Not Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane.
"Candidly, I did not expect Tom (Brady) to leave the (Patriots). ... New England's still going to be very good. I think it's funny, comical that people are writing them off. The team to beat in the East is the Patriots," Beane said, per Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News.
Beane has good reason to assume the Patriots are the class of the AFC East. New England has won the division 17 of the last 19 seasons, including each of the last 11 years.
Of course, the last time the Patriots didn't win the AFC East was in 2008—the season Brady suffered an ACL tear in Week 1. They still went 11-5 but finished in second place behind the Miami Dolphins.
Beane is also doing some public deflection since the Bills are the most obvious replacement for the Pats atop the division. Buffalo went 10-6 in 2019 and will return a majority of arguably the NFL's best defense. Add in the acquisition of wideout Stefon Diggs, and the Bills have a claim to be the best team in the division—provided Josh Allen improves as a passer.
The Patriots could have their own chess moves remaining. While they're among the most cap-strapped teams in the NFL, they could make a splash by signing Cam Newton or Jameis Winston to replace Brady—two quarterbacks who are perhaps better than the 42-year-old. They're improvements over Allen and would get the Patriots back into at least co-favorite status.