The New England Patriots have won 11 straight AFC East division titles. Dating back to 2003, they have won 16 of the last 17, and one time they didn’t win the division during that span was in 2008 when Tom Brady was knocked out with a torn ACL in Week 1.
But now, here we are in 2020, and I just can’t consider the Patriots the favorites to capture another division crown heading into next season.
A rather cataclysmic shift has occurred in New England, as Brady has left the Pats for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
Gone is the greatest quarterback of all-time, and gone is the primary reason as for why the Patriots have had so much success for the last couple of decades.
Yes, Bill Belichick is a phenomenal coach and arguably the greatest one in NFL history, but he hasn’t been the guy out on the field leading game-winning touchdown drives. That has been Brady.
But Brady is gone, and New England doesn’t currently have an answer.
The Pats’ options are somewhat limited. They can roll with Jarrett Stidham, who is entering his second season and is entirely unproven. They can sign one of Cam Newton or Jameis Winston, the former of whom is clearly declining and the latter of whom is coming off of a season in which he threw 30 interceptions. They can swing a trade for Andy Dalton, but there is a reason he has never been able to accomplish much in Cincinnati.
Basically, none of those options are Brady, even with Brady turning 43 years old this summer. Perhaps Stidham is the heir to the throne, but we know even less about him than we did about Jimmy Garoppolo during Garoppolo’s stay in Foxborough. Far less, actually.
And let’s say the Patriots do find what they believe to be a solution under center. Who is that quarterback going to throw to? New England had one of the NFL’s worst receiving corps this past season, and the club hasn’t done anything to address the issue this offseason.
At the moment, it’s basically Julian Edelman and a bunch of question marks. It should be noted that this year’s draft class is ripe with receiver depth, but look how that turned out for the Pats in 2019 when they took N’Keal Harry in the first round.
Luckily for the Patriots, the rest of the AFC East isn’t very good. The New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins are both a long way away from contending, and while I actually have the Buffalo Bills pegged as the division favorites, they are still very unproven.
New England will have a chance to win this division. But I just don’t see how anyone can declare the Pats the favorites right now. Not after losing Brady, and not after doing virtually nothing to patch up their holes this spring.
The Bills won 10 games and pushed the Patriots for the AFC East title this past year, and with Buffalo ascending and New England clearly descending, I don’t think the Pats are favorites anymore.
Man, that is weird to say.