AFC East Game Day – Week 3

AFC East Game Day – Week 3
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KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET at Hard Rock Stadium. TV: CBS, Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots.

SERIES HISTORY: 17th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 8-8. The Browns beat the Dolphins four straight times before Miami won, 23-10, in 2013. Romeo Crennelcoached two of those victories. Eric Mangini and Pat Shurmur coached one each.


KEYS TO THE GAME: For the fifth consecutive regular-season game, the Cleveland Browns are starting a different quarterback. This time, it’s rookie third-round pick Cody Kessler, who replaces Week 2 starter Josh McCown, the stand-in for Robert Griffin III, who was hurt in the opener. To ease the burden on Kessler and attack the Dolphins’ porous run defense (136.5 yards per game allowed this season), head coach Hue Jackson is likely to emphasize the run featuring Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. The Browns like to run to the left behind tackle Joe Thomas and guard Joel Bitonio. Johnson has only six carries through two games and could see more touches out of necessity. A hand injury to standout rookie receiver Corey Coleman robs Kessler of a familiar outlet. Coleman had two touchdowns last week. A groin injury might keep Arian Foster on the sideline, but the Dolphins are rarely running — 36 times in two games — and QB Ryan Tannehill should have time to rock and fire against this Cleveland front seven. If the Dolphins do get traction in the running game, Miami could really roll to a big number at home.


MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Browns LT Joe Thomas vs. Dolphins DE Mario Williams: Williams had only one tackle in the game at New England in Week 2, but he is always a dangerous pass rusher. He has 97 career sacks since entering he league in 2006. Thomas might have to protect a little longer than normal with rookie Cody Kessler at quarterback. Browns NT Danny Shelton vs. Dolphins C Anthony Steen: Dolphins Pro Bowl C Mike Pouncey is battling a hip fracture. Even if Pouncey is able to play, this matchup favors the Browns. Shelton, in his second season, is coming off the best game of his career. He made eight tackles against the Ravens last week. He has learned to throw aside the lineman blocking him and make the tackle.


FAST FACTS: Cody Kessler will be the 26th different starting quarterback for the Browns since 1999. … Browns CB Joe Haden intercepted two passes last week, giving him 18 career picks in 78 games.


PREDICTION: Between a Hard Rock and Man named Suh is no place for a rookie third-rounder to break in, but Browns QB Cody Kessler doesn’t have a choice. With modest skill talent around him, the Dolphins get head coach Adam Gase his first career win and make it look easy against the already ailing Browns.


OUR PICK: Dolphins, 27-10


Arizona Cardinals (1-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET at New Era Field. TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin.

SERIES HISTORY: The Cardinals and Bills meet for the 11th time in a series that dates to 1971. Buffalo holds a 6-4 advantage in the series and has won five of the last six games. This is the first time the teams have met since Week 8 of the 2004 season. The Cardinals have lost in each of their previous three trips to Buffalo and haven’t won there since the first matchup between the teams in 1971.


KEYS TO THE GAME: What the Bills are going to do is a bit of mystery now that offensive coordinator Greg Roman has been fired and replaced by running backs coach Anthony Lynn. Lynn has never been a coordinator at any level, so no one is quite sure how he may call plays. But one thing is clear: The Bills won’t stray too far from their principles and will try to get LeSean McCoy going in the ground game because the Bills wide receivers do not match up well with Arizona’s strong secondary. This is going to be a huge test for Lynn in his debut. The Bills must find a way to get pressure on Cardinals QB Carson Palmer or this will be a very long day. The Bills backed off on the blitzes against the Jets because his CBs, Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, were having such a tough time holding up in coverage. Gilmore and Darby have to be much better so that Ryan can utilize some of his blitz packages because right now. Buffalo’s front line isn’t good enough to generate pressure alone, not good news to a secondary facing a Cardinals pass-catching troika of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown.


MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bills CB Stephon Gilmore vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald. Gilmore is coming off what may have been his worst game as a professional as he was repeatedly beaten by Jets wideouts Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. Now he will probably see Fitzgerald on the bulk of defensive snaps, and Fitzgerald has been his usual dynamic self with 14 catches for 162 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games. If Gilmore can’t hold up, the Cardinals could have a field day through the air. Bills RT Jordan Mills vs. Cardinals SOLB Chandler Jones. The Bills are familiar with Jones’ ability to disrupt a passing game from his days with the Patriots. Mills is considered the weak link on the Bills’ offensive line and he’ll have to find a way to keep Jones away from Tyrod Taylor without constant help from a tight end or back. The Bills need to open up their passing game and they can’t do it if they have to max protect.


FAST FACTS: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald caught at least one pass in 181 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. The last time Fitzgerald failed to record at least one reception in a game came during the seventh game of his rookie year in 2004, his only previous visit to Buffalo. … Bills RB LeSean McCoy has 9,476 all-purpose yards since 2010, second only to Matt Forte, formerly of Chicago and now with the Jets.


PREDICTION: Now that HC Rex Ryan made Greg Roman disappear, rookie replacement Anthony Lynn will need another feat of magic to overcome too many mismatches against the Cardinals.


OUR PICK: Cardinals, 32-14.


New York Jets (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET at Arrowhead Stadium. TV: CBS, Greg GumbelTrent Green, Jamie Erdahl.

SERIES HISTORY: 36th regular season meeting, series is tied 17-17-1. The Chiefs evened the series with a 24-10 win in the most recent game between the teams on Nov. 2, 2014. Jets QB Michael Vick, making his first start with the team, threw a three-yard touchdown pass to WR Eric Decker. This will be the Jets’ second straight visit to Arrowhead Stadium but only their fourth since 1989.


KEYS TO THE GAME: The status of multiple offensive superstars – running back Jamaal Charles for the Chiefs, wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker for the Jets – could alter game plans. Marshall and Decker were each injured during last Thursday’s 37-31 win over the Buffalo Bills. Charles has not played since October 2015, when he suffered a torn ACL. Both defenses are preparing to face a strong running game. Matt Forte has been stellar for the Jets, including a 30-carry, three-TD game against the Bills in Week 2. With Spencer Ware grinding out yards in Charles’ absence, the Chiefs might break personality and attack downfield, as the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals did successfully. Chiefs No. 1 receiver Jeremy Maclin will likely be matched with LCB Darrelle Revis, who has a chance to regain his bearings.


MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Jets C Nick Mangold vs. Chiefs NT Dontari Poe: Forte has the second-most rushing yards in the NFL (196). The Chiefs have allowed the third-most rushing yards (252). If Mangold can get the best of Poe and open up some holes for Forte, it opens up the rest of the offense. However, Poe, who missed training camp and is just getting his legs, had a very good game at Houston in Week 2. Chiefs interior OL vs. Jets DL Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson: Injuries left the Chiefs with two backup guards in the starting lineup against Houston’s tenacious 3-4 defense last week. C Mitch Morse can hold his own – though a bad snap cost the Chiefs a possession at Houston – but will need to be a helping hand to keep the Jets’ talented three-man line in check.


PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: WR Quincy Enunwa’s surprising emergence over the first two games — 13 catches on 14 targets — gives the Jets perhaps the top trio in the entire NFL. Enunwa has gained the trust of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and could be in for an even bigger role Sunday with Marshall (knee) and Decker (shoulder) banged up.


FAST FACTS: The Chiefs have 53 total turnovers in Andy Reid‘s 50 games as head coach. … Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin had only one drop last season, but was charged with two last week at Houston, when he caught six of 15 passes on which he was the intended receiver. … Jets WRs Decker and Marshall have 15 combined touchdowns at Arrowhead Stadium.


PREDICTION: Alex Smith was uncharacteristically reckless in Week 2 and the Chiefs lost three fumbles. If Kansas City takes care of the ball and is able to win a downfield gamble or two, the Chiefs can ground the Jets’ aerial attack with a young but game secondary.


OUR PICK: Chiefs, 29-24.


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