For the last decade, the New England Patriots have been considered the favorite to win the AFC East, and this season is no different.  The Jets and Bills seem to have the best shot at dethroning New England atop the division, but the Patriots are still an overwhelming favorite as evidenced in the odds comparison below:New England is installed as heavy chalk in all major sportsbooks, and when we convert these betting lines to percentages (implied probability—a detailed explanation can be found here), we see that major sportsbooks believe that the Patriots will win the AFC East roughly 80% of the time.

New England is deservingly an overwhelming favorite to win the division, but let’s call a spade a spade. The Patriots’ season completely hinges on the health of Tom Brady, and if Brady is healthy, the Pats are taking the AFC East. If Brady misses any amount of time then the division is up for grabs with both the Jets and Bills having a realistic shot in most people’s minds.

Brady has played 11 seasons in the NFL and only missed action in 2008 when he suffered a devastating knee injury in Week 1.  The Patriots still finished 11-5 that season with Matt Cassel at the helm, but ultimately lost the division to the Dolphins on a tiebreaker, and missed out on a playoff spot. However, despite that great run in ’08, New England isn’t equipped to deal with a blow to Brady this year. Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett are inexperienced backup quarterbacks, and the Pats’ supporting cast isn’t near what it once was.

Nevertheless, in spite of the possibility of a season ending (and wager ending) injury to Brady, I am of the opinion that New England -333 at is a solid bet.  The lines offered by other sportsbooks at -400 and higher are more indicative of the Patriots’ true odds. Brady has played in all 16 games in all but one season in 10 years as a starter, so I definitely think there’s value in taking that -333 line.

The Bills are in the best position to dethrone New England. Buffalo will feature a vastly improved defensive front with the addition of Mario Williams and the return of a healthy Kyle Williams (the team was 4-1 when Williams played in 2011).

With the exception of the wide receiver position, Buffalo is solid all around. Ryan Fitzpatrick is far from a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback, but he’s definitely capable enough to keep this team in contention all season. The only reason that the Bills have longer odds than the Jets is because of public perception. For some godforsaken reason, the general public still believes that the Jets have an elite defense, even though they were subpar last season and still have several holes heading into this season.  To top things off for New York, they have arguably the most mentally fragile quarterback in the league in Mark Sanchez. Four of New York’s first five games of the season come against solid defenses in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Houston, which means that you can bet on Sanchez starting this season looking as inept as he finished last season. Once the inevitable quarterback controversy between Sanchez and Tebow ensues, the Jets and their brittle locker room will fall to pieces.

As far as Miami is concerned, they’ll be lucky to win six games this season. Their defense is a good stop unit, but their offense is completely unreliable. With rookie Ryan Tannehill having already been handed the reins to a newly-implemented offense, the Dolphins will be a complete write-off in Joe Philbin’s first year as head coach.

Here’s how I see the AFC East breaking down:
1.    New England (13-3) – Elite team, Super Bowl contender
2.    Buffalo (10-6) – Improved from last season, better than average on both sides of the ball
3.    NY Jets (7-9) – This prediction is generous, things could spiral out of control quickly
4.    Miami (4-12) – In the running for the #1 overall pick next season

I don’t see any scenario in which neither New England nor Buffalo win the AFC East. If you share my point of view and believe that this division is only a two-horse race between the Pats and Bills, it would be best to place your wagers on where the odds for those teams are significantly better than any other major sportsbook.

I wouldn’t advise betting the AFC East other than placing a small wager on either New England or Buffalo as I believe there is slight value on both teams. If you’re like me and can’t envision a scenario in which the Jets or Dolphins win this division and would like to bet on both teams, I’ve outlined a possible way to accomplish this:

Risk 7.5 units to win 2.25 units on New England -333
Risk 1 unit to win 9 units on Buffalo +900

Possible Outcomes:
New England wins AFC East resulting in +1.25 units.
Buffalo wins AFC East resulting in +1.5 units.
NY Jets wins AFC East resulting in -8.5 units.
Miami wins AFC East resulting in -8.5 units.