There were only two divisions last season that featured quarterbacks who finished among the top 15 in MVP voting, and one of those divisions just added a four-time MVP.
Does that mean Aaron Rodgers joining the New York Jets makes the AFC East the most QB-rich division in the NFL? Rodgers joins the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen, who finished third in MVP voting, and the Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa (15th in voting) to form an impressive triumvirate of passers.
Caesars sportsbook has the AFC East as the only division with three QBs among the top nine favorites for 2023 MVP with Allen tied for second, Rodgers seventh and Tagovailoa ninth.
As far as team expectations, with Rodgers’ arrival, the Jets are the second betting favorite to win the division, behind the Bills. The Dolphins are slotted in at third, ahead of the New England Patriots.
It is against that backdrop that ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini, Bills reporter Alaina Getzenberg, Dolphins reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques and Patriots reporter Mike Reiss take a look at Rodgers’ impact on the AFC East. And ESPN NFL draft analyst Jordan Reid examines which of the division’s teams improved the most from the draft.
How does Rodgers change the balance of power in the division?
Six games separated the top of the division (Bills) from the bottom (Jets) in 2022. The addition of Rodgers gives the Jets a chance to go from worst to first because, for a change, they will have a legitimate NFL offense. They were 29th in scoring last season, which means they showed up to a rock fight with water balloons. They couldn’t compete with the Bills (fourth in scoring) and Dolphins (11th), as they were doomed by substandard quarterback play.
Rodgers, whose Packers teams finished below 15th in scoring only once during his 15-year starting reign in Green Bay (and that was an injury-shortened season), should give the Jets the ability to win shootout-type games. AFC East defenses, which held the Jets to a mere three touchdown passes last season, will now have to respect them as a balanced offense. The days of exploiting inexperienced Jets quarterbacks (two years of Zach Wilson, preceded by three years of Sam Darnold) are over.
For a change, the Jets can win at quarterback — and that changes everything in the division. — Cimini
Is this now the most QB-rich division in the league?
Welcome to the conversation, AFC East!
Always start with the stars, and an Allen-Rodgers duo makes for a legitimate contender when stacking up against the AFC West (Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert), AFC North (Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson) and NFC East (Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott).
Beauty is always going to be in the eye of the beholder, and for this set of eyes, Rodgers’ arrival still isn’t enough to push the division past the AFC West and AFC North. Maybe I’m too influenced by the last game I saw Rodgers play — a Week 17 prime-time loss at home to the Lions with a playoff berth on the line and him finishing 17-of-27 for 205 yards, with 1 touchdown and 1 interception.
The depth of the QBs in the AFC East is solid with the Dolphins’ Tagovailoa and Patriots’ Mac Jones, and that would be a stronger argument to thrust it past the AFC West (Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo), AFC North (Deshaun Watson, Kenny Pickett) and NFC East (Daniel Jones, Sam Howell/Jacoby Brissett) when assessing the most QB-rich division. But it’s just not enough for me to make it No. 1. — Reiss
Which QB is surrounded by the best talent?
Tagovailoa gets the nod here. While Stefon Diggs (Bills), Garrett Wilson (Jets) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (Patriots) are nothing to scoff at, Dolphins receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle set an NFL record for combined receiving yards last season (3,066). Miami struggled to run the ball efficiently in 2022 but added a potential home run threat through the draft in running back Devon Achane. This was one of the league’s most dangerous offenses last season, and there is no reason to believe it won’t be again in 2023 — as long as Tagovailoa stays healthy.
And in a division not particularly blessed with elite offensive line play, Tagovailoa has possibly the best overall lineman in left tackle Terron Armstead. Overall, the line is the Dolphins’ weakness on offense, but it was also plagued by injuries throughout last season. When healthy, it should be plenty good enough to keep Tagovailoa upright. The Jets are a close second, considering the production Wilson put up as a rookie in 2022, and if Breece Hall makes a full recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee, New York has enough talent to challenge the Dolphins for this title. — Louis-Jacques
Which team has the best defense to shut down an elite QB?
This is a tough pick, as there are compelling cases for the Jets, Bills and Dolphins, and any Bill Belichick defense should never be counted out, but for now, I’ll give the slight edge to the Jets. They are bringing back a young defense that should only improve, and of the teams in the division, the Jets gave up the fewest passing yards per game in 2022 (189.4) and had the most quarterback contacts (194). They also held the Bills to two of the team’s three lowest point totals of the regular season and limited Rodgers and the Packers to 10 points.
The Bills might have gotten the edge here if the team hadn’t switched coordinators (coach Sean McDermott will now call the defensive plays), which might take time to adapt to, and if Von Miller wasn’t coming off a major injury to his right knee, leaving his availability uncertain. It also will likely take time to develop consistency with whoever wins the middle linebacker job. Time will tell if the Dolphins should get this crown with a talented new defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio and the addition of cornerback Jalen Ramsey. — Getzenberg
Which team helped itself the most in the draft?
The Patriots really impressed me. Trading back three spots in the first round and still landing Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez — who was my No. 6 overall prospect — at No. 17 was an A-plus start. They followed that up by drafting defensive lineman Keion White and linebacker Marte Mapu on Day 2, two high-upside players who fit their scheme. Making nine picks on Day 3, they placed an emphasis on special teams. New England typically puts together smaller-than-normal draft boards that include prospects who fit the team’s specific scheme, and I think the Pats walked away with some real difference-makers. The only area they failed to address was offensive tackle, which remains a huge question. — Reid