Patriots Pegged as AFC East Favorites Despite Brady Deflategate Ban

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The last time Tom Brady had a significant absence was – not coincidentally – the last time that the New England Patriots failed to win the AFC East.

Of course, Brady being suspended for the first four games due to Deflategate is not the same as 2008, when the future Hall of Fame quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 and New England missed the playoffs.

Three of the four games where the Patriots are set to go with Jimmy Garoppolo are also at home, which helps explain why New England remains a favorite at -225 to win the division. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are listed at +500, while the Miami Dolphins are listed at +1000.

In season win total props, the Patriots are -160 to exceed 10.5 wins and +130 to fall short of that benchmark. It isn’t coach Bill Belichick’s style to make a flashy acquisition, and New England’s offseason was mostly about diversifying a passing game that is heavy on five-receiver and/or multiple tight-end sets.

Two productive pass catchers, TE Martellus Bennett and WR Nate Washington, have come aboard. Since 2009, incidentally, New England is 10-1 straight-up and 5-5-1 against the spread in September home games, which might indicate they will manage until Brady is back.

Buffalo is even money to beat their projection of 8.0 wins, and -130 to be a sub-.500 team. Although training camp just started, the Bills are already braced for the possibility their two vaunted rookies on defense, DE Shaq Lawson (shoulder surgery) and OLB Reggie Ragland (knee injury) could both be out long-term. On offense, the Bills hope that 31-year-old RB Reggie Bush still has some explosion-play ability left after 10 NFL seasons.

The outlook for the Jets is about the same – 8.0 wins, with a +110 prop for over and -140 to end up under. After going 10-6 in 2015, the Jets have the seventh-toughest schedule in the NFL based on last year’s records. The big question about the Jets offense is whether they will be as productive in the rushing phase after moving on from physical Chris Ivory, who often created his own holes, to shifty Matt Forte, who has a lot of tread on his tires as a 30-year-old running back. The Jets’ defense will have stronger competition this season.

The Dolphins have an over/under of 7.0 wins, with over listed at -130 while the under is an even-money wager. New head coach Adam Gase can roll out big names in the front four – DT Ndamukong Suh and DE Cameron Wake, to name two – but Miami’s secondary is in flux apart from Pro Bowl SS Reshad Jones. Miami’s first options at cornerback are Byron Maxwell, who lost his job in Philadelphia, and rookie Xavien Howard.

Offensively, the Dolphins’ issues are about more than whether QB Ryan Tannehill can raise his game, since the offensive line was among the NFL’s worst in 2015. If nothing else, Miami addressed that by drafting LG Laremy Tunsil after a video of him using marijuana was leaked on social media at NFL draft time.




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