Tom Brady's departure from the New England Patriots has put the AFC East title in play for the first time in a long while.
The Patriots have won the AFC East in 17 of the last 20 seasons, including a streak of 11 consecutive division titles. The six-time Super Bowl champion decided to leave the Patriots after 20 years and sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in NFL free agency, opening the door for the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills to claim the division crown.
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Veteran running back Frank Gore, who signed with the Jets this offseason, sees an open race for the division title.
"It's wide open," Gore told reporters Thursday, per ESPN's Rich Cimini. "(Tom) Brady's gone, and it's wide open. You've got young quarterbacks, Sam Darnold and Josh (Allen). I don't know what Miami is doing or whatever. I think it's wide open."
Gore isn't necessarily wrong -- the race should be a lot more competitive than it's been over the last 10 years.
It also would be foolish to dismiss the Patriots' chances of extending their run of division dominance.
The Patriots defense, despite losing a few important veteran players during free agency, projects to be a top-10 unit next season. The Patriots' secondary remains one of the league's best. New England's offense, despite doubts from experts, still has plenty of talent, including what should be an excellent offensive line. The Patriots also have a tremendous coaching advantage with Bill Belichick running the show. No coach does a better job preparing his team each week.
The Patriots do face several challenges in defending their division title streak. Two of the toughest tasks facing New England are a very difficult 2020 schedule and adapting to a new starting quarterback.
Oddsmakers see a close AFC East race in 2020, but they still view the Patriots as the favorites to win the division, with the Bills coming in a close second.