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AFC East – 3rd Quarter Review

AFC East – 3rd Quarter Review
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With just 4 regular season games left in the 2013, it is that time of year when the season is in full swing and teams are starting to make their playoff push.

Bill Parcells once famously said, “You are what your record says you are”.  If this is the case, then the AFC East, by the win/loss records, is experiencing an almost repeat of last season.  With the finish line in sight, it’s time to take a look at where we have been and where we think we are going.  So sit back, relax, and take a deep breath of extreme bias.

Buffalo Bills:

2013 Standing: 4-8 (4th Place)

2012 Standing through 12 games:  5-7 (2nd Place tie)

What’s happened so far?  The Bills have been “Living on a Prayer” and their season has been marred with what ifs and what could have been.  What could have been a 4-0 start turned into 2-2….What could have been the development of a raw young QB turned into a carrousel of Quarterbacks.  Even so, with 5 games left in the season, the Bills actually still had an outside shot to contend for a Wildcard spot.  Then came the Home game in Toronto.  As a cruel twist of fate, the Bills gave up a game in the cold outdoor elements of Erie County for a nice cozy trip to Toronto in a Dome.  Several fumbles later, the Bills were 4-8 with four games to go.

What can we expect?  With division games against Miami and New England, the Bills have moved back into their more familiar role as potential spoiler down the stretch.  Certainly these four games will be more important for developmental reasons than anything else.  The time will be invaluable for EJ Manuel and should also provide some opportunities for some internal scouting for potential off season moves.

At this point it may be safe to say that the Bills are on the clock.

Miami Dolphins:

2013 Standing: 6-6 (2nd Place)

2012 Standing through 12 games:  5-7 (2nd Place tie)

What’s happened so far?  The Dolphins have had one of the strangest seasons in recent memory.  After starting with a very impressive 3-0 start, the Dolphins then dropped 4 games in a row.  Add to this an ongoing locker room saga involving two of their starting five Offensive Linemen; the Dolphins have since alternated wins and losses for the last 6 games.  Much to the surprise of everyone, Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has not been knocked out of any games due to very suspect Offensive Line play while continuing to be out of sync with Free Agent WR Mike Wallace.

What can we expect?  After spending the equivalent of the GNP of several South American nations during the off season, the Dolphins have bought themselves the 24th ranked scoring offense, an anemic running game, an offensive line with glaring issues, and a defense ranked 14th in the league.  However, with their final four games against AFC opponents, including three division games, the Dolphins have poised themselves for a playoff run.  Now the question is can the Dolphins close the deal and secure their first playoff berth since 2008.

New England Patriots:

2013 Standing: 9-3 (1st Place)

2012 Standing through 12 games: 9-3 (1st Place)

What’s happened so far?  For the third time in as many years, the Patriots are sitting in 1st place in the AFC East with a record of 9-3.  This year’s record, however, has come because of a lot good luck, some surprising defensive performances, and some good fortune with the scheduling.  This is not the same Patriots team that fans have become accustom to; The offense is rebuilding its identity on the fly and the defense, decimated by injury, is starting as many as five rookies on any given Sunday.  The returns of Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen have been a massive boost to an offense that has struggled for much of the year. 

What can we expect?  With four AFC games remaining, of which two are division games, the Patriots have put themselves in a position to control their own destiny to secure a first round bye in the AFC Playoffs.  Clearly the window of opportunity is closing on the Patriots and their dynasty is closer to the end than the beginning.  However, Belichick is 48-8 in December as Head Coach in New England so there is no reason to believe that the Patriots will not have a strong finish to the regular season.  Ultimately though, with all the injuries this team has had both offensively and defensively, it is going to be an uphill battle to make a deep playoff run.

New York Jets:

2013 Standing: 5-7 (3rd Place)

2012 Standing through 12 games: 5-7 (2nd Place tie)

What’s happened so far?  Five wins, pathetic offense, league leading turnovers, QB controversy, blowout losses….Is this the 2012 Jets?  No…Sorry…It’s the new and improved 2013 version of the New York Jets.  Not only four weeks ago, the Jets headed into their bye week with a 5-4 record.  They had just beaten the New Orleans Saints, held the sixth seed in the AFC, and there were grumblings of Rex Ryan getting an extension or even being Coach of the Year.  Apparently, the Jets decided not to come back after their bye week and proceeded to lose their next three games by a combined score of 79 to 20.  Oh what a difference a month makes.

What can we expect?  Rex Ryan may very well be down to his final 4 games as Head Coach of the Jets.  Certainly Ryan has enjoyed a lofty reputation as a good Defensive mind but that reputation has been built more on his last name and the talent that he has coached versus anything he has actually accomplished in the NFL.   In the unlikely event that the Jets can somehow win their final four games, there is always the possibility that he may retain his position with the Jets.   This would, of course, be great news for all the other AFC East teams.  For the Jets, it would undoubtedly leave them in the same position they have been in for the last couple of seasons: Above average talent defensively with a Head Coach who is completely clueless about offensive football.

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