After years of dominance by New England, the AFC East is up for grabs with the departure of Tom Brady. The Buffalo Bills can realistically win the division.
Since 2001, the New England Patriots have won the AFC East 17 times and won 10+ games 18 times. They have prevented the rest of their division rivals from getting close to a postseason berth, let alone a home playoff game. While the Patriots have made the playoffs 17 times since 2001, the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins combined for only 11 postseason appearances in that span.
This divisional dominance was led by Tom Brady, who has an 86-22 record versus the AFC East; he completed 62 percent of his passes for nearly 26,000 yards, 197 touchdowns and 67 interceptions versus his division rivals. Brady was a constant obstacle that the rest of the division simply could not overcome.
Now, he’s finally gone. According to Adam Schefter, Tom Brady will not return to Foxborough and will play for another team in 2020. The main catalyst behind decades of dominance is finally gone from the AFC East.
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While the shock may not subside for a while, this opens the door for another team to finally capture the elusive AFC East crown and potentially see greater success, especially now that they don’t have to mark down two automatic losses on the calendar every year. While the Jets and Dolphins should benefit from Brady’s departure, I believe it is the Buffalo Bills whose championship window is finally open.
Last season, the Bills took the league by surprise. They went 10-6 behind second-year quarterback Josh Allen and fielded a top-three defense with playmakers like TreDavious White, Tremaine Edmunds, and Ed Oliver leading the charge. Although they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Houston Texans, the team showed a great deal of promise.
This offseason, they’ve made even more of point to capitalize on Allen’s progress and cheap rookie deal. They’ve upgraded the offense by trading a first-round pick and other draft choices for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
Allen now has Diggs and John Brown as his two outside receivers, both of whom eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving last season. He also has other solid weapons at his disposal like Cole Beasley, Devin Singletary, and Dawson Know, all of whom had impressive seasons in their first year with Buffalo.
The Bills have kept their much improved offensive line intact this offseason and added more pieces to an already great defense. They’ve signed linebacker A.J. Klein out of New Orleans and brought over defensive end Mario Addison from Carolina. Klein was known as a reliable tackler and playmaker during his time with the Saints, while Addison had averaged almost 10 sacks per year in his past four seasons with the Panthers.
The Bills have already had success versus their other divisional opponents. Since head coach Sean McDermott arrived in Buffalo in 2017, the Bills have gone 8-4 versus the Jets and Dolphins. They went 0-6 versus the Patriots, but with Brady gone, I expect that record to improve.
With the Dolphins entering a rebuilding stage, the Jets attempting to fix a decrepit offensive line and secondary, and the Patriots looking for a replacement quarterback, the Bills’ window for an AFC East title has never been wider. They arguably have the most complete roster in their division and have had greater success than the Jets and Dolphins over the past three years.
With Brady leaving Foxborough, the division is up for grabs. The Bills may not be the favorite to win the division as of yet, but the opportunity is cemented. The Buffalo Bills finally have a realistic chance to host a playoff game and take the AFC East crown for the first time since the 1990s. For that fact alone, Bills fans should rejoice.