The New England Patriots lost Tom Brady to the Buccaneers in free agency, but that isn’t stopping the sharps in Vegas from making the Pats the favorite to win the AFC East yet again. Caesers Sportsbook recently released updated NFL division odds, and they’ve set the Patriots at -110 favorites to win the AFC East for a 12th consecutive season.
The Bills are right behind them at +180. The Dolphins (+650) and the Jets (+750) are further back as the two longshots. Even with the uncertainty at quarterback, Vegas trusts Bill Belichick to continue the dynasty and bring home another division crown. Do you?
The Patriots have dominated the AFC East for 20 years
For the most part, the NFL is a year-to-year league. Teams have breakout seasons then regress a short while after, making way for another team to rise up and make a run. Every division in the NFL has been competitive from top to bottom for most of the last 20 years. Every division besides the AFC East, that is.
The Patriots have won 17 AFC East titles since 2001. The Jets and Dolphins both have one title to their name in the same span, while the Bills have a big fat zero. New England has won 10 or more games in every season but one since the dynasty began. The Pats haven’t had a losing season since 2000, Belichick’s first year as head coach.
The last time New England didn’t top the AFC East was in 2008. Tom Brady tore his ACL in week 1 and Matt Cassel took over as the starter for the rest of the year. Twelve years later, the Patriots are faced with the same issue they dealt with in 2008. Brady has moved on, but Vegas isn’t quitting on the Patriots just yet.
The Patriots have had success without Tom Brady in the past
The Patriots didn’t make the playoffs in 2008 without Tom Brady, but that sentence is a bit misleading by itself. Matt Cassel filled in admirably for the future Hall-of-Famer and led the team to an 11-5 record that season. The only reason New England didn’t win the AFC East in 2008 was because the Dolphins also went 11-5 and edged the Pats out on the tiebreaker.
Belichick’s defense was eighth in the NFL in fewest points allowed that season. The coaching great relied on a bevy of running backs and a sturdy defensive unit to win 11 games. With Brady sidelined for the year, Belichick did what he does best — adapt.
There’s no one secret to winning and no template to follow year after year in this league. Winning in the NFL takes an entire team, not just one star player. Belichick understands this more than anyone. If he can lead a team to an 11-5 record with Matt Cassel calling the plays, he can do the same with Jarrett Stidham or Bryan Hoyer in 2020.
Bill Belichick should never be counted out
Bill Belichick is a winner, plain and simple. He will approach Brady’s departure the same as a special teams player getting cut. It’s always business and never personal with Belichick, which is one of the reasons he’s been able to win consistently for three decades in the NFL.
Belichick has led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles in nine appearances since taking over in 2000. He knows how to optimize his team’s strengths and mask its weaknesses better than anyone.
Next season will be his toughest job yet. Belichick will have to rely on his No. 1 defense from last year and an unproven signal-caller in Stidham, but he’s done more with less in his career.
Vegas is almost never wrong. Betting on the Patriots has been one of the surest things in sports over the past two decades, so sportsbooks aren’t going to offer free money for the Patriots to do something they’ve achieved 17 of the last 19 seasons. If you’re surprised to see the Pats favored to win the AFC East without Tom Brady, maybe reevaluate. This is still Bill Belichick, and the Patriots’ dynasty won’t be ending while he’s still calling the shots.