Seeing the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at No. 1 in ESPN’s latest Power Rankings was anything but shocking. The question is, will they have any competition this year in the AFC East?
Early Monday, ESPN released its post-draft Power Rankings for all 32 teams in the NFL. It was not a surprise to see the New England Patriots ranked No. 1 in the league as the defending Super Bowl champions. Despite making only four picks in the NFL Draft, the Patriots were applauded for winning the free-agency period by ESPN, who had this to say about them…
"Unchanged at the top, where the champions of January and February also emerged as the champions of March and April. No months off! No months off! New England’s aggressive trade and free-agency approach was that of a team determined to win as many Tom Brady titles as it can while it can."
The sense of urgency to win with Brady still under center is very real. But let’s not forget that New England kept Jimmy Garoppolo around too. If Brady somehow shows a dramatic decline at the age of 40, the Patriots could easily turn to Garoppolo with a ready-made Super Bowl roster.
Regardless, New England’s competition within the AFC East is also an annual storyline. As the eight-time defending division champs, the Patriots look to have little competition again in 2017. The Miami Dolphins have moved up two spots from No. 15 to No. 13 while the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are ranked in the bottom quarter at No. 26 and No. 30, respectively.
Miami is the last team not named New England to win the AFC East way back in 2008. Less than a month ago, Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry made the bold claim that his team would sweep the Patriots in 2017. Take that for what it’s worth from Peter King’s MMQB Mailbag…
"If you’re a competitor, that’s the way you should feel, and I don’t mind saying it,” Landry said a day later. It’s time for a change. I have all the respect in the world for the Patriots, and I respect Tom Brady tremendously. But they’re not our big brother anymore."
Kudos to Landry for speaking his mind and sounding super confident heading into the season. But Miami has not swept New England since 2000 when Landry was eight years old. The Dolphins will be lucky to beat the Patriots once this season and make the playoffs as a Wild Card.