Bedard: AFC East future thoughts and the Patriots’ place in it

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So we've given you our thoughts — through a mixture of our own film study, opinions of NFL executives and ratings — on the state of the AFC East as the 2020 season draws to a close with two teams, the Jets and Patriots, playing out the string (yuck), and the Bills and likely Dolphins headed to the postseason

Ranking the AFC East (Offense) – Patriots fall dramatically behind Bills with little in pipeline
Ranking the AFC East (Defense) – Patriots fall behind Bills as division tightens overall

So that's this year.

Based on Bill Belichick's responses to previous "failed" years (it's all relative, people) in 2002, '05, '08 and '09, I wouldn't expect the Patriots just to sit by and slowly rebuild — especially after Belichick publicly blamed the team's roster issues on recent cap spending spurts.

"Because of our cap situation — in this particular year, this is kind of the year that we’ve taken (to), I would say, adjust our cap from the spending that we’ve had in accumulation of prior years," Belichick told Sirius.

"I mean it’s obvious we didn’t have any money," Belichick later told WEEI. "It’s nobody’s fault. That’s what we did the last five years. We sold out and won three Super Bowls, played in a fourth and played in a AFC championship game."

You can't really put that out there — after years of thwarting any criticism by pointing to the scoreboard, Belchick essentially pointed to his cap and said it's just a one-year thing — and then not do anything when you'll have the third-most cap space in the league.

So expect the Patriots to throw more into this upcoming offseason, especially as Belichick turns 69-year old.

But will that mean what it once did, considering the gains made by the rest of the division?

A look at the divisional snapshot and Patriots' place in it, starting with a breakdown of where every team stands relative to the on-field product, cap and draft capital: