Heading into the 2023 season, or even just throughout the last three years, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes the Patriots have a sliver of a chance to become AFC East Champions again in the near future.
After seeing their schedule named the hardest of all in the entire NFL, any optimism anyone may have had regarding their chances of being a contender essentially vanished, especially as the three other teams in the division have consistently improved over the last three years.
Besides the Bills continuing their streak of being named the frontrunners of the AFCE, the Jets' chances have skyrocketed due to acquiring Aaron Rodgers this offseason. And the Dolphins are loaded on both sides of the ball, even more so now that they traded for Jalen Ramsey earlier this year, making it difficult to really predict who will come out as the victor come the postseason.
But one NFL analyst has called out all who have already concluded how the division will stack up this season and suggests the Patriots may surprise everyone with their success.
During a recent episode of the Next Pats Podcast, Trey Wingo talked about the Patriots' chances and shared his belief that there should be more optimism surrounding them because the rest of the division doesn't look so clean-cut.
"If you're a Patriots fan, the one thing you can be happy about is that there are little question marks about every team. Will Aaron be what the Jets need him to be? Something is or isn't really right with the Bills, and Tua's health is a huge question mark.
So that's kind of the hope going forward is that all these little things might be big things when it comes to playing out the division in the AFC East."
Some may call his points about the other teams wishful thinking since the Patriots have continued to struggle against the division since the 2020 season. But Wingo isn't wrong with his assessment of the other teams.
The Jets fully believe that Rodgers will magically solve all of their problems. They have put all their eggs in the quarterback's basket, so much so that they basically allowed him to dictate what players to sign in free agency, most of whom have been his buddies.
Although their defense has been the stronger part of their team, Rodgers has never played anywhere but Green Bay and has had multiple issues with coaches and players during his tenure. It's difficult to imagine that all things are perfect over there in New York, never mind believing that all they needed was a better-than-decent quarterback to make them true contenders.
The Dolphins are in a bit of a different situation than the Jets, but not by much. They also have questions surrounding their quarterback, primarily due to his injury history. During his NFL career, Tua Tagovailoa has sporadically looked great on the field, but his multiple concussions and other random injuries are certainly a cause for concern.
Then there's the Buffalo Bills, who Wingo had much more to say about.
"I think they've earned the right to be the favorite going into the season based on the last three or four years. But I am in that camp that something is not right. There's just something about Buffalo this year that just doesn't feel as comfortable as it has the last three seasons.
And for all their success and all the talent they have, they have one AFC Championship appearance to show for it. That's it. ... That's not good enough for what this team can be."
He's correct about them being the favorites within the division, as they have earned that right to remain at the top. And he's also right about something feeling a bit off with the team heading into the 2023 season, most of which is a result of the apparent change in dynamic between Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs; head coach Sean McDermott could be included in that, too.
From the outburst by Diggs on Allen in their playoff loss to the Bengals last season to the confusion regarding the receiver's status with the team during spring practices, it doesn't seem like all is great in Buffalo.
How this may impact these teams is yet to be seen, and the Patriots will also have their issues to overcome. But Wingo's inclusion of the possible struggles the other teams will likely face is valid and should be mentioned more when accessing the division.
Every team looks great on paper in August, and any team could be the Super Bowl favorite months before the season begins. However, there's a reason for the saying, "Any given Sunday," which very much applies to this situation.
So instead, take Wingo's advice. Don't count out the Patriots.