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A Whirl Around the AFC East After 3 Weeks

Posted by Eric Allen on September 28, 2011 – 1:34 pm

“We’ve got to find a way to win our division.”

That was the decree from Jets head coach Rex Ryan more than seven months ago in Indianapolis. That statement kind of got lost that cold day at the annual NFL Combine because Ryan also guaranteed a Super Bowl win in 2011, but the Green & White know their best shot at getting to America’s Heartland in February is to win the AFC East.

The Patriots are two-time defending division champs, finishing 10-6 in 2009 and 14-2 in ’10. After taking three of five contests (including a 28-21 triumph at Foxboro in the AFC Divisional Round last January) against Bill Belichick and the Pats, Ryan issued a challenge to the rest of the league when training camp commenced in August.

“I think we have to find somebody out there to beat New England besides us, and I think that would help,” he said. “Anybody out there that wants to sign up for it? Are you good enough as a team to beat the New England Patriots? Forget about us, are you good enough to go out and beat the New England Patriots? I’m challenging the league.”

The Bills proved good enough to beat the Patriots — at least on Sept. 25 in Orchard Park, N.Y. — as they came from behind for their heartstopping 34-31 win. Last Sunday was an odd day in the division as the Jets would go on to drop a 34-24 decision in Oakland, marking the first time both of the division’s top dogs have lost on the same weekend since Nov. 15, 2009.

While Buffalo’s 3-0 start has been most impressive, it is way too early to make this a three-horse race. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are stuck in last place at 0-3 and they’ve already given themselves little wiggle room if they want to be in contention come December.

Let’s take a spin around the division.

BUFFALO BILLS (3-0)

Offense: 3rd overall (4th rush, 11th pass)

Defense: 26th overall (24th rush, 24th pass)

Reasons for Hope: This offensive explosion has been extraordinary. The Bills are averaging 37.7 points, 431 yards and 155 rushing yards per contest, which ranks first, third and fourth, respectively, in the league. Ryan Fitzpatrick is completing 65 percent of his passes while Fred Jackson is averaging 101 yards per game and 6.4 yards a carry. They have repeatedly spread teams out, helping a line that entered the season a huge question mark, and let Fitzy survey the field, or pounded away with Jackson. Both Stevie Johnson and David Nelson have 20 catches and even Donald Jones is coming off a 100-yard receiving effort. Belief is a funny thing and the Bills just became the first team ever to come back from 18-points-plus deficits to win in consecutive weeks.

Reasons for Concern: The lights are still out for Shawne Merriman because the Bills rank dead last in sacks with two. The team is a plus-5 in the turnover department and the DBs made a quartet of interceptions against Tom Brady, but they are thin at CB as veteran Terrence McGee (hamstring) and rookie CB Aaron Williams (collarbone) are both out with injuries. Can this defense get better because there is probably no way the offense can stay this hot? But you should take the Bills seriously because the upcoming schedule appears manageable.

Next Four Foes: @ CIN, vs. PHI, @ NYG, Bye, vs. WAS (Toronto)

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-1)

Offense: 1st overall (13th rush, 1st pass)

Defense: 32nd overall (10th rush, 32nd pass)

Reasons for Hope: Losing early to a division rival, on the road, is commonplace for the Pats. Before they blew the 21-0 lead at Buffalo, the Pats lost in Week 2 to the Jets in both ’09 and ’10. Brady has been tremendous, completing 70 percent of his passes for 1,327 yards with 11 TDs and a 113.8 passer rating. Wes Welker not only has a ridiculous 31 receptions but he’s averaging 14.8 yards a catch and has scored four times. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been phenomenal in his own right, averaging 16.5 yards a reception and scoring five times.

Reasons for Concern: Is it fair to criticize anything offensively? After all, when will Brady toss four interceptions in a game next? Don’t be fooled by the Pats’ solid rush ranking — they don’t scare you on the ground and the lack of balance could be a concern. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and former Jets back Danny Woodhead combined for just 37 yards on 15 carries in the loss to the Bills.

But the primary reason for concern obviously is the defense. Ranked dead last overall, the Pats don’t get consistent pressure and the secondary and linebackers have been torn up in coverage. Devin McCourty, the Rutgers product who had seven interceptions his rookie season, has really struggled. Sure, the Pats played without four defensive regulars — S Patrick Chung, rookie CB Ras-I Dowling and DTs Albert Haynesworth and Mike Wright — in western New York, but there are a ton of question marks. You would expect to see improvement on this side during the year, but have the Pats become the Indianapolis Colts? Fascinating couple of weeks ahead for the Men of Belichick starting on the coast in Oakland and then coming home for the showdown with the Jets.

