- Patriots’ signing of Cam Newton surges them to AFC East division title favorites
- Once-favored Buffalo Bills have not won the division since 1995
- Find out below if the addition of Newton makes the Pats the pick to win again
Well, the “AFC East is wide open” conversation had a good two-month run.
That’s because the New England Patriots did what many expected months ago — inking Cam Newton to an incentive-laden 1-year pact.
It’s presumably to become the starter for the Pats, who had a gaping hole at the quarterback position when Tom Brady left for the Bucs in free agency.
Does New England’s pivot upgrade mean it’s an AFC crown lock for the 12th year in a row?
AFC East Odds
|New England Patriots||+105|
|New York Jets||+700|
*Odds from June 28
The just-refreshed NFL Divisional odds now have the Patriots favored at +105 (from +133) while the Buffalo Bills fell from the perch to second at +160. They were previously favored at +126 on May 27.
Can Cam Make a Difference?
For a guy trying to resurrect his career, New England is probably the best place to do it.
Newton’s been recovering from a Lisfranc injury which shut down his 2019 season after just two games.
There were also still questions about his surgically repaired throwing shoulder, which shut him down in Week 15 of the 2018 campaign.
Here's what Bill Belichick said about Cam Newton in 2017: pic.twitter.com/VeixKSakaJ
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) June 29, 2020
But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this NFL offseason was unlike any other in recent memory. The 2015 MVP did not have the chance to showcase his wares and show he’s fully healthy for 2020, which deflated his stock.
Fortunately, the Patriots have an established pattern of taking on veterans and getting the most of their later years.
For a team with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer at the top of the QB depth chart, a rejuvenated Newton, still just 31, could star again.
New England Pats QB Cam Newton. pic.twitter.com/y5q1k2dREk
— John Ellis (@OnePantherPlace) June 29, 2020
In his last injury-free season with the Panthers in 2017, Newton led the team to an 11-5 mark, throwing for over 3,300 yards on a 59.1% completion clip with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He also rushed for a career-best 754 yards and six touchdowns.
Who’s Stopping New England?
That task still rests squarely on the shoulders of the Buffalo Bills, who have made tremendous leaps in three years under the Brandon Beane-Sean McDermott regime.
Bills still win the division — and maybe a lot more.
— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) June 29, 2020
With the steady improvements of young QB Josh Allen, the Bills used the offseason to add potent weapons to that side of the ball in the form of Stephon Diggs out wide, and the addition of battering ram Zach Moss at running back to compliment stud Devin Singletary.
They also filled gaps on what is already a sturdy defense, adding edge rusher Mario Addison and taking a flier on Josh Norman.
Cam Newton vs. AFC East, career:
– 7-1 record
– 149/252 (59%)
– 1,851 yards
– 14:3 TD:INT
– 95.5 rating*
– 52 rushes for 334 yds, 3 TDs
*best passer rating vs. any division
— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) June 29, 2020
While it’s easy to count out the Jets, the drafting of Mekhi Becton and signing free agent George Fant automatically improves their dreadful offensive line, perhaps making it easier for Le’Veon Bell and ageless Frank Gore to make some hay.
Breshad Perriman also fills in at receiver for the departed Robbie Anderson, but this all doesn’t work unless quarterback Sam Darnold makes the leap.
Miami had itself an offseason, plucking Tua Tagovailoa in the draft and adding stud DB Byron Jones, among others, but it’s safe to say they’re still at least another year away.
What’s the Best Bet?
Is it time to wager on the Bills winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995? The last time a team other than the Pats won the crown was back in 2009, when Tom Brady was injured in the first game of the year, allowing the Dolphins to sneak in for the division title. That’s the only blip in 17 years.
— NFL (@NFL) June 29, 2020
The reason the Bills closed the gap in the divisional chase was because the power hierarchy was split: the Patriots had the best coach in the East, and the Bills had the best quarterback. That’s changed dramatically. If healthy, Newton is far and away the best quarterback in the division, and coupled with one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, all is in place for them to make it 17 in 18 and 18 of the last 20 (that is mind blowing).
But health is a finicky thing, and if Cam is compromised, the Patriots’ offense isn’t exactly a scary proposition at the skill spots. So even though I believe it’s the Patriots’ division to lose, the added juice to the Bills’ odds makes them the best value wager.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.