The New England Patriots currently sit in an unfamiliar position, approaching irrelevancy in an AFC East they dominated for two decades. New England is in this position both because of what it hasn’t accomplished and because of what divisional rivals like the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and three-time defending AFC East champion Buffalo Bills have both on and off the field.
NFL analysts and media pundits will say the same thing. Many of them have since the Tom Brady era concluded, and New England’s lackluster offseason has fueled that ongoing notion. So have oddsmakers. The Patriots have the longest odds of any AFC East team to win the Super Bowl (55-1), the conference (30-1) and the division itself (+750). The order in each of those FanDuel Sportsbook markets goes the Bills, Jets, Dolphins and Patriots.
Think about that: the Patriots are viewed as the fourth team in the AFC East hierarchy.
However, the Patriots could propel themselves back into the conversation to win all three with one blockbuster move for star quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Jackson, according to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, wants to play in New England. Kraft made headlines Monday when he told reporters how his friend, Meek Mill, relayed Jackson’s interest to the longtime owner. Kraft said the decision is now up to Belichick, though that’s perhaps an unfair burden on the coach given Jackson’s desired contract is the biggest reason for his availability. It feels Kraft will have plenty of say in that department.
Kraft’s comments came hours after Jackson made his trade request public. The 2019 NFL MVP, who’s still just 26 years old, is available to communicate with other teams like the Patriots. The Baltimore Ravens allowed Jackson that right when they placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on him earlier this month, just a few days after Jackson made his initial request to the team. The Ravens would be able to match any offer Jackson receives, but if they opted against it would acquire two first-rounders from Jackson’s next team. Baltimore continues to operate as if Jackson will be back.
But could Jackson actually land elsewhere, perhaps with the Patriots? I mean, talk about a splash.
Because regardless of your feelings toward Patriots quarterbacks Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, there’s no debating Jackson would elevate New England’s offense. He’s one of the most difficult players to defend, as confirmed by current Patriots safety Adrian Phillips. Jackson in Bill O’Brien’s offense would be the best of any since Brady was in Foxboro.
Given how the Bills have had such success in the AFC East recently, it wouldn’t be fair to say the Patriots would undoubtedly overtake Buffalo. However, it becomes a much closer race between Josh Allen’s Bills, the Jets who likely will be quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers in 2023 and the Patriots. Throw in the Miami Dolphins, who are collecting as much talent as anyone these last two offseasons, the AFC East very well could be the most competitive division in the league — and a division the Patriots could win.
BetMGM’s senior trader Halvor Egeland told NESN’s Claudia Bellofatto on Monday the Patriots prices to win the AFC East would leap Miami to the third betting line should New England acquire Jackson. They’d be right behind the Bills and Jets with odds resembling a three-horse race. New England’s prices to win the AFC and Super Bowl would each get cut in half from where they currently are, as well.
Would the Patriots completely flip to AFC East back into their favor and win their first division title since 2019? Well, that would be decided on the field starting in September. But there’s no debating the Patriots would return to relevancy in both the division and across the league.