Sean McDermott: Patriots Still Favorites to Win AFC East

Sean McDermott and Bill Belichick
Sean McDermott and Bill Belichick / Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The never-ending night that is the New England Patriots' reign atop the AFC East appears to finally be on its last legs as Bill Belichick & Co. will roll into 2020 without Tom Brady and only Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer to replace him. The Buffalo Bills seem as primed to seize the crown as any of their counterparts in the division after making the playoffs two of the last three years and regularly trotting out a top-10 defense.

Head coach Sean McDermott says not so fast, however. He told SI's Albert Breer that, until someone other than the Patriots find themselves at the top of the division by the end of the season, New England should be considered favorites to run away with it once more.

" Until someone is able to win the division, to us, the Patriots remain the favorite. Why shouldn’t they? You tell me one reason why they shouldn’t."

Sean McDermott via Albert Breer's MMQB

That one reason is as simple as the words "Tom" and "Brady", but McDermott smartly doesn't leap at the opportunity to give the Patriots more of their coveted bulletin board material here.

Cautiously optimistic will be the name of the game for pretty much every team going up against the Patriots this year, though. A lack of Brady doesn't wipe away the last 20 years of dominance. All the players drafted this year don't know a world where New England isn't the titan of the football industry. Until they are actually knocked down a peg, everyone will still treat them as such.

It would seem the division is there for the taking for Buffalo. They've built a well-rounded team that can survive Josh Allen's consistent bouts of inconsistency and thrive when he can hit his throws. They're actually a bit like a better version of the team they're trying to unseat: a top defense led by one of the best secondaries in the NFL with a ball-control offense and a QB they're not sure they can entirely rely on.

But, as years of heartbreak at the hands of Belichick have taught every Bills fan, nothing is guaranteed, and beating the Patriots is a monumental task. McDermott understands that as well as anybody.