This is the doggone question that the "talking head"-cases are now asking?
According to Tim "I used to be fair, but now I just get paid" Graham at ESPN, the BIGGEST QUESTION MARK IN THE AFC EAST is "Have the Jets have caught the Patriots as the class of the division?", and John "PWG" Clayton presents the answer.
Now, I don't know if anyone else here follows my line of thinking on this (I will be the first to admit that my thinking sometimes crosses dimensions), but if I recall correctly, the Patriots haven't exactly been tearing it up the past few seasons. They had the incredibly awesome 16-0 regular season in 2007, in which they lost the Super Bowl, but haven't really been a powerhouse since their last Super Bowl win of the 2004 season.
Instead, it is more fair to state the the Pats have been the ONLY decent team in the AFC East. Since the 2004 season, including last year, the Bills have not had a single winning season, and the Jets and Fins haven't fared much better. The Jets had two 4-12 seasons (one in 2007), and the Fins had a 6-10 season to go with that painful 1-15 year (also in 2007).
IMO, it is not so much about how good the Pats have been since 2004, but about how much of a train wreck the rest of the division has been. And yes the 2007 season for the Pats was incredible, but it didn't hurt them that the entire rest of the AFC East was so bad that they combined for a mind numbing 12 wins that year! In other words, the Pats got a 6 game "gimme".
Now I will concede that the Patriots have had a few set backs in recent years, with injuries to Tom Brady and Wes Welker. Of course they have also had some self induced handicaps, like the cheating scandal, Moss' apparent lack of interest on the field, and now the Brady and Mankins contract grumblings. But I just don't see that chemistry that they had back when they were the lunch pail crew, and free agents were taking less money to sign with them.
No, I think a better question to ask is, "Now that there is honest competition in the AFC East, how good are the Patriots, really?".