The New England Patriots have finished atop the AFC East for the last decade, in fact, Miami was the last team to interrupt the Patriots’ divisional domination in 2008, but no team has been able to top Tom Brady since.
After their most recent Super Bowl win against the Rams, the Patriots have had a pretty rough offseason, losing top players and coaches alike. For starters, linebacker coach Brian Flores vacated his role to join the Dolphins as their head coach. New England also lost defensive coordinator Greg Schiano who opted to step away from the game after only a year on the job. The Patriots also lost star tight end Rob Gronkowski, who after years of injury trouble, decided to retire from football.
Those departures were only the beginning for New England, as they lost Trey Flowers, the anchor of their defensive line, as well as Malcolm Brown, a solid defensive tackle. The Patriots also cut tight end Dwayne Allen and lost wide receiver Chris Hogan to the Carolina Panthers. Finally, New England lost a pair of left tackles in Trent Brown, who got a huge contract from the Raiders, as well as LaAdrian Waddle who joined a division rival in the Buffalo Bills. To say the least, the Patriots are going to look very different in 2019. With the loss of key pieces and Brady continuing to age, the Patriots’ divisional domination may be in jeopardy.
Although the Bills and Jets have both made drastic improvements this offseason, Buffalo is in a great position to give the Patriots a run for their money and here’s why.
To cut right to it, the Bills were 6-10 in 2018 with the second best defense in the league and one of the worst offenses in the league. If the Bills can win six games with a terrible offense, how good can they be with a much improved offense?
Although the Patriots swept their two-game season series against the Bills in 2018, Bills fans saw something that they haven’t seen from the Patriots in a while, struggle. Despite losing both games, the Bills actually made it very difficult for the Patriots to beat them in 2018. In the first match-up of the year, Derek Anderson was under center, replacing an injured Josh Allen and a struggling Nate Peterman and performed adequately. Anderson was nothing to marvel at but he kept the Bills in the game, as the defense held the Patriots’ offense to only 10 points through the first three quarters. A late-game pick-six and offensive touchdown ended up putting the Patriots in the drivers seat but the way the Bills kept themselves in it was impressive.
A few weeks later, in Foxborough, we saw sloppy quarterback play from Brady and Josh Allen. Defense was a focal point on both sides in this game but in the end, the team with the better offense won the game. Although Buffalo lost both, they have proven to us that they can at least compete with the Patriots, which is not something they have been able to say for basically the last two decades.
The Boy Wonder
Josh Allen looked promising in his last six games of 2018. After his injury he sustained in week six, the Bills were forced to sign Derek Anderson, who did not perform well on the field, but gave Allen an amazing mentor. After spending time with Anderson, Allen played significantly better and the game had evidently slowed down for him. Allen will be an integral part of the Bills’ success in 2019 and with some new weapons, Allen will be much improved.
The Bills had a complete overhaul on their offensive line and they absolutely needed to. The Buffalo offensive line is already immensely better than their line 2018, which will allow Allen to have more time in the pocket and take less hits, as well as allow LeSean McCoy and new running back Frank Gore to run more efficiently. The Bills also added John Brown and Cole Beasley who will play a huge role in Buffalo’s passing game.
With Buffalo’s only big departure being the retirement of Kyle Williams and the addition of 19 quality free agent signings, the Bills are in a fantastic spot moving forward.
Although the New York Jets pulled in a few bigger name free agents like Le’Veon Bell and CJ Mosley, their roster does not give me total confidence. There is still a lot to be desired from their offensive line and I question how effective Bell will be going from one of the best lines in the league with the Steelers to a less than optimal line in New York, especially after sitting out all of 2018. He will likely still be the superstar we know him to be, but until I see him play for Gang Green, I have to be a little hesitant. Other than that, they need to focus on tight end in the draft, as well as strengthening their cornerback group.
To put a positive spin on things, I think the Dolphins have a really good chance of getting the first overall pick in 2020, but have little chance of winning six games, let alone competing with the Patriots.