Patriots Still Favored to Win AFC East After Multiple Players Opt Out
Patrick Chung is among six New England Patriots who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19. Photo by @ProFootballTalk (Twitter).
- Six New England Patriots have announced they will opt of the season due to COVID-19
- The Pats are still the +115 favorites to win the AFC East
- Should you bet the Buffalo Bills to win the division at +125?
Could COVID-19 do to the New England Patriots what the Buffalo Bills haven’t been able to do since 1995?
That was the last season in which the Bills won the AFC East title. However, with six Patriots now opting out of the NFL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are the Bills finally poised to return to the AFC East summit?
Oddsmakers aren’t sold on the idea. Even factoring in the sextet of missing players and Tom Brady’s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots remain the +115 chalk to take the division title. Buffalo is the second-favorite at +125 in the NFL divisional odds.
New England has won 11 straight AFC East crowns.
2020 AFC East Division Odds
|Team||Odds at FanDuel|
|New England Patriots||+115|
|New York Jets||+750|
Odds taken July 28th
The NFL offered players who are considered high risk for COVID-19 $350,000 in salary and an accrued NFL season if they choose to opt out. Players without risk can earn $150,000 while opting out.
Running Low on Patriots
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung are the latest Patriots to announce that they are opting out of the 2020 campaign. Earlier, starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, backup running backs Brandon Bolden and Danny Vitale, and reserve guard Najee Toran also opted out.
A message from #Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower, one of the highest profile players opting out amid the Coronavirus: “Me and my fiancée are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family.”
Hightower has a 2-week-old son.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 28, 2020
Hightower will be especially missed. A team captain, he calls New England’s defensive signals. The loss of linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins in free agency already left the Patriots thin at the position. Hightower doesn’t just patrol the middle of the field either; he lines up all over, taking snaps on the defensive line and as a DB.
Chung’s ability to cover the NFL’s top tight ends made him a key player on the Pats defense. Though Bolden doesn’t start, the nine-year NFL vet is a prominent special teams player for New England.
Hightower just became a father and Chung will be welcoming a new baby into their family shortly.
Super Bowl 55 Odds Tracker
Bills Bowing Out
Thus far, just one member of the Bills is making the decision to opt out of this season. Starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei informed the team on Tuesday that he wouldn’t be playing in 2020.
#Bills veteran DT Star Lotulelei will be taking a voluntary opt-out for this season, source says. The former first-rounder has $4.5 million fully guaranteed this season as well as $2.5 million fully guaranteed the following year. So those will push into 2021 and ‘22.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 28, 2020
This will certainly impact Buffalo’s depth along the defensive line. Ed Oliver, Buffalo’s 2019 first-round draft pick, is entrenched at the other DT position. Harrison Phillips is coming back from ACL surgery. Vernon Butler and Quinton Jefferson were offseason signings.
Once a player opts out of playing this season, they are not permitted to opt back in.
Time to Pay the Bills
Buffalo gave the Patriots all they could handle in two games last season. Even without the numerous New England opt outs, picking the Bills to take the AFC East title was looking like a smart play.
The following teams are returning the highest percent of snaps played in 2020 and will have a big advantage due to the limited offseason and no preseason games
— Mike Tannenbaum (@RealTannenbaum) July 23, 2020
Buffalo’s maturity as a team after last year’s double-digit win season and wild-card playoff appearance was evident. Josh Allen is finding his footing as a starting quarterback in the league, and the offseason addition of wideout Stefon Diggs added another threat to the Bills’ deep receiving corps.
Opt out on the Patriots. Opt in on the Bills. The times, they are a changing.
Pick: Buffalo Bills (+125)
An industry veteran, Bob literally taught the course on the history of sports at Elder College. He has worked as a Sports Columnist for Postmedia, appeared as a guest on several radio stations, was the Vice President of the Society For International Hockey Research in Ontario, and written 25 books.
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