Patriots grip on AFC East still vice-like, oddsmakers say

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Patriots grip on AFC East still vice-like, oddsmakers say

Football is inching ever nearer. You don't need a calendar to tell you that. Just check your Twitter timeline and watch the gambling opportunities for the upcoming NFL season stream in. 

Postseason odds were made available via and last week, and -- you may want to sit down for this -- the Patriots are favored to win their division for the 10th consecutive season.

No team in the league has greater odds to make the postseason than the Patriots at -1500 (spend $1,500 to make $100). The Steelers are the next most likely team to make the playoffs, per BetOnline, coming in at -550. After that, it's the Vikings who are considered the next best lock to play deep into January, coming in at -260.

Among the worst odds to make the postseason? That would be New England's AFC East brethren, leading us to an annual chicken-or-the-egg argument: Are the odds the Dolphins, Jets and Bills will make the playoffs down simply because the Patriots loom? Or is it because that trio is viewed as having what are among the game's weakest rosters?

It's probably a little of both.

Even with a Julian Edelman suspension looming, and even with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski skipping the voluntary portion of Patriots offseason activities, there is no real argument that the Patriots aren't the most talented team in the division. Meanwhile, questions abound for their division rivals.

Who's playing quarterback in Buffalo? Can the Jets stay afloat with some combination of Josh McCown, Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater behind center? Are the Dolphins delaying the inevitable by rolling with Ryan Tannehill for another season? 

Though the Dolphins have a respected young coach at the helm, and though they showed some signs of life last season -- the highlight coming in a home victory over the Patriots in December -- they're still one of the least likely teams in the league to make the postseason, per BetOnline, checking in at +600. The Jets and their young defense are slotted in with the same odds. 

Buffalo is actually the most likely to make it past Week 17, at +450. 

Perhaps the oddsmakers feel good about top-10 pick Josh Allen being able to make a quick transition from playing for Wyoming to playing against NFL defenses. Perhaps it's the additions of free agent defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and rookie first-round linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to the middle of the Bills defense that has wise guys intrigued.  

The Bills have other promising pieces in place. LeSean McCoy is still one of the league's top backs. Second-year corner Tre'Davious White could enter into the conversation as one of the game's best at his position if he takes advantage of his first full offseason as a pro. And coach Sean McDermott seems to be focused on establishing a winning culture in Western New York. Together they helped the Bills make the playoffs last season, ending an 18-year postseason drought. 

Still, the odds aren't great they'll be back. In part because the Patriots are still the Patriots. 


Benjamin Watson reveals he will miss first four weeks of 2019 due to failed drug test

Benjamin Watson reveals he will miss first four weeks of 2019 due to failed drug test

One of the tight ends the Patriots brought in to replace the retired Rob Gronkowski will not be able to suit up for the first month of the 2019 season. 

Benjamin Watson revealed on his Facebook page that he is facing a four-game suspension by the NFL for failing a drug test due to treatment he received after his retirement from football in December. 

Here's an excerpt from the post:

After my contract expired last March I told my doctors I was finished playing, went through a series of medical tests and was prescribed Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate to assist in healing my body and mind.

On March 29, nine days after I started therapy, I was randomly tested under our substance policies. I complied out of habit, never thinking in that moment I'd want to come back.

Watson received interest from several teams to come out of retirement, and ultimately signed a one-year, $3 million deal to return to the team that drafted him 32nd overall in 2004. 

The 14-year veteran has accumulated 5,885 receiving yards and 44 touchdowns in his career, and in 2018 recorded 35 receptions for 400 yards and two touchdowns with the Saints in 2018. Watson should prove to be a key piece in the Patriots' offense this season with the absence of Gronkowski. 

Until he returns, New England has Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck and Ryan Izzo as their options at tight end. 

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Chris Hogan reflects on time with the Patriots and playing with Tom Brady

Chris Hogan reflects on time with the Patriots and playing with Tom Brady

It'd be difficult to have a better three-year run with a team than Chris Hogan experienced with the Patriots. 

The now 30-year-old wideout recorded 1,651 and 12 touchdowns through three seasons in New England while leading the league in yards per reception in 2016. But it was the three consecutive Super Bowl appearances and two championships that will most likely leave a mark on Hogan for the rest of his career. 

Hogan spoke to ESPN's Mike Reiss and reflected on his time as a Patriot as his career with the Panthers begins. When asked if he had any regrets, Hogan shared nothing but praise when describing the opportunity to play with Tom Brady and for Bill Belichick. 

No. None. I was very, very fortunate to be around one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, if not the best. One of the best coaches to ever coach. Great teammates. I miss Julian [Edelman] a little bit, going back and forth with him. I made a lot of friendships there, which I think will last the rest of my life.

He was never the flashiest receiver, but Hogan came up big for the Patriots when it mattered most, included an incredible one-handed catch against the Chiefs in this year's AFC title game. The Patriots converted on 3rd-and-8 on their way to a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Kansas City tied the game with a field goal and the Patriots went on to win in overtime. 

Hogan has insisted there are no hard feelings towards the Patriots for not re-signing him, so after signing a one-year deal with Carolina, Hogan will attempt to create a consistent connection with quarterback Cam Newton. 

If it doesn't work out, he could always come back, but the Patriots have acquired receivers Demaryius Thomas and N'Keal Harry to play on the outside. 

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