How easy is the New England Patriots path to the AFC East title? You’ll find more drama in a Daffy Duck cartoon than you’ll find in the AFC East this season.

The Patriots are so much better than their rivals in the AFC East, when the Dolphins, Bills, or Jets take the field against New England, it should be to “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” by Culture Club.

This is how confident you can be about the Patriots chances to win their division. You can join me in cracking one liners.

I’ve spent days trying to think of all the things the Patriots need to do to win the AFC East this season. Here’s what I have so far:

• Buckle their chin straps. This is important. They can’t have helmets flying off willy-nilly. That’s disruptive.

• Show up for each game. Also important. You can’t win if you don’t play. Half of life is just showing up, right?

That’s it. That’s the list.

The Miami Dolphins are starting a quarterback, Jay Cutler, who was retired a month and a half ago. The Buffalo Bills traded their best player, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, to the Los Angeles Rams. Running back Mike Gillislee, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry and scored nine touchdowns for Buffalo last season, is now a Patriot. The New York Jets are such a mess, they should be featured on an episode of Hoarders.

The Dolphins could make a run at a playoff spot, if Cutler plays his absolute best and the defense remains solid, but the Bills and Jets are looking toward the future. They are studying 2017 draft prospects.

If there is one thing that could derail the Patriots 2017 season, it’s superstition. There’s this poppycock of the Madden Curse.

As soon as Tom Brady was announced as the cover boy for this year’s edition of Madden football, the jinx talk began. The NFL is littered with the bones of players who appeared on the cover of the popular video game, only to see their season, and in some cases, their career, spiral into an abyss of failure and despair. Brett Favre was on the cover in 2008 and led the league in interceptions. Daunte Culpepper was on the cover and suffered a knee injury. Vince Young was on the cover and entirely forgot how to play quarterback.

Brady’s teammate, tight end Rob Gronkowski, appeared on the cover of Madden NFL ’17, and was lost to a back injury. Brady showed the proper amount of respect and concern to the curse — none — when he made videos poking fun at the Madden Curse.

Then, Julian Edelman tore his ACL, and was lost for the season. The joke that made the circles on social media was, Edelman loves Brady so much, he took the Madden Curse hit for him.

But what if? What if Brady manages to deflect the curse on to his teammates all season? Prior to Edelman’s injury, Augusta-born rookie defensive lineman Derek Rivers tore his ACL. In Thursday’s preseason finale, cornerback Cyrus Jones was lost for the season with a knee injury. While no Edelman or Jones does make the Patriots thin at punt returner, unless they coax big Vince Wilfork out of retirement to return punts, I think they’ll find somebody who can do the job. Heck, if the Patriots never use a return man, decide to go for the block on every punt all season and start each drive wherever the ball happens to land, they’ll be fine.

Wait a minute … What if there is something to this reverse Madden Curse thing? What if Brady goes through the entire season with nothing but good fortune. That would be unusual for a guy at the top of his profession, with a supermodel wife and beautiful family, but bear with me.

What if, on the same day Brady hits on a winning scratch ticket, Devin McCourty slips on a banana peel while taking his trash to the curb? What if Brady finds a chest of pirate treasure buried in his back yard just hours before Chris Hogan steps on a Leggo and is lost for the season?

Sorry. When trying to think of ways the Patriots lose the division makes the mind wander to strange places.

The season opens Thursday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots will certainly see some tough competition this season, but it’s not likely to come from the AFC East. That said, there is always the chance the Patriots simply… play poorly. Right?


Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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