(Gloucestercitynews.net)(May 24, 2020)--It’s been a really long time since anyone besides the New England Patriots won the AFC East. They’ve won the division every single year since 2009 and while they came in second in 2008 (when Tom Brady was lost for the season and Matt Cassel had to step in), that’s still the only time since 2003 that they haven’t won the division.
Of course, a lot has changed this offseason as Tom Brady has left the building. Brady had led the Patriots to the playoffs every single year, so now we’re going to find out if Bill Belichick can maintain that magic with Jarrett Stidham under center. However, as the Patriots have fallen a few rungs and the Super Bowl odds are not in their favor, it is the Buffalo Bills who have ascended. For the first time in many years, the Patriots are not favored to win the division and the Bills, in fact, are in the pole position as of right now. Different sportsbooks have different sportsbook ratings for how they view this race but it’s been a while since the Bills have been favored to win the AFC East. After winning 10 games last season, can they continue to rise and end the Patriots reign?
Let’s take a closer look at each of the four teams in the AFC East and examine their odds of winning the division.
Odds To Win AFC East: +125
The Bills have been on the come-up for several years now and are now in good shape to take the division – if they can maintain their rise. It took Buffalo 16 years to get back to the playoffs (in 2017), which was Sean McDermott’s first season as head coach of the team, and while they missed out on the postseason in 2018, they got back last year by posting their first double-digit-win season since 1999.
Buffalo has a solid defense but added some nice pieces in pass rusher Mario Addison, second-round pick A.J. Epensa and cornerback Josh Norman. On offense is where they really needed help and they picked up star wideout Stefon Diggs, which will give quarterback Josh Allen a new toy to work with. If there ever was a time for the Bills to assert their dominance in the AFC East, it will be this year.
New England Patriots
Odds To Win AFC East: +130
Despite not having Brady for the first time in 20 years, oddsmakers still give the Patriots a solid chance to win the division at just +130 odds. Sure, the Bills are favored but not by much. This has to do with still bringing back the majority of their 12-4 squad and, more importantly, head coach Bill Belichick. Let’s face it: while Brady is gone, it’s not as if he was great last season. He had passer ratings of 88.4 or below in eight of his final nine games last season. He had just six touchdown passes in his final five games.
New England hasn’t brought in a quarterback to fill Brady’s shoes, so it looks like they will be going with second-year man Jarrett Stidham, but if Belichick and Josh McDaniels can coach him up a bit, maybe he is serviceable. Remember, this team still fields one of the top defenses in the NFL.
Despite the hole Brady has left, oddsmakers aren’t counting out the Patriots while Belichick is in town.
Odds To Win AFC East: +800
The Dolphins are about to head into a new era, led by rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa under center. While his injury and inexperience might keep him from being the starting quarterback in Week 1, it does feel like Miami has turned a page.
While Tua was a big addition, he wasn’t the only one as the Dolphins were big spenders this offseason. They were able to sign cornerback Byron Jones to a wealthy contract and then also added former Patriots Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts, edge rusher Shaq Lawson and used a first-round pick on Noah Igbinoghene. This team went 5-4 down the stretch of the season and really fought for head coach Brian Flores. Now that he has a better roster to work with, this could be a team on the rise.
New York Jets
Odds To Win AFC East: +800
Finally, there are the New York Jets. They had a crazy season last year, highlighted by quarterback Sam Darnold contracting mononucleosis and missing a chunk of time. Heading into 2020, they began to build around Darnold by adding to their offensive line in the first round of the draft with offensive lineman Mekhi Becton from Louisville and wide receiver Denzel Sims from Baylor. However, for the near future, the Jets appear to be on the outside looking in for the race for the AFC East.
Who will Darnold be throwing the ball to this season? Is Le’Veon Bell, in fact, a difference-maker? Is Adam Gase a good head coach or a man on the hot seat? On defense, the unit was strong last season but they continue to dangle star safety, Jamal Adams, in trade talks. Is he about to go? This Jets team still feels like they have a ways to go. Their main asset is Darnold and if he can develop into the best quarterback in this division, this team could be a surprise contender.
image courtesy of Buffalo Bills