Death, taxes and the New England Patriots .
Benjamin Franklin is known for a lot of things, but the quote most repeated citing Franklin is "nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Had Franklin been alive today, aside from probably being a real-life version of Doc Brown, he would have added one more name to that list of certainties.
Over the last 17 years, the Patriots have won the AFC East 15 times.
To repeat, since 2001, the Patriots have finished atop the AFC East standings a staggering 89 percent of the time.
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One of those years the Patriots did not win the East, was the year Tom Brady was lost in the season's opening minutes. Even then, the Patriots finished 11-5. 16 out of those 17 years, the Patriots finished in the top ten in either offense or defense. 13 times both the offense and defense have finished in the top ten.Six times, either the offense or defense has finished first in points for or allowed.
There have been two constants throughout New England's success, head coach Bill Belichick and Brady. Everyone else has come and gone. Coordinators, position coaches, team captains and Pro Bowlers. All have witnessed the Patriot Way and most have a Super Bowl ring to show for their time at Foxboro.
All of this is to say that much of New England's success has been–obviously–because of New England.
At the same time, the rest of the AFC East has been the product of inconsistency on the field and poor moves in the off-season. Part of it could be attributed to the proverbial horse chasing the carrot. While the Patriots have unprecedented success the rest of the league makes hasty and irrational front-office decisions in the hopes of catching the top team.
Buffalo, in 2017, made its first playoff appearance since 1999. Miami haven't fared much better, making the playoffs just three times since 2001. The Jets have had some success in the postseason, making back-to-back AFC Championship games. Yet, New York has had just eight winning seasons since 2001.
No other league can compete with such dominance by one team, and such putridity from the other three teams in its division. When will it change? Can it change?
To steal another line. This time from English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, "All good things must come to an end."
There has been no dynasty quite like what New England has curated. Almost two decades of greatness with little to no margin of rebuilding in-between. While the Patriots hopes of an undefeated season were dashed in 2007, one person has a flawless record: Father Time.
Brady will start this season at 41. Rob Gronkowski has been flirting with retirement the last couple of years. Belichick's own clock is starting to tick towards the end.
So far, every prediction of New England's inevitable demise has been proven wrong. Something is different this year.
It's very possible that three of the "big 4" QBs in this draft end up in the AFC East.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) April 19, 2018
Buffalo, Miami and the Jets are all slated to pick within the first 12 selections. All three could find themselves drafting a franchise quarterback. The way all three teams are currently crafted, more than likely, all three will be back in the early part of the draft next season as well. There is the rare opportunity to find franchise-changing talent in multiple drafts.
Even then though, the results are shaky at best. New Orleans only needed one year to get back into the playoffs after hitting the jackpot in its 2017 draft. Cleveland, however, will be picking first for the second straight year.
The next two years may be the perfect time to watch one dynasty end, however. A time when the competitiveness and parity that shapes the modern league may finally infiltrate the last standing dictatorship.
It's a big if, but if the Jets, Bills and Dolphins are to strike it rich the next two drafts, it could provide the necessary heat to finally challenge yearly for the division crown. The one gameplan that has actually been successful against the Patriots is pressure from the front four.
If the Jets, Bills and Dolphins spend the time to upgrade their front seven and pressure Brady, that is six games a year that could influence how long the future hall of fame quarterback stays in the league.
If the Jets, Bills and Dolphins are able to find franchise quarterbacks, it could cause headaches to a team that has used its divisional games as an unofficial bye, similar to Alabama facing Northwest Missouri A&M Central.
If the queen had balls she would be the king.
The axis of the AFC East can be making its first shift towards parity on Thursday. If the rest of the AFC East can erase two decades worth of futility. It's a big If.
As Yogi Berra once said, though, "it's tough to make predictions, especially in the future."