Football Outsiders published their early win-loss projections for every team in the NFL by division. Right now, Football Outsiders projects the Buffalo Bills to finish second in the division and they see the team one game behind the New England Patriots at the end of the year.
Here is how the AFC East will shake out according to Football Outsiders projections (ESPN Insider):
1. New England Patriots: 10-6 (10.3 mean wins, SOS: 16)
2. Buffalo Bills: 9-7 (8.6 mean wins; SOS: 15)
3. New York Jets: 6-10 (6.0 mean wins; SOS: 2)
4. Miami Dolphins: 5-11 (4.7 mean wins; SOS: 4)
This year's projections assume that Tom Brady will serve his four-game Deflategate suspension. While it's a big deal, you might be surprised to hear that in our current forecast, the Patriots win an average of 1.9 games during Brady's suspension; with Brady as quarterback, we would project them for 2.5 wins in those four games. So four games without Brady cost the Patriots less than one win. But at the same time, preseason forecasts like this end up grouping around 8-8 because they account for so much randomness. That means that one win indicates a bigger difference between teams than it would at the end of a season.
Our forecast gives the Bills their best chance in a while to break that long playoff drought. We project a bit of a decline on offense, though it's hard to know what to expect from Tyrod Taylor after he was much better than anyone would have expected in his first year as a starter. But no matter what happens on the offensive side of the ball, the Buffalo defense is likely to bounce back from last year's collapse. The Bills had been a top-five defense by DVOA for two seasons before dropping to 24th in 2015.
As of late, quite a few NFL analysts have listed the Bills with the best chance of unseating the Patriots in the AFC East. Football Outsiders' projections seem to align with those predictions as they see the New York Jets taking a big step backwards in 2016 and the Miami Dolphins finishing last in the division.