There's a chance, but ultimately, I don't think the first quarter of the season is going to determine what happens in the AFC East. The
Patriots have two division games, and even if they win only one of those games, they will be in good shape. However, with New England hosting the
Dolphins in Week 2, Brady will still have to play in Miami -- where he's lost three straight.
That said, I think the
Patriots have a good team again this season, especially with the offseason additions on the O-line and the trade for TE
Martellus Bennett. Having learned behind Brady for the past two years,
Jimmy Garoppolo will be comfortable in the system; he has the ability to do what
Brock Osweiler did for the
Broncos last season.
The other teams have an opportunity to overtake New England, but they better jump on it early if they want to be the top team in the AFC East.
New York Jets have a great shot at winning the division. After all, the last time these two teams faced off --
in Week 16 of last season, with
Tom Brady in the game -- Gang Green prevailed. I don't think
Jimmy Garoppolo is a good enough quarterback to understand the blitzes that opponents undoubtedly will throw at him as an untested NFL starter.
Jets jump out early again this season (they started out 4-1 last year), I think they can make a run. Had the
Jets made the postseason in 2015, I think they would have been a team
nobody wanted to play in a "lose and go home" game.
There's no way the door is open for another team to knock the
Patriots off in the AFC East.
Jimmy Garoppolo can carry the weight until
Tom Brady returns in Week 5. No team in the division is good enough to create enough separation from the
Patriots that can't be overcome. Brady will be back and lead that team to its eighth straight AFC East title.
Patriots will be behind the eight ball when
Tom Brady gets back in Week 5. Three of their first four opponents are AFC teams and two are division foes. If Brady does indeed miss all four games, New England could lose three of them. It's going to hurt the Pats tremendously, and I believe the
Jets have a talented enough team to claim the AFC East title. They were second in the division in 2015 and this will be their year, especially if Brady has to sit at the beginning of the season.
Tom Brady is still in line to play 12 games. And even if the
Patriots lose three of their first four, given their annual dominance, we have to expect they will rally and still win the division. The Pats have owned the AFC East for the last seven seasons. I don't see any of the other three teams pushing them off the throne.
The reality is ... The only way any other team in the AFC East is going to win that division is if
Tom Brady doesn't play. Now that's the case for the first four games. It definitely opens the door a little bit, but the other teams have things to figure out, as well. The
Jets still need a quarterback, the
Dolphins have a new head coach, and the
Bills remain inconsistent. The other three teams have a chance, but this division will be decided in December -- not in the first quarter of the season.