The last time a team other than the New England Patriots won the AFC East was in 2008, when Matt Cassel started nearly the entire season in place of an injured Tom Brady. Since then, the Pats have dominated, reeling off seven consecutive division titles.
But with Brady suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season, one former New York Jets running back believes his old team has a strong chance of snapping that streak.
“If there’s ever a year to knock off the Patriots, it has to be this year for the Jets or for somebody else to win this division,” LaDainian Tomlinson told ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. “It has to be the Jets. When you think about it, they have enough experience on both sides of the ball. If Ryan (Fitzpatrick) can play at the level he played last year — and maybe just a little bit more — they should do it. They should do it. He’s had his best years under (offensive coordinator) Chan Gailey. That’s why I’m so optimistic.”
Though the Jets haven’t reached the playoffs since 2010, they finished just two games back of the Patriots in the AFC East standings last season — the closest any team had come to New England since New York finished one game back in 2009. And with Fitzpatrick back in the fold after finally coming to terms on a new contract, New York returns a quarterback who set a franchise record with 31 touchdown passes in 2015.
Still, the Patriots enter the season with a stacked roster, and they will be a very tough out even with backup signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo set to start Weeks 1 through 4.
Thumbnail photo via Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports Images