With what’s gone down this offseason, the AFC East may finally be up for grabs in 2015 with the New York Jets as serious contenders.
Only twice – 2002 (Jets) and 2008 (Dolphins) – has one of these three squads taken the AFC East division championship. The other 12 titles belong to Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
This dominance has often had Jets fans utter hopeless phrases aloud while alone: “why us?”
The Pats have been a model of consistency and greatness that nobody’s been able to match, despite how often the public has prognosticated their demise.
Every now and again we believe one of the other teams are enjoying an uptick while Brady gets one year older. After one poor performance – as seen as recently as Brady’s outing against the Kansas City Chiefs last season – we think father time and the football gods will finally allow another franchise to feel what winning feels like.
Four Super Bowl Championships later, the Pats are still top dogs.
Regardless of the Pats last conquest, 2015 feels different. Or, maybe we’re just a sucker for the cruelest type of punishment.
In any event, with NFL Training Camps just over a week away, the AFC East seems more wide open than it has in a long while.
Evidence is everywhere to support that claim.
To say New England has gone through a tumultuous offseason would be a wicked understatement. Not only has Deflate-Gate ruled their world – which includes the possibility that their Hall of Fame quarterback could miss as many as four-games – but their roster has taken major hits across the depth chart.
Replacing these guys are a bunch of no-names and rookies.
All of those names are mere child’s play compared to the real power move in the division which comes from the shift of Darrelle Revis from New England back to his rightful home in New York.
Revis served as that final piece to the puzzle for Brady and Belichick in their quest to capture that elusive fourth ring. The man came back from an average 2013 finer than anybody has in NFL history (first team All-Pro).
Honestly, is it any coincidence that the Pats repeatedly fell short of their ultimate goal until Revis came onto the scene and completely changed the dynamic of Belichick’s defense?
He literally took a unit that finished 26th in total team defense in 2013 with 373.1 yards allowed per game, and morphed them into a legitimate strength in 2014 (13th in the NFL, 344.1 yards allowed per game), via NFL.com.
Revis’ arrival marked the first time the defensive genius in Belichick has coached a unit that didn’t finish in the bottom quarter of the league in overall defense since 2009.
It truly is amazing what the other 10-guys can accomplish when one cornerback is taking away half of the field without over the top help from the center-fielder.
It doesn’t take an NFL insider to realize they now have the most dangerous defense in the league this side of Seattle. If an edge presence comes in the form of Quinton Coples or rookie Lorenzo Mauldin, this unit won’t be just good, it’ll be downright scary.
Furthermore, the Dolphins and the Bills continued their upswing in momentum during the offseason. Rex Ryan coming to Buffalo will certainly boast a talented defense while Ryan Tannehill’s inch-by-inch development can’t be overlooked.
All three squads in the division have built scary defensive lines (especially up the middle) directly intended to mess up Brady’s “step up in the pocket” tendency.
Still, though, the difference (until proven otherwise) comes down to the quarterback position in this epically pass-dominant league. So until Tom Brady actually shows us he’s slipped a bit, nobody can be taken seriously other than New England in the division.
Although, the notion that this division – that’s been dominated by one team for so long – is more wide open needs to sink it. It truly is, and part of the reason comes down to the new leadership duo of Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles.
If the 2015 NFL Draft is any indication about how this front office will handle their business then Jets fans are in for a treat.
In years past the Jets would’ve completely screwed the pooch this past May. The early Christmas present that was Leonard Williams would’ve been so royally screwed up with a ridiculous rationalization of “positional need” as franchise backing.
Instead of passing up the gift that was arguably the most talented player in the pool, Maccagnan and Bowles pounced on the guy like there was no tomorrow. They could care less that Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson were already in tow. They appropriately saw an extreme amount of value in Williams and realized taking the best player at the No. 6 spot is how to correctly build a foundation.
These phenomenal vibes have Jets fans thinking this is the start of something new and refreshing. The start of the Jets slowly progressing upward while the Pats eventually have nowhere to go but down.
With the quarterback position in Florham Park still the way it is, nothing definitive can be argued. At the same time, nobody can argue that these positive feelings have many folks believing the AFC East is wide-open in 2015.
Because of Belichick and Brady, however, nobody will claim that just yet. Their dominance over the last 14-years has earned them that respect. Although Brady is now 37, it simply doesn’t matter.
We won’t believe the decline until we actually witness it with our very own eyes.
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