Thursday, Dec 1st
Bye Week:
Cardinals
Panthers

AFC East Midseason Report 2021

Standings after Week 10:

  • Buffalo 6-3
  • New England 6-4
  • Miami 3-7
  • NY Jets 2-7

BUFFALO BILLS

General Notes:: 
  • The Bills offense has remained explosive while their defense is currently the most dominant in the league (1st in defensive DVOA).
  • The Bills have by far the league’s best point differential at +145 through nine games.
  • This team continues to have good luck on the injury front, with relatively few issues halfway through the year.
  • Josh Allen continues to play at an elite level.
  • The Bills backfield is a committee situation with Matt Breida working his way into the mix.
  • Stefon Diggs is still the alpha here, but the target shares are more spread out than in 2020, and the team is throwing with less volume due to an improved defense resulting in less shootout game scripts.
  • Cole Beasley is capable of spiked weeks on volume when matchups force the Bills to attack underneath. Gabriel Davis has a downfield role that is inconsistent but gives him a high price-considered ceiling any given week. Emmanuel Sanders plays the most snaps besides Diggs while having a role somewhere in the middle of Beasley and Davis (solid volume with higher depth of target).
  • Dawson Knox, when healthy, is the clear-cut lead tight end and has a high ceiling role for his position.
Offensive Outlook:: 

The Bills, for all intents and purposes, are the same offense that we saw in 2020. They are an aggressive, pass-first team with a dual-threat QB and a diverse receiving corps. They are also a team that spreads their backfield work, and due to the presence of Josh Allen and his high rate of goal line rushes, have limited ceilings available for their running backs. This year, the Bills defense has become an elite unit, ranking 3rd against the run and 1st against the pass in DVOA. This development and a relatively weak strength of schedule have combined to cause a lot of lopsided game scripts that have sapped some volume from the passing game. Buffalo’s schedule does get more difficult down the stretch so it is likely they will be forced to stay pass-heavy in more games, which could lead to the explosive fantasy numbers we are used to.

Looking Ahead:: 

The Bills have only played three games against winning teams so far, but their next six games are all against teams who are .500 or better. This increased level of competition will test them and push them to be the best version of themselves heading into the playoffs. The Bills are only a game out of first place in the AFC (although the Titans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker), while holding a half-game lead over the Patriots for the division, with both head-to-head matchups still to be played. This is a team that will have a lot to play for, and solid competition will push them down the stretch of the fantasy season.

Fantasy Playoffs::
  • Week 15 — vs. Panthers 
    • Run Defense DVOA — 19th
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 2nd
  • Week 16 — @ Patriots (2nd matchup)
    • Run Defense DVOA — 13th
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 5th
  • Week 17 — vs. Falcons
    • Run Defense DVOA — 22nd
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 30th

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

General Notes:: 
  • The Patriots have been impressive in their quick turnaround in the post-Brady era and are one of the hottest teams in the league heading into the second half of the season.
  • Mac Jones has been efficient and consistent over the last few weeks as he has become more comfortable with the offense and speed of the NFL.
  • The Patriots backfield has three players who have shown the ability to matter in fantasy and may become more complicated down the stretch.
  • Jakobi Meyers finally scored a touchdown and Kendrick Bourne has stepped up as the clear #2 wide receiver.
  • Hunter Henry is having a solid year and building a nice rapport with Jones, while Jonnu Smith has been used more as a blocker than a receiver.
Offensive Outlook:: 

Mac Jones is coming into his own and playing at the highest level of all of the rookie QBs. He is managing games, making good decisions, and attacking at all the right times. The Patriots lost to the Dolphins in Week 1 by one point and then were beaten by two touchdowns by the Saints. Since then, the Patriots are 6-2 with the losses coming in overtime to the Cowboys, and by two points on a last-second field goal to the Buccaneers. Over the last four weeks, the Patriots are 4-0 and are averaging a staggering 37.5 points per game. As Jones gains trust and the Patriots put more on his plate, the floors and ceilings of Henry, Meyers, and Bourne should all rise down the stretch. If Henry were to miss any time, Jonnu Smith would likely be a great value as his usage should spike. The Patriots know that you must be able to pass to win in this league and will turn to Jones if/when necessary as he has proven himself more than capable.

The Patriots backfield appeared to be set with Damien Harris as the every-down grinder and Brandon Bolden playing on passing downs. However, Rhamondre Stevenson has been thoroughly impressive in his limited opportunities and could be a difference-maker down the stretch. It is hard to see Belichick putting the genie back in the bottle at this point, which will muddy things when all three backs are healthy.

Looking Ahead:: 

New England has four very difficult games left against teams in the top 10 in the NFL in point differential, as well as three games against teams in the bottom six of the same category, with only two of those seven games being played at home. The Patriots will likely struggle to catch the Bills and win the division, but should at least keep it close and interesting while having a very good chance at making the playoffs.

