The AFC East has essentially been a one-team race since Tom Brady took over as the New England Patriots' starter in 2001, kicking off an unprecedented run of success that included winning the last 11 division titles.
Now that Brady has joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Buffalo Bills are widely being tipped as the team most likely to replace the Patriots as the division's powerhouse.
But Bills general manager Brandon Beane believes it's foolish to dismiss Bill Belichick's club, even without its longtime star quarterback.
"The team to beat in the East is the Patriots," Beane said Thursday, according to ESPN's Marcel Louis-Jacques. "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 Bills stayed on the Patriots' heels for much of last season. Though New England eventually clinched the AFC East crown with a win over Buffalo on Dec. 21, ensuring its rival would be a wild-card team, the Bills arguably posed the biggest threat in years to Belichick and Co.'s run of consecutive division titles.
While Beane said he "candidly did not expect" Brady to leave, the GM perfectly timed his own blockbuster move, acquiring receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings for a package that includes this year's first-round pick.
But even with the addition of Diggs to hopefully spark a breakout season from quarterback Josh Allen in Year 3, Beane knows Belichick is often at his best when facing adversity.
"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."