The Patriots can once again dominate the AFC East if Cam Newton is able to stay healthy.
The New England Patriots‘ reign atop the AFC East seemed to come to a quick end the moment Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then, naturally, the team replaced him with another elite quarterback in Cam Newton.
Fans of the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and Miami Dolphins all had a few months of peace before the signing. Now the Patriots are easy favorites to win the division yet again after providing false hope to their divisional counterparts.
The key in New England is Cam Newton staying healthy.
Cam Newton’s fresh start with a dominant franchise
The last time the Patriots lost the AFC East came in 2008 when Brady went down with an injury and Matt Cassel still led the team to an 11-5 record. The Dolphins finished with the same record and took home the division.
The team has not won fewer than 10 games since the 2002 season, and all the success has totally changed the approach of the other three teams in the division. Just when all the rebuilds looked to be worth it, Newton was signed.
Newton going so long without a deal was bizarre to see. His 2019 season was limited to two games, but it was the first time he had not appeared in at least 14 games in a season since debuting in 2011. He never threw for fewer than 3,127 yards from 2011-18, and his lowest rushing total was 359 yards in 2016.
The former Carolina Panthers quarterback is also a former MVP and first-team All-Pro after his amazing 2015 season that saw his team go all the way to the Super Bowl. Yet his own production did not drastically plummet after that year. Now he is being plugged into a system as a far more dynamic quarterback than Brady, given he can stay healthy.
Cam Newton’s new competition
Having the right quarterback in place makes all the difference. Right now, the Buffalo Bills stand out as the top contender to the Patriots in the AFC East. The defense is dominant and pieces have been added all over the offense. But what about Josh Allen? He went 24-for-46 for 264 yards and no touchdowns in last season’s Wild Card matchup with the Houston Texans. His accuracy has been a concern and what he does in 2020 will determine his fate moving forward.
The Jets seem to have found their own franchise guy in Sam Darnold. The problem for him is being on a team that has been a bit of a disaster with Adam Gase as head coach. He has also thrown 28 interceptions in his 26 career games, compared to 36 touchdowns. Not bad, but still a slow start that shows it will take more time to develop.
The Dolphins also appear to be a few years away after drafting Tua Tagovailoa this year. Ryan Fitzpatrick may have to hold down the position in 2020 and even if he loses the job, the Dolphins are in the second year of a rebuilding phase. It will take a few more drafts to get a proper core in place.
That leaves the Patriots as the most stable franchise by far. That was true before Brady left, but there were obvious concerns about how Jarrett Stidham would do with essentially no NFL experience.
We will all find out if Brady was the key all along, or if Bill Belichick has a system that is flawless. Adding Newton seems like a cheat code and that may prevent any need to wonder about who deserves all the credit. As long as Newton can stay healthy, the Patriots may be better than they were in 2019.