Next Four Foes: @ OAK, vs. NYJ, vs. DAL, Bye, @ PIT

MIAMI DOLPHINS (0-3)

Offense: 12th overall (7th rush, t-14th pass)

Defense: 30th overall (16 rush, 30th pass)

Reasons for Hope: Rookie back Daniel Thomas, a Kansas State product, is making a strong case to be the Dolphins’ No. 1 running back as his 41 carries, 202 yards and 4.9 average far outpace Reggie Bush’s 27-69-2.6. The Dolphins are seventh in rushing, picking up 129.7 yards a game in their winless start. Wideout Brandon Marshall has been solid with 17 receptions and a 15.4-yard average.

Reasons for Concern: Chad Henne has been sacked 11 times and he’s completing just 56.5 percent of his passes. The offense has moved the ball but has struggled in the red zone and is averaging just 17.7 points per contest (27th in the NFL). Wasn’t this defense supposed to be better? A month ago, Vontae Davis said he and Sean Smith were the best corner tandem in the league, but teams aren’t having difficulty finding holes in the secondary. Many in the media have also questioned whether the Dolphins might make a coaching move and replace Tony Sparano if they lose this week at San Diego.

Next Four Foes: @ SD, Bye, @ NYJ, vs. DEN, @ NYG


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Posted in Eric Allen | 21 Comments »


21 Responses to “A Whirl Around the AFC East After 3 Weeks”

  1. By kleckofan on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    For those of us in other states, last night was a chance to finally watch the Raider game on the NFL Network. Watching a game when you know the outcome allows for less emotional involvement. I am mystified by all the doomsdayers out there, we kicked a$$ for half the game and were dead even after 3 qtrs. We weren’t abused, even the sacks w the exception of the last, were not big time shots on MS (coverage sacks, quick slant that wasn’t there, bootleg that DE didn’t bite on etc). Three plays at the end of 3 qtr did us in. Even Schotty wasn’t half bad; lots of bootleg passes (waggles) and I haven’t see the play for a long time where we fake a dive and then backhand pitch out to a sweep (we scored inthe platoffs against SD w it). We’ll be OK

  2. By carl on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    This is easy for the Jets! Identity! Who are the NY Jets? Is it Marty ball or Buddy ball? Is it ground and pound? Is it a throwing team? 12 personel group or 21? Do we run to set up pass or vice versa?The Jets def. still missing pure rusher and a linebacker that can cover in space.Go Jets!!

  3. By Ray on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    Well I have always been a glass half empty guy when it comes to the Jets… being a fan since the sixties kind of makes you that way. But my biggest fear coming out of training camp was that we seemed thin at almost EVERY position and we were letting too many guys go. Ellis, Lowery, BS, Coleman, Cotchery, Edwards. I don’t like bringing too many new guys into the fold at once, chemistry is not automatic and you can’t develop it overnight. These guys have not gelled as a unit and it is very apparent with their inconsistent play. We lost a game we should have won, but got a game against Dallas we had no business winning, so we are right where we should be, the next three games will define the rest of this season

  4. By wayne on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    That fools errand called the Asomugha chase set this team back. They needed a pass rusher and a backer who could actually keep up with backs out of the backfield. Maybin fills both areas. He can rush passer and he’s got speed to keep up with RBs…Other than 52 and 57, the Jets pretty much deploy DLs as LBs and use exotic blitzes to make up for deficiencies. Those exotic blitzes have lost some steam. Maybin adds something new to the D package. If he’s as effective as he appeared, it could be a huge boost, particularly this year……………..Rex’s arrogance and Tanny addicted to making big splash in FA was the only explanation for going after Asomugha….Look what a bang up job he’s doing for that vaunted Eagles D.

  5. By wayne on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    Darrelle Revis is hands down THE best CB in football……All we need to know is that having him on the field determines what type of D gameplan Rex can employ……That’s not the opinion of a fanatic…….I ALWAYS CALLS EM AS I SEES EM……….My blood is red. NOT GREEN AND WHITE.

  6. By nyjetsholdupsbtrophyin2012 on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    After watching the Replay of the Oak Game today , I really have had a change of what I initially said about Marks game, Looking at it again he really did play a very decent game and was a victim of some poor blocking, I counted at least 3 drops one of them a TD by mulligan and the 4th down by Burress ,HUGE DROPS..giving up 3 sacks within the 3rd Qtr was just dreadful.. The shotgun draw has to be sold better ,it seems like D’s are just ready for it..I also thought Greene had a decent day ,need to do more of getting him to the edge and out in space..So sorry Spicer I agree with you on your assesment of Mark..His 1st qtr pick was a terrible dec.He really played well.Mulligans drop and A-Cro’s Fumble were really killers, outside of DMC we out

  7. By nyjetsholdupsbtrophyin2012 on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    played them, it is disappointing to see the D give up that many ground yards and have those penalties , if we can just eliminate the drops and get the O-Line back to functioning the way it has the last 2 years ,mybe draw up a few more downfield throws for mark ,this game shows we should be able to put up 30+ points ……wow we really gave this away…..

