5 Reasons Why the New England Patriots Won’t Win the AFC East in 2014

5 Reasons Why the New England Patriots Won't Win the AFC East

Tom Brady
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are considered one of the surest bets to win a division title in 2014. They've had a strangle hold on the AFC East for over a decade and no rival appears equipped to knock them off the pedestal. But the end of every great run comes as a surprise. And every great run must come to an end. Here are five reasons why the Patriots won't win the AFC East in 2014.

5. LeGarrette Blount Will Be Missed

LeGarrette Blount
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

5. LeGarrette Blount Will Be Missed

LaGarrette Blount
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Bill Belichick is a firm believer in a committee approach at running back, with as many as four backs comprising a rotation that keeps everyone fresh. Thus, losing a member of the rotation, even a key member, usually doesn't sting all that much. But LeGarrette Blount bolting for Pittsburgh in free agency won't come without repercussions. He was New England's best runner, with a 5.0 yards-per-carry average in 2013.

4. Rob Gronkowski's Inability to Stay Healthy

Rob Gronkowski
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4. Rob Gronkowski's Inability to Stay Healthy

Rob Gronkowski
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

When the Patriots have a healthy Rob Gronkowksi at their disposal, they're a completely different team. He's too big for defensive backs and too athletic for linebackers. And his rapport with Tom Brady makes him one of the league's most lethal tight ends. The problem is, he's had difficulty staying healthy. He's expected to be ready by training camp, but Patriots fans should be worried about his durability moving forward.

3. WR Corps Remains Subpar

Danny Amendola
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3. WR Corps Remains Subpar

Danny Amendola
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Signing Brandon LaFell wasn't enough to ease concerns about New England's wide receiver corps. While Tom Brady gets the most out of his weapons, the Patriots are lacking a game-changer on the outside. There is some young talent at the position, like Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, but it likely won't develop quickly enough in 2014.

2. Ryan Tannehill's Emergence Would Make Dolphins Threat

Ryan Tannehill
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2. Ryan Tannehill's Emergence Would Make Dolphins Threat

Ryan Tannehill
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Even if the Patriots worsen some, they could still run away with the division by default if no challenger emerges. Each rival is flawed, but the Dolphins have the highest ceiling if third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill is able to take the next step. Unlike in many hypothetical scenarios, Tannehill has displayed the talent to do so in the past, but needs his teammates, more specifically his offensive line, to help him out this fall.

1. Tom Brady's Decline Has Begun

Tom Brady
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1. Tom Brady's Decline Has Begun

Tom Brady
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It was subtle, but Tom Brady made some uncharacteristic mistakes in 2013. He would occasionally miss an open target, a key factor in posting his lowest quarterback rating since 2003. Make no mistake about it, Brady is still among the league's best at the position. But any continued decline, even the slightest, combined with the subpar group of receivers, could spell trouble for New England.


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