NFL odds: With multiple Patriots opting out, should the Bills be AFC East favorites?

Early Tuesday morning, the Buffalo Bills were +140 odds at BetMGM to win the AFC East, behind the favorite New England Patriots.

By late Tuesday morning, the odds were off the board.

While there will be plenty of news on players opting out of the 2020 season before Aug. 3, when players need to declare if they will be sitting out due to coronavirus concerns, the Patriots were hit the hardest early on.

By early Tuesday afternoon, the Patriots had six players opt out, by far the most in the NFL. That’s what caused BetMGM to take the odds off the board. It also means the Bills might present the best value to win the division when the odds go back up, as strange as it seems to pick anyone but the Patriots to win it.

Patriots have lost a lot

The Patriots have won 11 straight AFC East titles. Among major American professional teams, only the Atlanta Braves and Patriots have won 11 consecutive division titles.

While that’s impressive, the challenge is much greater this season. Tom Brady is gone, replaced by Cam Newton. And the defensive subtractions, between trades, free agency and opt-outs, are significant. Football Outsiders Almanac said the Patriots had the biggest net loss of any defense in one offseason since 2004, and that was before Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung opted out on Tuesday. Hightower and Chung are key pieces to the Patriots’ versatile defense. It will be hard to replace them this late in the offseason.

Not only did the Patriots have Hightower and Chung opt out, they also will be without starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, running back and special teams standout Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and offensive lineman Najee Toran, all of whom opted out.

There were good reasons for those players to opt out, but football-wise it’s a huge blow to a Patriots team that had already lost a lot in free agency.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) celebrates after catching a pass for a touchdown against the Houston Texans in the playoffs. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Bills have been improving

The Bills were already a chic pick this offseason. They made the playoffs last season, gave the Patriots a tough game twice last regular season and added receiver Stefon Diggs in a big trade. The Bills have been taking steps forward with coach Sean McDermott, and a growth season by quarterback Josh Allen could push them over the top in the division.

The Bills are no sure thing, but the Patriots suddenly have a lot of holes to fill from last season. Buffalo had defensive tackle Star Lotulelei opt out, and he was a key starter in the middle of their line, but it’s nothing compared to the Patriots’ losses.

That leads to a situation that hasn’t been the case in a long, long time: There might be value betting against the Patriots this season.

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