Jul 30, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws as offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels looks on during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
1) New England Patriots
Is anyone really surprised by the decision to put the New England Patriots in first place? No matter what you may think of them, they are the standard – a team that has won 12 of the last 14 AFC East titles.
On top of this, is the fact that the Patriots are the Super Bowl champions, at least until someone knocks them off their perch. Regardless of the deflategate scandal, I’ll gladly admit I have a lot of grudging respect for them. (Is that objective enough for a Bills website?)
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Of course, there are two factors that could potentially play a massive part in the 2015 season for New England – the loss of Darrelle Revis and the uncertainty over Tom Brady. While football is a team game, there is no denying the impact these two future Hall of Famers have on the football field.
In respect of Revis, his addition to the Patriots last year allowed Bill Belichick more flexibility with the defense. Even a defensive genius is made to look better, when he has arguably (still) the best cornerback in the NFL effectively shutting down one side of the field in the secondary.
Turning to the Brady situation, I don’t actually think this is as bad as some Patriots fans may believe. As far as I’m concerned, his four-game suspension won’t stand up in the long run, despite the NFL’s current (stubborn?) stance. (Is allegedly deflating game balls really on a par with assaulting your girlfriend?!)
Reports seem to indicate Brady is prepared to take the matter all the way in court, if necessary. Ultimately, it wouldn’t surprise me if the three-time Super Bowl MVP ends up missing no playing time at all in 2015, although I’m no expert when it comes to the legal implications (which is actually a bit concerning, considering I worked at a law firm for three years).
Its also worth mentioning the (not so) small matter of losing five-time Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork, but let’s be honest, the Patriots have been through this before, time and again. Until further notice – basically, when Brady retires – New England is virtually guaranteed to win double-figure games, and as such, remain favorites to take the AFC East.
Next: Is this the team to break the Patriots monopoly?