For the first time since the start of the century, the New England Patriots are not runaway favorites to win the AFC East. The New York Jets won the division in 2002 with a 9-7 record. The Miami Dolphins won the AFC East in 2008 when Tom Brady played in just one game. Other than that, the New England Patriots have won every other year since 2001. All it took to make the division feel up for grabs was for the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback to take his talents to Tampa Bay. However, the folks at FanDuel Sportsbook are not quick to suggest the Patriots will relinquish their stranglehold on the division. They are instilled as +115 favorites to win their 12th straight AFC East title.
Are the Patriots worthy favorites, or are they ready to pass the torch? We take a look at all AFC East teams’ chances to win the division before offering our best bet. Let’s get started with the odds listed at FanDuel Sportsbook. You can also check out our consensus odds to win the AFC East here.
New England Patriots
When Tom Brady decided to leave New England for Tampa Bay, many bettors were skeptical of the void left at the quarterback position, and if someone like Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer could lead the Patriots to another division title. Then, New England did what many other teams in the NFL were reluctant to do: they signed Cam Newton to a cheap one-year deal. Newton’s injury history aside, the cache that the former MVP brings quickly made the Patriots the favorites to win the division once again.
Even if Newton is a shell of what he was like in his prime, there is still a lot to like in New England. The greatest coach of all-time, Bill Belichick, is still roaming the sidelines. That fact alone has to be good for a handful of wins. With respect to Brady’s departure, many teams continue to play well the season after a star player leaves. Just take a look at the Chicago Bulls in the two years after Michael Jordan left to play baseball.
New England will no doubt adopt a defense-first philosophy. They allowed a league-best 14.1 PPG and 275.9 YPG last year. In addition to their secondary returning mainly intact, the Patriots bring back their top four leading rushers and three of their top four leading receivers.
After a 17-year playoff drought from 2000 to 2016, the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs in two of the last three years under head coach Sean McDermott. The Bills look like a team that’s headed in the right direction, especially as quarterback Josh Allen continues to develop in his third full season. Buffalo finished the regular season with a 10-6 record last year before losing to the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round.
The Bills have been extremely busy this off-season. Perhaps no move was more important than the trade for a No. 1 receiver in Stefon Diggs. The trade was costly, however, as Buffalo gave up their first-round draft pick (No. 22 overall) along with three other late-round picks.
In addition to Diggs, the Bills re-signed guard Quinton Spain and added veterans Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler to the defensive line. Lastly, cornerback Josh Norman is reunited with McDermott, who served as his defensive coordinator with the Panthers.
Buffalo’s 10-6 record in 2019 can be attributed in large part to their good health. The Bills lost just six players to injured reserve all season and finished with the fewest games missed because of injury from their starters.
While the Bills are not as likely to stay as healthy, they added much-needed depth at many positions. Look for Josh Allen to improve his passing numbers with the best skill players around him he has ever had.
New York Jets
The New York Jets were one of last season’s biggest disappointments, as they finished with a 7-9 record. There was much optimism surrounding the Jets after signing running back Le’Veon Bell. However, quarterback Sam Darnold missed three games with mononucleosis and the Jets never got back on track.
New York’s 2020 season did not get off to a great start given the drama surrounding safety Jamal Adams. The perception by many is that he forced his way out of New York due to his tumultuous relationship with head coach Adam Gase. Gase has been rumored to have rocky relationships with many members of the team, including Le’Veon Bell.
New York has four new offensive linemen (Greg Van Roten, Connor McGovern, George Fant, and Alex Lewis) who will need time to gel together. In addition, the Jets appear to have one of the worst secondary units, specifically at cornerback, in the entire NFL.
The Miami Dolphins looked like one of the worst teams in NFL history through the first seven games last season. Just one of their first seven losses came by less than ten points. However, the Dolphins played hard down the stretch and put to bed any notion that they were tanking for the No. 1 overall draft pick. They finished 5-4 in their last nine games, highlighted by a win in New England in Week 17.
The Dolphins have emphasized the defensive side of the ball with their offseason moves. They added former Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones, who forms one of the best cornerback tandems with Xavien Howard. They also added edge rushers Shaq Lawson and Kyle Van Noy to improve a pass rush that finished last in the league with 23 sacks.
Miami’s offensive moves have been less news-worthy. They added running back Jordan Howard and guard Ereck Flowers who struggled for much of his time with the Giants. It will be interesting to see what the Dolphins do with the No. 5 overall draft pick. Most prognosticators assume they will select a quarterback to eventually replace Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Given that the Dolphins finished with five wins last year after being non-competitive for the first two months, the prospects look good for them to improve upon this record. However, they are likely a couple of years away from competing for a division title.
Who’ll Win The Division?
What once looked like a clear toss-up between the Patriots and Bills became much more clear after the COVID-19 opt-outs. The Patriots suffered major losses when second-leading tackler Dont’a Hightower and starting safety Patrick Chung opted out. In addition, Marcus Cannon should prove to be a big loss along the offensive line. The Patriots led all teams in the category they do not want to lead the league in, having a total of eight players opt out.
The Buffalo Bills had defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and cornerback E.J. Gaines opt out, but they received good news when cornerback Tre’Davious White decided to remain with the team.
Buffalo was knocking at the door last year, and this is the year they break the door down. Bills fans will have reason to celebrate for the first time since the Jim Kelly era as they win their first AFC East title since 1995.
- Best Bet to Win the NFC West
- Best Bet to Win the NFC North
- Best Bet to Win the NFC South
- Best Bet to Win the NFC East
- Best Bet to Win the AFC South
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