New England Patriots a Safe Call for AFC East Champs?

By Thomas Emerick
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots hit the 2013 NFL offseason with as high of odds to win their respective division as any, getting -500 to take the AFC East while the Miami Dolphins sat a distant second at the reciprocal 5-to-1 (via Bovada). However, buzz over the ‘Fins free agent haul combined with unsavory Aaron Hernandez news has led to a huge slide towards the middle for both squads.

In the aftermath of the Hernandez arrest New England dropped close to -300 while Miami moved up to 3-to-1 division title odds temporarily, before Bovada pushed it back up to -400 for the Pats and +325 for Miami. This all stokes discussion as to how confident the public feels about New England, and I think it’s a reflection on that more so than all the splashy free agent moves Miami has made this offseason.

It’s hard to get the masses to play it cute by picking Miami to win the division over a Tom Brady-led Patriots team for the first time ever. In 2008 Brady hit injured reserve after Week 1, before the Chad Pennington-led Dolphins took the AFC East. New England has won it every year since.

However, the high-profile news on Hernandez along with Rob Gronkowski injury concerns can make the Dolphins’ low odds quite intriguing. My personal two cents is that Miami’s splashy offseason was also an extremely surgical one, and that they shall be in playoff contention after a decent 7-9 mark last year.

I also think Bill Belichick zigs where the Dolphins zag. Miami ditched some good run-stopping linebackers to pick up more blitz-savvy guys in Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. The Dolphins heavily bolstered their secondary with young cornerbacks. Meanwhile, New England accepts that their passing game has taken a huge hit, I believe pounds it on the ground behind the AFC’s best offensive line with an excellent stable of young backs.

I don’t like counting on division favorites when it’s just a 33 percent return on each dollar, but the risk-reward of just 3-to-1 on underdog Miami is also not worth it here in 2013.

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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