Buffalo Bills: Tom Brady’s departure revitalizes AFC East rivalries
The departure of Tom Brady from the New England Patriots, not only gives the Buffalo Bills and the other teams in the AFC East hope to compete for a division title but rejuvenates the rivalries within the division.
For the better part of two decades, it has felt like at the start of every year for the Buffalo Bills it was a foregone conclusion that the New England Patriots would win the division and the remaining three teams were playing for second place and hopefully a Wild Card spot.
It wasn’t hard for fans to believe this considering the Patriots won six Super Bowls since 2001 and 17 AFC East titles. The only years they didn’t was 2002 (New York Jets) and 2008 (Miami Dolphins). When one team runs away with a division year after year, it not only impacts the competitiveness between those two teams but also has an impact on the rivalries within the division.
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The divisional rivalries never went away and when the Bills play the Dolphins, chants of ‘Squish the Fish’ can be heard throughout the stadium. However, both teams, and their fanbase, know that the winner of that game really isn’t going to impact their chances at winning the division.
Now entering this year, the Patriots look as close to beatable as they have since the 1990s and that not only gives fans, and players, a little more of a boost going into that game. Each team in the AFC East know that every game within the division could be the deciding factor to who takes home the title.
The return of the competitiveness within the division isn’t just the Patriots losing Tom Brady but the other three teams collecting young talent. The Buffalo Bills are a team on the rise, with playoff appearances two out of the last three years. This will be Josh Allen‘s third year as starting quarterback and surrounded by players like Stefon Diggs, Devin Singletary, John Brown and Cole Beasley.
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins spent a lot of money in free agency bolstering their defense and hoping they got their franchise quarterback with the selection of Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall. The New York Jets also have a young quarterback in Sam Darnold, to go along with big free agents last year with signing Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley, as they are trying to figure out their place.
Even during the 1990s, when the Buffalo Bills were one of the top teams in the NFL, every team won the division title at least once and the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills won multiple times.
The competitive balance appears to have been restored within the AFC East as every team is entering this upcoming season believing the AFC East title is within reach. This also brings a new life to some of the AFC East rivalries that has gone dormant over the past two decades.