Fantasy Playoffs::
  • Week 15 — @ Colts
    • Run Defense DVOA — 5th
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 20th
  • Week 16 — vs. Bills (2nd matchup)
    • Run Defense DVOA — 3rd
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 1st
  • Week 17 — vs. Jaguars
    • Run Defense DVOA — 7th
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 31st

MIAMI DOLPHINS

General Notes:: 
  • The Dolphins have struggled on both sides of the ball at different times this season while showing promise at other times.
  • Tua Tagovailoa has been solid when healthy, but those times have been few and far between.
  • Whichever quarterback has been in for the Dolphins has had the worst protection in the league from their offensive line, and it’s a big part of Tua’s struggles staying healthy.
  • The Dolphins backfield is difficult to project or trust as they split up the workload and don’t have much in the way of talent. The line doesn’t create much for the running game, and the backs often have to help in pass protection, which results in less routes and pass game usage.
  • Injuries have plagued the receiving corps and kept the Dolphins from taking off in that area. Lack of pass protection and injuries to your explosive playmakers is not a good recipe for consistent pass game production.
Offensive Outlook:: 

Tua Tagovailoa appears to be back under center for the Dolphins, which is a very good thing. Tua creates time with his legs which helps out the offensive line. It is also still very early in his career. The more reps he gets the better, the Dolphins will be able to evaluate him and make decisions for their future. We should expect more of the same from the Dolphins backfield as Malcolm Brown will be returning soon to join Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed in a three-way committee. The lack of blocking and their lack of talent make everyone low floor/ceiling options, with Gaskin the clear lead back but very fragile week to week.

Will Fuller and Devante Parker remain on Injured Reserve and it is unclear when they may return. In many cases, teams may sit veterans like this for the rest of the season once they get to this point. However, as they look to fully evaluate Tua they may want to get the best possible supporting cast around him to close the year, even if it is just for a couple of weeks. Jaylen Waddle continues to impress and is now being used in a more diverse role than his early-season gadget/short-area role. Rookie receivers often explode over the last few weeks of the season, and if his volume continues to stay at a high level, we will likely see some spiked weeks. Mike Gesicki is a phenomenal athlete, and when given opportunities he can/will also have a couple more big games.

Looking Ahead:: 

While statistically alive, the Dolphins are realistically out of the playoff hunt at this point. It isn’t impossible, but the odds of a team rallying off eight of their last nine games after a 1-7 start is extremely unlikely (they’ve won their last two to get to 3-7). This is a team that has underachieved, but their -75 point differential tells me they are unlikely to string together that kind of run. The rest of the season will be interesting, however, as jobs are on the line. Tua has the rest of this year to prove he is worthy of staying as the franchise QB, and the coaching staff and front office need a positive run-out to the season to keep the owner from cleaning house, as this was expected to be the year the Dolphins make the jump to a playoff team. The Dolphins still have their bye coming up in Week 14, so if they perform poorly between now and then, a coaching change during the bye would not be surprising.

Fantasy Playoffs::
  • Week 15 — vs. Jets (2nd matchup)
    • Run Defense DVOA — 31st
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 32nd
  • Week 16 — @ Saints
    • Run Defense DVOA — 1st
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 13th
  • Week 17 — @ Titans
    • Run Defense DVOA — 25th
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 9th

NEW YORK JETS

General Notes:: 
  • The Jets have the worst defense in the league.
  • Zach Wilson has had significant struggles and then an injury. We knew coming into the season that he was a gunslinger. He has looked like someone who relied on their arm strength at a mid-level college program and is now learning the hard way about the speed of the NFL.
  • The Jets backfield has been chaotic and unproductive for most of the year, but there appears to be some condensing of the workload with signs that Michael Carter could be given a bump in usage for the home stretch.
  • The receiving corps has finally shaped into the unit we expected to see entering the season with Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Jamison Crowder as the three receivers in the Jets base personnel. Through 10 weeks, there has yet to be a game where all three receivers were healthy with Zach Wilson under center for a full game. 
Offensive Outlook:: 

Zach Wilson has had his struggles, no doubt, but a little time off may have done him some good. He has spoken about learning from watching Mike White that sometimes he needs to make the easy plays the defense gives him instead of forcing things down the field. This would be an encouraging development as that has definitely been his biggest weakness to date. Once Wilson is back, I would expect an offense that features Michael Carter at running back with Ty Johnson mixed in, and Corey Davis and Elijah Moore to see the majority of volume from the receiving corps. These players will likely stay at appealing price points for a while due to the Jets struggles and their “meh” roles to date, but at some point, they could become great values if things start to click and volume gets more concentrated on the younger players. This is a situation I will be trying to get ahead of.

Looking Ahead:: 

The Jets have given up an astonishing 44.5 points per game over the last four weeks. They do have some appealing matchups down the stretch against the Dolphins (2x) and the Jaguars, but they need to improve their competitiveness on a weekly basis to keep things from getting too ugly and ruining Wilson and undermining Saleh. The defense needs to pick up their level of play (even to a slightly below-average level would be great) so Wilson can get valuable experience in competitive games with his young supporting cast.

Fantasy Playoffs::
  • Week 15 — @ Dolphins (2nd matchup)
    • Run Defense DVOA — 14th
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 17th
  • Week 16 — vs. Jaguars
    • Run Defense DVOA — 7th
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 31st
  • Week 17 — vs. Buccaneers
    • Run Defense DVOA — 4th
    • Pass Defense DVOA — 12th