooks (NE), acquired in an offseason trade with the Saints that cost New England a first-round pick, averaged 10.0 Yards per Target (1,173 yards/117 targets) last season (NFL Rank: 4th of 51 Qualified WRs; League Avg: 7.7)

Charles Clay (BUF) had 10 first down receptions when his QB was under pressure last season (NFL Rank: 3rd among TEs)

Jordan Matthews (BUF), recently acquired from the Eagles, is a reliable target but not a game-breaker. Matthews averaged a touchdown every 24.3 receptions (73 Rec/3 TDs) last season (NFL Rank: 47th of 51 Qualified WRs; League Avg: 13.0)

 

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

The Dolphins defense created pressure against opposing QBs 131 times on plays out of the shotgun last season (NFL Rank: 1st of 32; League Avg: 90)

The Dolphins defense allowed 7.2 Yards per Carry (322 yards/45 carries) on 3rd down last season (NFL Rank: 32nd of 32; League Avg: 4.8)

The Jets defense allowed 16.1 Yards per Completion (723 yards/45 completions) on 3rd and long (7 yards to go or more) last season (NFL Rank: 32nd of 32; League Avg: 12.8)

The Jets defense blitzed on 21.4% of plays last season (NFL Rank: 5th of 32; League Avg: 15.5%)

The Patriots defense allowed just 15.6 points per game to opposing offenses (250 points / 16 games) last season (NFL Rank: 1st of 32; League Avg: 21.6)

Buffalo Bills Punters placed 26.7% of punts inside the 20 (20/75) last season (NFL Rank: 31st of 32; League Avg: 36.9%)

The Bills defense blitzed on just 12.3% of plays on third and 10+ yards to go last season (NFL Rank: 28th of 32; League Avg: 21.1%)

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