Patriots

Patriots win at same rate vs. rest of NFL as they do vs. AFC East

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Patriots win at same rate vs. rest of NFL as they do vs. AFC East

In his Football Morning in America column, Peter King shined a light on how much better the Patriots have been since 2003 compared to the rest of the AFC East. 

As King points out, the Patriots have gone 189-51 (.788 winning percentage) since 2003 while the Jets, Dolphins and Bills have won 109, 106 and 102 games, respectively, and have winning percentages of .454, .442 and .425.

King’s conclusion that the Patriots have been a crapton better than their divisional opponents for a 15 seasons is spot-on even if it isn’t a revelation.

But be careful of taking the next step and inferring that the Patriots have built that gaudy winning percentage because they’ve fattened up on the AFC East.

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Because the Patriots have won at almost the exact same rate against the rest of the NFL as they have against their division.

The Patriots are 71-19 since 2003 in the AFC East. That’s a .788 winning percentage. Outside the division, they are 118-32 (.786).

King goes on to add that, when the league realigned in 2002, it would have been so much more competitive if the Colts remained in the AFC East instead of shipping to the AFC South.

He’s right but only to a point. Since 2001, the Patriots are 14-5 against the Colts (.736). Throwing out the last six games since 2011 that Peyton Manning wasn’t there for, the Patriots were 8-5 (.615) against Indy (8-4 if you throw out the 2008 game when Matt Cassel started for New England).

The reason it’s important to give the full context of the Patriots domination inside their division and out is because the past 20 years have been a historic run. Historic runs deserve accurate historic perspective.

And too often -- particularly around here -- you get inch-deep analysis branding the AFC East as a parade of Tomato Canzzzzz the Patriots knock down like ducks in a shooting gallery when the truth is, the whole damn league’s been ducks in a shooting gallery for them since 2003.

Anticipating the reaction of “Butbutbut . . . J.P. Losman! Cleo Lemon! Geno Smith!”, the reality is the league is loaded with bum quarterbacks and slow-twitch head coaches. It’s not an AFC East thing.

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Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

With or without Tom Brady at quarterback, those traditional complaints about the Patriots having an easy schedule will likely die down a bit next season.

Yes, there's still the AFC East for the Pats to feast on, but based on their opponents' records in 2019, New England has the NFL's toughest schedule in 2020. 

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Patriots opponents had a .537 winning percentage in 2019. Dates and times will be released as usual in mid-April, but the opponents have been known for a while and they include the two Super Bowl teams (the champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road and the runner-up San Francisco 49ers at home) and five other games against teams that made the playoffs (the Buffalo Bills home and away, at the Seattle Seahawks, at the Houston Texans and home vs. the Baltimore Ravens).

The Pats are matched up with the AFC West and NFC West for non-division opponents, which throws some coast-to-coast trips in the mix. It also puts New England's AFC East rivals right up there with the toughest schedules, as well, with the Jets second, the Miami Dolphins third and the Bills the fifth-toughest. 

The team with the easiest schedule next season? It's the one that won the most regular-season games (14) last season and earned the AFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs: the Baltimore Ravens. Their opponents had a combined .437 winning percentage last season. 

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs' Instagram activity sparks Patriots trade speculation

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs' Instagram activity sparks Patriots trade speculation

One of the New England Patriots' primary focuses this offseason will be to add weapons to an offense that lacked its usual explosiveness in the 2019 season.

There are plenty of options on the free agent market that could help the Patriots in that regard, but they also could look to improve their roster via trade. In fact, one particular star wide receiver appears to be placing himself on the trade block.

On Tuesday, Minnesota Vikings star Stefon Diggs removed all Vikings-related content from his Instagram page. That means no Vikings photos or videos, and no mention of the organization in his "bio" section.

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Predictably, that sparked plenty of "Diggs-to-the-Pats" speculation on social media.

And there's much more where that came from.

Making a move to add a top-tier wideout like Diggs not only would give the Patriots' receiving corps a much-needed boost, it also could entice soon-to-be free agent Tom Brady to stay in New England. The 42-year-old quarterback is set to officially hit free agency on March 18.

As for Diggs, he has four years remaining on his contract and the Vikings' asking price would be reasonably high. The 26-year-old caught 63 passes for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns in 2019.

Is there a chance this is nothing and we're all reading way too much into social media? Of course. But it wouldn't be an NFL offseason if we didn't have this kind of drama to talk about.