Death, Taxes And The Patriots Winning The AFC East
Those are the only certainties in life
The New England Patriots secured their sixth Super Bowl title versus a much-improved Los Angeles Rams squad back in February. The Patriots were able to hold the Rams’ high-scoring offense to just 14 first downs and 269 yards, resulting in a 13-3 win for New England. The Patriots-Rams Super Bowl was the lowest-scoring in NFL history.
During the regular season, the Patriots finished 11-5 and were able to finish first in the AFC East for the tenth-consecutive season. The team had a rocky start to the season to say the least, with back-to-back losses versus the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions in Weeks 2 and 3 respectively.
New England then went 7-3 before losing 34-33 to the Miami Dolphins in Week 14 followed by another loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers the next week. It was in Week 16 that the Patriots were able to clinch the AFC East after beating the Buffalo Bills 24-12 at home. In the AFC Championship Game, the Kansas City Chiefs fell 37-31 in overtime while New England earned their third-consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
It should come as no surprise that the Patriots are once again favored to win the AFC East. Even after posting their worst regular-season record since 2009 last season, it still topped the Dolphins (7-9), Bills (6-10), and New York Jets (4-12). While the Jets could potentially make some noise with talents like Le’Veon Bell, CJ Mosley and Leonard Williams on board, a few star players probably won’t translate to AFC East winners. The DraftKings Sportsbook lists the Patriots as -550 favorites to win the AFC East, and rightfully so.
If oddsmakers are right, the Patriots will have won the AFC East Championship for the 17th time over the past 18 years. Odds are also in favor of New England winning their seventh Super Bowl by the end of the 2019 season. Being that the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era has brought six Super Bowls wins to Foxborough since 2002, the strong +700 odds for the Patriots to win Super Bowl LIV is logical, even with the other powerhouses across the NFL landscape.
Heading into the first week of training camp, the Patriots have a few new tools to utilize. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was signed to a one-year deal reportedly worth $6 million. The five-time Pro Bowler and former Super Bowl champion has 688 career receptions for 9,330 yards and 62 touchdowns and could play a major factor on the outside.
Tom Brady will also have new targets like wide receiver Maurice Harris and tight ends Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse. The Patriots also acquired tight end Michael Bennett from the Philadelphia Eagles, who recorded 9.0 sacks and 30 quarterback hits last season. The main focus in New England will be replenishing their wide receiver room with fresh talent.
All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement in March and his exit will undoubtedly have a huge impact. During his final season, Gronk caught 47 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns. Over his career, he had a record 79 touchdowns, 521 receptions, and 7,861 receiving yards. Gronk’s presence in the playoffs specifically will be missed, as the future Hall of Famer posted 12 receiving touchdowns, 81 receptions, and 1,163 receiving yards.
Another key loss was defensive end Trey Flowers, who signed with the Detroit Lions. In 46 games (four seasons) Flowers has 21.0 career sacks, 164.0 tackles, and five forced fumbles. The Patriots also lost both left tackle Trent Brown and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to free agency. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores picked up a head coach position with the Dolphins, so there will be defensive changes on every level.
A Peek At The Schedule
The Patriots have the easiest schedule in the division, and possibly throughout the entire conference. Taking a closer look, New England only has four games versus teams that are considered Super Bowl contenders. Only the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cleveland Browns are in the top-10 of Super Bowl odds on DraftKings.
New England has dominated the AFC East division throughout the Brady/Belichick era and this year should be no different.
Last season, the Patriots finished with a 14.5% Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) on offense putting them just behind other playoff teams like the New Orleans Saints, LA Chargers, Rams, and Chiefs. They ranked in the middle of the pack defensively (0.4% defensive DVOA) ranking 16th overall. However, Belichick and his staff have proven to be forward-thinkers who are able to game plan for pretty much any type of opponent, as seen in recent Super Bowls.
No NFL bet is ever a sure thing, except that the Patriots will win the AFC East. New England holds the most division titles (21) and have the most wins in division history with a 500-392 record. Brady may be getting older, but he is still 4-time Super Bowl MVP, 14-time Pro Bowler and has shown no signs of regression. No other quarterback has led their team to 16 division titles, and there is no reason to think the dominance will end in 2019. It might not be the most exciting or risky bet to take, but it’s as close to a sure one if everyone in New England stays healthy (most notably Brady).
Note: DVOA stats were found on Football Outsiders. The advice above is the writer’s opinion and does not reflect the stance or interest of BetQL.