The Patriots Remain On Top
Two weeks into the 2019 NFL season and the New England Patriots have resumed their usual spot atop the AFC East standings. Winners of 10 straight division titles – and 15 of the last 16 – the Patriots are 2-0 with an NFL-best +73 point differential though two games.
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins are 0-2 with a -92 point difference, while the New York Jets are 0-2 and down to third-string QB Luke Falk.
The Patriots were -400 favorites to win the AFC East before the season started and early returns have made their odds even shorter.
Yet, for those hoping to see the fall of the Patriots dynasty, there is a ray of hope in that remaining 5%.
Buffalo Bills Start 2-0, As Well
The Buffalo Bills went 6-10 last year but were actually above .500 after Week 9, going 4-3 down the stretch. Then-rookie QB Josh Allen made his share of rookie mistakes while flashing his big-play, dual-threat potential.
Two weeks into 2019, the Bills are 2-0 with a pair of road wins over the Jets (17-16) and Giants (28-14).
Their defense, which finished second in Defensive DVOA last year, is back among the top ten and has only surrendered three offensive touchdowns through two games. Meanwhile, Allen is showing signs of progress in his sophomore season. He’s completing 64.2% of his passes, up from just 52.8% last year, and averaging over a yard more per attempt (7.6 vs 6.5 YPA).
The weapons around Allen are much improved, as well. Rookie RB Devin Singletary has 127 yards and a TD in his first two games, while free-agent receivers John Brown (195 yards, 1 TD) and Cole Beasley (123 yards) are the top-two pass-catchers on the team.
Could Buffalo Challenge New England?
The early-season performance from Buffalo is, indeed, encouraging for fans at Orchard Park. But the oddsmakers have kept the team’s division-title odds around +700 for good reason.
The Bills’ first two wins both came against teams that may wind up picking in the top-five of next year’s draft. Buffalo was actually getting shutout by the Jets until late in the third quarter and was only able to overcome a 16-3 deficit after New York lost star linebacker CJ Mosley.
When Allen was facing the Jets defense at full strength, he looked like the mistake-prone pivot we saw last year. The stats he put up against the Giants (19/30, 253 yards, 1 TD, 101.1 passer rating) have to be taken with a grain of salt. The Giants defense is going to be a bottom-three unit in the league. Dallas’ Dak Prescott had 405 passing yards, 4 TDs, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating against the G-Men in Week 1.
The Patriots, meanwhile, started their season with a massively impressive 33-3 rout of supposed AFC title-contender Pittsburgh, and then blanked the tanking Dolphins, 43-0, in Miami. Much like a gaudy stat line against the Giants has to be viewed skeptically, so does a rout of the abhorrent Dolphins.
But, at the same time, New England has done nothing to indicate that it will be abdicating its AFC East throne. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are looking even more potent than last year. If they can stay on the field, controversial receivers Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon give the Pats the best-receiving weapons they have had since their magical 16-0 season in 2007.
Allen and the Bills have taken two significant steps on the road to the top of the AFC East, but there’s still a mountain to climb.
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