The New England Patriots are coming to terms with the news that their four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Tom Brady, has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season.
That is not all. In addition, the Patriots franchise has been docked a first and a fourth round draft pick and fined one million dollars. The first round pick is for the 2016 draft and the fourth round pick is for the 2017 draft.
Normally, winning the AFC East would still be expected, even with Brady being out for the first four games, but this year could be different.
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The teams that are in the division, which are normally push-overs for the Bill Belichick coached Patriots, are now all stockpiling weapons as if they are in an arms race.
When Brady returns after his four game suspension (or even if it's reduced to two) they may find themselves looking up from the bottom of the division.
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Here are some of the improvements made by the other teams.
The Buffalo Bills finished the 2014 season with a 9-7 record. They finished the season ranked 4th overall in total defense. They were one of the most improved teams in the entire National Football League.
The one thing that they needed improvement in was quarterback play. Kyle Orton played well but they still needed improvement at that key position. They may have done that with the acquisition of veteran quarterback Matt Cassell, who has always performed well when called upon.
He once stepped in for an injured Tom Brady and led the Patriots to a 10-6 record.
Also Buffalo's running backs, mainly Fred Jackson, are getting a little long in the tooth. They acquired all-pro running back Leshon McCoy from the Philadelphia Eagles. Now Jackson can come off of the bench.They let injury proned running back C.J. Spiller leave.
They also helped open up their offense by acquiring a major talent in moody but talented wide receiver, Percy Harvin from the New York Jets.
The defense added even more firepower when they drafted cornerback Ronald Darby from Florida State University. They also exercised the fifth-year option on talented young cornerback, Stephon Gilmore, signed defensive anchor Kyle Williams to an extension, and they signed the highly regarded Greg Roman as Offensive Coordinator. in addition, Rex Ryan is the new head coach.
On March 11, 2015 there was a seismic shift in the division, even before the so called "deflate-gate" penalties were levied. It was the acquisition in free agency of former Detroit Lion defensive stalwart, Ndamukong Suh.
This acquisition may have Miami battling the Patriots for division supremacy for years to come.
With their young quarterback Ryan Tannehill coming into his own and with him signing a new $95 million extension through 2020, the offense seems to be in good hands too.
The defense is the talk of the NFL though, and should be the team's calling card. With the great Cameron Wake and his 11.5 sacks at defensive end and Louis Delmas and Brent Grimes anchoring the secondary, the defense should be potentially great, which is the theme in this rugged division.
New York Jets
Last but not least amongst the challengers is the New York Jets.
The Jets finished the season ranked 6th overall in total defense. They have always been known for defense under the tutelage of former head coach Rex Ryan.
With the acquisition on March 14, 2015 of Darrell Revis and the additional signing of another former Jets defensive stalwart Antonio Cromartie, the defense should be even more formidable than they were last year.
Now,not only is the defense great but the offense has been upgraded. They acquired star wide receiver Brandon Marshall in a trade with Chicago on March 10th.
Then on March 11th they picked up a decent starting quarterback in a trade with the Houston Texans, Ryan Fitzpatrick. They drafted quarterback Bryce petty of Baylor in the 4th round. They solidified the running game with the acquisitions of Zach Stacy from the St. Louis Rams and running back Steven Ridley in free-agency.
They also drafted speed demon wide receiver Devin Smith of Ohio State in the second round. All of this to say that the Jets offense should be vastly improved to go along with their stellar defense.
Tough times ahead?
The bottom line is simply this: the New England Patriots will not have an easy time with this division like they've had in years past.
Now with their franchise quarterback the iconic Tom Brady suspended for the first four games of the season it could possibly be panic time in New England.