The AFC East saw a seismic change in 2020. After two decades of dominance by the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick's club fell out of playoff contention in the immediate departure of Tom Brady and the Buffalo Bills took full advantage. For the first time since 1995, Buffalo was able to win the division and proved that they are now a legit threat in the conference, reaching the AFC title game and coming just short of a Super Bowl appearance. As for the rest of the clubs in this division, the Dolphins continued to make strides with 2020 first-rounder Tua Tagovailoa and the Jets are on the doorstep of a new era after drafting Zach Wilson No. 2 overall.
With all this change circling the division, there's bound to be a number of questions bubbling up to the surface. Below, we'll identify the burning question for each franchise as we inch closer to the 2021 regular season.
Bills: Is Josh Allen about to enjoy an MVP season?
Josh Allen enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2020 and was already creeping into the MVP discussion last year. He really put an exclamation point on his third year in the league over his final five games where he completed 70.1% of his passes, averaged 303.2 passing yards per game, and had 15 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He also rushed for two more scores and had Buffalo finish with a 5-0 record over that stretch. Those are just absurd, video game-like numbers from the Bills quarterback, and if he carries that momentum into 2021, he'll be looked at as a clear front-runner for MVP.
Already, Allen is viewed as one of the favorites to go home with the award. William Hill Sportsbook has him with the third-best odds of winning MVP at +1300 and is only looking up to the reigning NFL MVP in Aaron Rodgers (+700) and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (+550).
Buffalo brought back a number of key free agents this offseason and added receiver Emmanuel Sanders into the fold to pair with Stefon Diggs and the rest of the Bills pass-catching unit. That continuity should allow Allen and Co. to hit the ground running in 2021, setting himself up for individual success along with a potential Super Bowl run for the Bills.
Dolphins: Will Tua make the Year 2 jump?
Tua Tagovailoa's rookie season didn't spark much optimism around Miami. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft was poised to be the franchise quarterback that has eluded the organization for decades, but his play last season leaves us with more questions than answers. At times, head coach Brian Flores would pull Tagovailoa in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick, a move that suggested the veteran gave Miami the best chance to win, which doesn't exactly signal the utmost confidence in your young QB. Whether it was due to personnel, specific play-calling, or simply Tagovailoa's ability, the Dolphins also seemed to play it safe with him and never had him display much of a deep passing game.
With all that said, Miami stood by Tagovailoa this offseason by not entertaining taking a quarterback when they owned the No. 3 overall pick and instead doubled-down on the Alabama product. In free agency, the club signed receiver Will Fuller and in the draft reunited him with former Crimson Tide teammate wide receiver Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 overall pick. Now, Tagovailoa has plenty of weapons at his disposal to take that leap in his second season and prove to the Dolphins brass that he can develop into the franchise quarterback they hoped he'd be.
Patriots: Can Bill Belichick bounce back?
New England went through its worst season in recent memory in 2020. After Tom Brady left in free agency, Bill Belichick's club missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and was under .500 with a 7-9 record. As Robert Kraft previously described it, last season was "horrible." To the Patriots' credit, they did make big swings in hopes that 2020 was a one-year blip on the radar.
In free agency, the club threw around money like never before in the franchise's history, adding the likes of Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Jalen Mills and Matt Judon. On top of that, the club used the No. 15 overall pick to select whom they hope will be their quarterback of the future in Alabama's Mac Jones. When you add linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- who opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns -- coming back into the fold, New England looks like a well-balanced team that could be competitive as early as this coming season. Of course, the key element here is consistent quarterback play either by Cam Newton or Jones.
From a big-picture standpoint, this is a critical year for Belichick. As he and the Patriots struggled in 2020, Brady -- who makes his way back to Foxborough in Week 4 -- went on to win a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers. For him to get back into the race in determining who'll enjoy the better post-divorce career, Belichick will need to stack up wins as soon as possible.
Jets: Will Zach Wilson live up to the hype?
For most of the pre-draft process, it was a foregone conclusion that the Jets were going to take BYU's Zach Wilson with the second overall pick. Even as hype started to build around other first-round talents like Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Jones, New York seemingly never wavered off of Wilson. The club also shipped away their former No. 3 overall pick in Sam Darnold to pave the way for Wilson upon arrival, further displaying their confidence in him being their new face.
While it's too lofty of an expectation for the young quarterback to claw the organization to relevancy in Year 1, he does need to show some promise over his first season in the league that he's clearly the guy to build your team around. If he can put together anything close to what Justin Herbert did during his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign with the Chargers last season, New York should feel really good with the direction it is heading in. If he shows something closer to what Tagovailoa did, no one would blame the club for feeling a bit uneasy, especially if quarterbacks that came off the board after him enjoy success out of the gate.
Again, Wilson doesn't need to flip the franchise overnight, but as long as he can flash the potential that he'll be able to live up to the No. 2 overall hype, the Jets brass should be happy and excited for what's to come in the next few years.