  8. By GaryC on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    jet fan tom, seeing that you don’t see much in Boldin,let’s see if cromartie plays and if not if Wilson can do a better job then he did last year against him.

  9. By wayne on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    Rumors have it Buffalo is in Canada……Orchard Park, Ontario?…..Whatever the case, there’ll be no gimmes for the Jets in AFC this year…..Go NY Go.

  10. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    I like Boldin, GaryC, but he’s no Santonio Holmes and he hasn’t come close to doing what SH has in the clutch.

  11. By GaryC on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    If Maybin is so good why did no other team pick him up after jets let him go, or are we the only team in nfl without a pass rush.

  12. By Karan on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    Um, Orchard Park is in New York lol, and I agree with Ray’s comments.

  13. By the real to on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    if our receivers stop droppin passes that hit em in the numbers, we re 3-0 right now. and if sanchez had the time to primp his hair behind the o line like brady, we d be scary right now

  14. By gbabynyjets24 on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    Yes we unlike other teams have greayer needs in maybin

  15. By Tom Spicer on Sep 29, 2011 | Reply

    nyjetsholdupsbtrophyin2012, It takes a true man to stand up & admit when he is wrong about something. I must say my respect for you now is thru the roof.

  16. By nyjetsholdupsbtrophyin2012 on Sep 29, 2011 | Reply

    Well you know Spicer, when your in the heat of the moment Like when the game is live (and I get very animated & Loud) sometimes you just dont see everything that might be a contributor to a bad play ETC..etc…being able to watch it again knowing whats going happen you can look at everything else , and Mark played Great outside of that INT in 1st qtr..Hopefully this is the start of the consistent Reg.season play out of him we’ve longed for..now everyone else needs to step up their games O-Line our Backs ,and stop dropping ** Ball…we be just fine..the D will get fixed have no doubts about that..

  17. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 29, 2011 | Reply

    That’s why I’m with GaryC and others on this site about picking up some OL help, real to, you can’t expect Sanchez to do that well under constant pressure. Ira, you seem to have given up on our picking up another OL guy, what do you think of GaryC’s idea about getting Davis and moving Slauson over? Just for the record, I love Toon but putting him in a Jets Ring of Honor before Walker is ridiculous. I wonder if Walker offended the Jets brass by saying that we haven’t had a really great deep threat since he played. “The naked truth is still taboo, whenever it is seen” — Bob Dylan. Oh well, at least Klecko and some other worthy Jets got a shot at Canton again this yr.

  18. By Christopher on Sep 29, 2011 | Reply

    I too watched the game again…the NFL game rewind is totally awesome. Mark played ok, but still same problems. 2nd Qtr 10 min left 1st n 10. Oakland is playing up. 8 in the box, other than a deep safety no one is more than 10 yrds off the line. Plax is 1-1 with his guy, SH in motion. The O-line actually give Mark a pocket, and Mark quickly dumps the ball to Greene for 4 yards. Too quick in my opinion. Let the play develop, he had good protection. Instead of attacking the corners we go into the heart of the front 7.

  19. By Christopher on Sep 29, 2011 | Reply

    Then Shotty, we are up 14-7 in the red zone after the Oak missed the FG. We run on 1st down with LT down to the 4. good play, but then went right back to it for 1 yrds (wasted down) when Plax again had 1-1…where is the fade into the end zone? Let him use his size to go up and make a play. Isn’t that why we got him?

  20. By Christopher on Sep 29, 2011 | Reply

    Is it that Mark is not reading the defenses correctly, or is the problem Shotty? Is Mark allowed to call an audible at the line? I mean how do you not see that Oakland was stacked up for the run on that play when Plax had 1-1 in the corner?

    Even the announces were like when the Jets try to go down the field Oak was in zone and when they were short passes Oak was in man to man. To me that is a huge problem. We cannot adjust to the defenses properly, I’m just not sure if the problem is Mark or Shotty. To me it is Mark, you are the leader now, if you see something audible out of the called play and adjust and he doesn’t do that. He doesn’t recognize when he can extend a play because the protection is good and look downfield.

  21. By Christopher on Sep 29, 2011 | Reply

    That 70 yrd McFadden run should never have happened. After the FG to go up 17-7, on 2nd and 9 Oak tries a pass to Heyward-Bay and Cro is called for holding, so instead of 3rd and 9 it is a first down. That was an absolutely horrible call, there wasn’t a hold on that play. I’ve watched it at least 10+ times now. Cro slipped, but he didn’t even get his hands on the reciever let alone hold him. I cannot even find contact by Cro on that play. Simms even says “I didn’t see the hold, boy, I hate to sit up here and say bad call every single time…”

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