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Tom Brady departure opens up the AFC East race

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Will the Patriots win a 12th straight division title in 2020, or fall short following the departure of Tom Brady?

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady talks with the media after a loss to the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium.  David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC East has been dominated by the New England Patriots for the last decade, but now Tom Brady has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ahead of the 2020 season. The division is wide open again, but will New England be dethroned?

The Buffalo Bills are coming off an impressive season and look like the team most likely to claim the title, but they might not be enough to to topple the the Patriots’ fine-tuned system. We break down the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook for each team in the field here.

New England Patriots (-110)

Despite losing Brady, the Patriots (-110) are the favorites to win the division for a 12th straight year. They’re reportedly done pursuing a replacement for the six-time Super Bowl champ ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft and aren’t expected to pursue former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, or Andy Dalton.

The Patriots clocked in at -400 ahead of free agency and dropped them to -305 when losing Brady started becoming more and more likely. The first day of free agency caused their odds to drop to -278. The second day did even more damage.

The last time New England didn’t win the division was when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2008. But Matt Cassel was still able to lead the team to an 11-5 record — which was even with the first place Miami Dolphins — with average stats. The Patriots still have great coaching and elite defense, so they have still have a good shot at keeping the streak going with a top-notch signal caller.

Buffalo Bills (+175)

Buffalo (+175) finished second in the division last year at 10-6 and benefited from the improved passing of Josh Allen. The Bills upgraded their receiving corps by adding John Brown and Cole Beasley ahead of 2019 and hopes to make another jump after trading for Stefon Diggs.

Buffalo was +450 in February but climbed to +360 in early March. It made a deal for Diggs before the first day of free agency, but their odds improved from +325 to +175 between the end of the first day and the end of the second. The Bills lost to the Patriots twice last year, but both of those contests were one score games. Flip those games and the Bills get the top seed. Will Brady’s absence make a difference in the outcome between these teams in 2020? We’ll find out soon.

New York Jets (+750)

The Jets (+750) ranked third at 7-9 in 2019 after adding Le’Veon Bell and still have some work to do. Sam Darnold was thrown off after getting mono early in the year, and Bell was rusty after a taking a year off while with the Pittsburgh Steelers. They could both get better in 2020, but free agency could challenge the offense in other places.

New York’s chances went from +1800 to +1200 between from ahead of free agency. Their odds weren’t affected on the first day of free agency but did get a helping hand on the second. Robby Anderson signed a deal with the Carolina Panthers, depleting New York’s receiving corps. They will need to add to their arsenal out wide, but does have Jamison Crowder as a reliable option.

Miami Dolphins (+900)

The Dolphins (+900) got off to a slow start in 2019 and lost their first seven games. They bounced back later on in the year, but still finished last with a 5-11 record. Trading away valuable assets for picks will likely set them back in 2020.

Miami is the only team that didn’t see its division title chances increase in early March. The Dolphins odds dropped from +1400 to +1600 ahead of free agency’s start, but dropped back down following the second day. Miami has to fix its porous defense, find a franchise quarterback, build an offensive line, and find some consistency at running back. There are too many problems for they need to address in order to become real threats to take the title.

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