The Buffalo Bills made a number of key moves during the current offseason, strengthening their ground game with the addition of LeSean McCoy, while the arrival of bad boy Percy Harvin adds another dynamic to the club’s offense.
However, with the quarterback picture far from clear, the Bills remain far from a lock to end their 15-year playoff drought, as reflected by their middling +425 odds to win the AFC East division in NFL futures betting at the online sportsbooks.
The Bills also dealt for veteran quarterback Matt Cassel during the offseason, but it will likely be the performance of third-year pivot EJ Manuel that will make the difference in Buffalo’s drive to a postseason berth.
Indeed, according to reports from Bettingsports, Cassel’s early performance at Bills camp has proven to be less than stellar, leading to speculation that the 33 year-old will be cut before the start of the regular season, despite being owed over $4 million in salary for the upcoming campaign.
Manuel struggled mightily in his sophomore campaign, failing to crack the 240-passing yard mark in four starts before losing the job to veteran Kyle Orton, who led the squad to a 7-5 record down the stretch.
The 25 year-old appeared in 10 games during his rookie season in 2013, throwing for 11 TD’s, but also tossing a worrisome nine picks including a devastating four-interception performance in a brutal late-season 27-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The quarterback situation for the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins looks far more stable.
Despite Tom Brady’s pending four-game suspension for his role in last season’s Deflategate scandal, the Patriots open training camp as strong -150 favorites to claim their 13th AFC East title in the past 15 years.
The defending Super Bowl champions return to the gridiron largely intact, and will likely rely on second-year pivot Jimmy Garoppolo to fill in for Brady while he serves his penance.
The Dolphins recently extended quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s contract, signing the 27 year-old to a deal through the 2020 season that guarantees him a cool $25 million over the next two seasons.
Miami showed glimpses of playoff potential a year ago, posting dominant wins over the Patriots, Bills and New York Jets, but finished with a mediocre 8-8 record, extending their absense from the post-season to six years.
Confidence remains high in South Florida, however, where the Dolphins sit ahead of the Bills with +400 odds to win the AFC East, and are deadlocked with the Bills as a +1600 to claim the AFC conference title.
The Jets, who will once again have Geno Smith at the helm, trail their division rivals in NFL futures betting, pegged as +750 longshots to claim their first AFC East title since 2002.