AFC Is it finally ready for a change of guard in 2020?


The last time the New England Patriots didn’t win the AFC East was in 2008, when quarterback Tom Brady missed the season with a ripped ACL. Now that Brady is out of the division, could things come full circle with a new AFC East champion?The Patriots’ 11-crown streak is an NFL record, with the closest team being the Los Angeles Rams, who have won NFC West seven times in a row (1973-79).

The Patriots join the Atlanta Braves (14) as the only NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL franchises to win at least 10 consecutive division titles.

The New York Yankees (1998-2006), Colorado Avalanche (1995-2003), Los Angeles Lakers (1982-90) and Boston Celtics (1957-65) are teams from the other four major sports that have streaks of nine consecutive titles.

Before their one-year deal with quarterback Cam Newton in late June, the Patriots without Brady seemed to be more vulnerable, while the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets all seemed to be progressing this offseason. Does Newton’s arrival change outlook and swing the pendulum in favor of the Patriots?

ESPN NFL Nation journalists Rich Cimini (Jets), Marcel Louis-Jacques (Bills), Mike Reiss (Patriots) and Cameron Wolfe (Dolphins) argue for – and against – the teams they cover.

Buffalo Bills

Why they will win the AFC East: From top to bottom, it’s the most talented alignment on paper in the division. With 10 starters coming back on both sides of the ball and a top three scorer defense in each of the past two seasons, the Bills were already in a position to make a run for the division crown before Brady left the Patriots. Now that they’ve added wide receiver Stefon Diggs to boost last season’s sluggish offense, the Bills are ready to win their first division title since 1995.

Why they don’t go: Buffalo’s schedule gets tough in Week 5, which kicks off a four-game streak against the 2019 playoffs in five weeks. If the Bills fall on this stretch, they may have trouble winning the division. Additionally, Buffalo’s offensive continuity is essential and relies heavily on quarterback Josh Allen’s connection to Diggs, which could take some time after a limited offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic. – Louis-Jacques

Miami dolphins

Why they will win AFC East: No AFC East team has improved more than the Dolphins this offseason. Tua Tagovailoa has more advantages than any quarterback here, and coach Brian Flores clocked a 5-11 record on the NFL’s worst roster of 2019.

Brady is gone, and even with the arrival of Newton, this Patriots team isn’t as scared as it once was. The Bills are probably at least co-favorites in the division, but they don’t scare anyone. The Jets are still… the Jets. The division is wide open, so why not the dolphins?

Why they don’t go: It’s a year too early. The Dolphins have a lot of young talent, but after a shortened offseason it’s a lot to ask them to win the division with a rookie quarterback trying to get into the roster, four or five new starters on the offensive line and two. new coordinators. The Patriots and Bills have more proven talent and cohesion as the 2020 season approaches. Miami should be competitive, but 2021 will likely be their year. – Wolfe

New York Jets

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Rich Cimini weighs all the factors in Jamal Adams’ request for a Jets trade.

Why they will win AFC East: The defense is good enough to lead the team through the tough first part of the schedule, giving quarterback Sam Darnold & Co. a chance to build chemistry and establish an identity. After a slow start, Darnold will benefit from a breakout season, with the help of rejuvenated ball carrier Le’Veon Bell and wide rookie catcher Denzel Mims. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2010. There’s a law of averages, right?

Why they don’t go: Whether Jamal Adams is part of the team or not, his contractual dispute will create a bad atmosphere that permeates the locker room. Coach Adam Gase will not be able to overcome the turmoil and everything will fall apart. The main reason, however: there is still a shortage of talent on the list. When a solid security (Adams) is clearly the best player on the team, that’s a problem. – Cimini

New England Patriots

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Stephen A. Smith and Louis Riddick passionately discuss whether Jarrett Stidham or Cam Newton should enter Patriots training camp as a starter.

Why they will win AFC East: Bill Belichick is still the coach, NFL defensive player of the year, Stephon Gilmore, is still in the cornerback, and there is a solid core of leadership that remains despite Brady’s departure. If Newton is in good health and can provide a solid level of play in the quarterback (assuming he beats sophomore Jarrett Stidham), that would answer the team’s biggest question, as his experience great play was something missing on this list.

Why they won’t: At some point, the quarterbacks need to step up and make championship shots, and there remains a question of whether Newton (health, system / culture) or Stidham (experience) can do it consistently. Add a pandemic that eliminated the possibility of practicing, and the challenge only increases. In addition, the schedule is expected to test the Patriots, with road games against Seattle, Kansas City, Houston, the Rams and the Chargers. – Reiss


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