This just in: under future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots have ruled the AFC East, claiming 15 of the last 17 division titles.
The Buffalo Bills, like the rest of the division, have been trying for years to find a franchise quarterback who will finally help dethrone Brady and the Patriots. Josh Allen, Buffalo’s second-year quarterback, was mostly bottled up during a Week 16 clash with the Patriots, as Buffalo fell 24-12 despite the Bills’ defense harassing Brady into two interceptions.
This year, the Bills host the Patriots at 1 p.m. Sept. 29 at New Era Field—their second consecutive home game to close the month of September.
As our opponent previews for the Bills’ foes in 2019 continues, we went to Pats Pulpit, SB Nation’s Patriots blog for more information on how the Evil Empire in Foxboro looks leading up to the start of the season.
New England Patriots
Notable free-agent additions: DT Mike Pennel, TE Matt LaCosse, WR Maurice Harris, TE Benjamin Watson, WR Dontrelle Inman, RB Brandon Bolden, DE Michael Bennett (trade)
The Patriots may not have added the biggest names considering who they lost—Rob Gronkowski to retirement; Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, Malcolm Brown to free agency—but they did make sure the overall depth and talent across the board stays in tact.
Over/under: 11 wins—Since Tom Brady took over at quarterback in 2001, New England has only hit the under three times: 2005, 2008 (when Brady was sidelined with an ACL injury), and 2009 (when Brady was limited by his ACL injury). They’ve either pushed (2012, 2018) or hit the over in all of the other seasons. The Patriots will hit the over because that’s what they usually do. Business as usual.
Rookie I’m most excited about: WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State. The Patriots have experienced a lot of receiver turnover and they’ll need someone to step up across from Julian Edelman at receiver. The Patriots haven’t invested such a high draft pick in a wide receiver under Bill Belichick, so Harry will have lofty expectations.
Best position battle heading into camp: Best, as in “best talent”? That would be cornerback, as Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, and Duke Dawson compete for the right to start opposite of Stephon Gilmore. The first three started games at various points during last year’s Super Bowl season and they all have starter-level capabilities, while Dawson was a second-round pick last year. This might be the deepest and strongest cornerback room in the league.
Best, as in “most competitive” would probably be tight end, since there isn’t a tight end that the Patriots can trust at this point in time. The aging Ben Watson will be suspended for the first four games of the season, while Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, and Ryan Izzo have proven nothing at the NFL level as a starter. Which player will be asked to fill the enormous shoes vacated by Rob Gronkowski? The answer is “none” but this competition will have the most eyes upon it.
Biggest story line heading into camp: Is Tom Brady showing signs of decline?! Who will replace Rob Gronkowski?! Is the Patriots Dynasty over?! Basically, time is a flat circle and every story line that has dominated the past five summers are probably still in play. The real biggest headline is “which receivers will end up starting with Julian Edelman, and will the Patriots go back to a three or four wide receiver offense now that the tight end position is so unproven?”
The Bills will also travel to Foxboro to face the Patriots on Dec. 22 in a Week 16 showdown. Thanks to Pats Pulpit for their thoughts on New England.