For the first time in essentially 20 years, the New England Patriots are no longer the hunted — they’re once again the hunters.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s been a changing of the guard around the NFL in 2020.
First, the New England Patriots lost at home to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17 of the 2019 season, setting them up to play on Wild Card weekend for the first time in 10 years. Once there, they promptly and unceremoniously fell to Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans — two figures the Patriots had regularly and repeatedly gobsmacked for years prior.
In losing when they did, the Pats saw two incredible streaks snapped. They missed out on the AFC Championship Game for the first time since the 2010 season, and they missed out on the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2015 season.
And to top it all off, Tom Brady left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency then.
It’s been a miserable three months for the Patriots and their fans. New England now enters the 2020 season in a rare place: Not only are they sans Brady for the first time since 1999, they’re also no longer considered the favorites in the NFL or AFC.
In fact, some analysts and sportswriters don’t even have the Patriots as favorites in the AFC East this year, despite the fact that the team has won the division 11 straight times and in 17 of Bill Belichick’s 20 years as head coach.
That might be a bit of a stretch to hand the division crown away already, especially since Belichick is still at the helm and the Pats still have a very good team assembled, despite the uncertainty at quarterback.
But there’s no denying that New England is no longer the team to beat in its own conference. With that being said, who are the three teams the Patriots will most likely find themselves chasing for AFC supremacy this year?