In your pick-em league this week, consider the New England Patriots as a nice pick to drop all your confidence points on, for when they host the Cleveland Browns they are as sure-fire as anyone in Week 14. And if you happen to have a pick-em league set up to choose division winners before the season, the Patriots would have also been a nice pick this year… and for next year … and in the season after that.
For as strong and stable as Bob Kraft’s organization has been over the last decade-plus, the other teams in the division are as weak and rickety. A win Sunday would give the Patriots their 11th AFC East title in 13 years and they are not stopping there because the rest of the division is in turmoil.
The Buffalo Bills seem to have been in rebuilding mode ever since the Music City Miracle … and that was 1999! They have not made the postseason since (the longest drought in the NFL) and this year’s project seems to have lost its steam. Doug Marrone was brought in to lead the Bills charge and E.J. Manuel was the quarterback Marrone tabbed as his guy. Even though Manuel is a rookie, he is what he is in one regard — a running quarterback. Running quarterbacks get hurt all the time, just like in 2013 with the Florida State product. Injuries will be a problem for years to come in with Manuel, creating constant quarterback controversies. Marrone’s start as head coach also makes him look like just another Bills head coach, one that may last three years and disappear into an assistant gig (see Gregg Williams, Chan Gailey, Dick Jauron) when he leaves.
The New York Jets have been the only team in the last five years to put a scare into New England’s domination, but they are in store for at least a few more years of mediocrity. Rex Ryan wanted Mark Sanchez to start this year and the new GM John Idzik drafted Geno Smith to play right away. Head coach and GM battles are never good and now that Sanchez’s preseason injury has forced Smith to be the No. 1, the Jets’ second-round draft pick has appeared to hit the rookie wall. Smith has tossed a league-high 19 picks and was again benched last week in favor of Matt Simms. It looks as though Smith and Idzik will stay in 2014 and Sanchez, Rex Ryan and possibly Matt Simms will not be around for next year, when the Jets will struggle again to keep up with New England.
Ideally the Miami Dolphins will have the best chance of dethroning the Patriots. Heck, it looked like they had a shot this season until they hit a four-game losing skid. They have a decent quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and second-year coach Joe Philbin was won way more games than I expected until the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin scandal blew up in their face.
The NFL is driven by its quarterbacks and Tom Brady will be near the top of his game for the next few seasons. Combine that with the fact that the other three teams in the division are as poorly run as they are and the Patriots will have home postseason games for at least the 2014 and 2015 regular seasons, potentially a run of 14-of-16 division crowns. Since 2001, the Patriots have a 62-16 record against their AFC East foes, good for a winning percentage of .794. How Geno Smith beat New England this year still baffles me.