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Patriots owner Robert Kraft confident New England can compete in 'most difficult division in the NFL'

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is optimistic his club can compete in the rugged AFC East.

"I liked our draft this year, and I hope that translates on the field," Kraft said on Thursday at the annual Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards luncheon at Gillette Stadium. "I know the guys are working very hard. I think we have the most difficult division in the NFL, the best balance of teams. All the other three teams are good. So we'll have our challenges. But I'm really hopeful about this team."

After 11 consecutive AFC East titles with Tom Brady under center, the Patriots have finished third, second, and third in the division the past three years, respectively, making one wild-card appearance in 2021.

Bill Belichick's club hasn't finished in the division's cellar since 2000, his first year with the club -- when there were five teams per division.

The AFC East has been an arms race this offseason.

The Buffalo Bills, winners of three straight crowns, bulked up their defensive front with Leonard Floyd and Poona Ford while adding first-round pass-catching tight end Dalton Kincaid.

The Miami Dolphins traded for star corner Jalen Ramsey, added linebacker David Long and swiped coveted defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. And they're reportedly in the mix potentially to land soon-to-be free-agent running back Dalvin Cook.

Most notably, the New York Jets, whose yearly struggles have recently kept New England out of the division's cellar, added four-time NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers, vaulting the Gang Green doormat into the discussion for an AFC title.

The Patriots used to beat up on weak AFC East opponents. Now they're in what looks -- on paper -- to be the best division entering the season. If Kraft's club can add free-agent receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the mix, their chances of competing for the division would increase significantly.

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