Bills GM says Patriots are still the team to beat in AFC East

Many pundits are already willing to crown the Buffalo Bills as the presumptive champions of the AFC East for the 2020 season, given the arrival of Stefon Diggs and departure of Tom Brady from the New England Patriots.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane wants to pump the brakes on that.

"The team to beat in the East is the Patriots," Beane told local media during a videoconference Thursday. "And until somebody beats them, they are the team to beat. And as long as Bill Belichick's there, you're talking about probably the greatest head coach of all time that was paired with the greatest quarterback of all time.

"So until we beat them, we've done nothing, and we've got our work cut out for us."

The Patriots have won the division for 11 consecutive seasons, which includes Beane's three with the Bills.

After 20 years with New England, Brady signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, ending a divisional reign that also resulted in 17 playoff appearances and six Super Bowl titles.

"I candidly did not expect Tom to leave," said Beane, who was 0-for-6 against Brady but is disappointed to no longer face him twice a year.

"Playing against him, I go back and forth. You know you always want to take down the best," Beane said. "And that's probably the disappointing thing as I sit here -- in my time, we didn't beat Tom Brady. And so, we'll have to find another way to play Tampa to be able to maybe beat him before he hangs them up."

Beane also referenced the success Belichick had without Brady -- notably, the team's 11-5 record in 2008 when Brady missed most of the season with a torn ACL. The Patriots also went 3-1 in the four games for which Brady was suspended in 2016.

Buffalo, which went 10-6 last season, traded with the Minnesota Vikings to acquire Diggs on March 16. With a majority of their playoff roster intact, the Bills have been picked by some as the favorites for their first AFC East title since 1995.

Beane said his team still needs to earn that accolade.

"New England is still going to be very good," Beane said. "You look at what Bill Belichick did in 2008; they got robbed of a playoff. They were 11-5 with Matt Cassel at the helm.

"So I think it's funny and comical that people are writing them off and labeling -- whether it's us or another team -- as the team to beat in the East."