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Breaking down the odds to win the AFC East ahead of free agency

For the first time in more than a decade, the AFC East has a different defending champion from the previous year.

Head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills looks on in the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 24, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

NFL free agency kicks off in earnest in just under two weeks. With the 2021 salary cap expected to fall from last year’s figure by a significant amount, teams have already begun the process of trimming the fat from their rosters in order to reach compliance before the deadline arrives.

But while free agency will produce considerably player movement as always, some teams will look largely the same due to cap restraints. The recently published divisional odds from DraftKings Sportsbook takes those factors into consideration. These odds provide a deeper look into the perceived hierarchy of each division and how much upside certain teams have within them.

For the first time in over a decade, the AFC East has a different defending champion than the previous year. Whether that marks the beginning of a new era or a blip on the radar remains to be seen.

Buffalo Bills: -159

The Bills finally unseated the New England Patriots’ run of dominance in the NFC East, producing a 13-3 regular-season record and reaching the AFC title game. Quarterback Josh Allen took another crucial step in his development this past season and could join the NFL’s elite class of signal-caller with another step in 2021. The Bills got a few breaks this offseason, including offensive coordinator Brian Daboll staying with the team after interviewing for head-coaching vacancies. Though the Kansas City Chiefs remain the class of the AFC, Buffalo has become a popular choice to upset the status quo in the conference.

Miami Dolphins: +275

Though the Dolphins missed the playoffs last season, their progress from an apparently tanking team at the start of 2019 to a 10-6 up-and-comer reflects well on young head coach Brian Flores. The defense has demonstrated remarkable improvement during the two years under Flores’ watch and the offense needs only a few tweaks — and perhaps a new starter under center — to complete the turnaround. Though Tua Tagovailoa appears the most likely candidate to start the 2021 season at quarterback, the Dolphins could become players for Deshaun Watson if the Houston Texans eventually make him available.

New England Patriots: +500

The Patriots still don’t know who will start at quarterback in their post-Tom Brady era. Cam Newton could return for a second season, but his struggles the second half of 2020 suggest the team will look elsewhere. The veteran market might not have many options that make sense for the Patriots, especially if no more star signal-callers end up leaving their current teams. Until New England resolves its issues under center, the team will have a hard time keeping pace with the Bills and Dolphins.

New York Jets: +1600

The Jets finally ended the disastrous Adam Gase era, welcoming in new head coach Robert Saleh earlier this offseason. Saleh brought Mike LaFleur, the younger brother of Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, with him to New York as his offensive coordinator. That move should give the Jets their most cohesive direction on offense in years, allowing either Sam Darnold or a quarterback not yet acquired to thrive relative to the team’s recent seasons. Still, with so many holes on the roster and perhaps a new quarterback to develop, the franchise remains far from AFC East title contention.

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