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The State of the AFC East: Week 4

The State of the AFC East: Week 4
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First, I’d like to apologize for the missing Week 3 edition of this article. By the time I had recovered enough, emotionally, to feel up to writing something, circumstances outside of my control prevented it. Rest assured I will strive to not let the outcome of games keep these articles from being posted in the future.

That said, let’s take a look at Week 4’s AFC East results and the games of the upcoming Week 5.

The New England Patriots

Week 4 Results: Patriots 30 – Falcons 23

Tom Brady congratulates Thompkins after he finally catches a ballTom Brady put together his first real QB performance of the season, posting a 64.5% completion rate, 316 yards, and 2 TDs with 0 INTs. LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley combined for over 100 yards on 20 carries, Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman both had over 100 yards receiving and the Patriots offense, on the whole, looked like some semblance of its former self.

The defense was a mixed bag, they played well and limited the Atlanta offense, but still gave up big plays. Were it not for exceptional coverage of Julio Jones by Aqib Talib, the game may have ended differently. Jones still racked up 108 yards on 6 catches when not covered by Talib, however, and some other guy named Tony Gonzalez went off for 12 catches, 149 yards, and 2 TDs, but the defense played well enough to win. The loss of Vince Wilfork for the remainder of the season is a sore blow, the full extent of which remains to be seen. It could change the game plans of many of the Patriots’ future opponents.

The Patriots travel to Cincinnati this Sunday to face a Bengals team reeling from a stunning loss to Cleveland. The Bengals have a very good defense and an offense that is highly capable of making big plays when Andy Dalton can manage to pull his thumb out. AJ Green will provide another test of Talib’s abilities and Giovanni Bernard will surely look to exploit the sizable gap in the Patriot’s defensive line left by Wilfork. Though I picked against the Patriots last week in Atlanta and they proved me wrong, I’m inclined to favor the Bengals in this tough conference match-up.

Prediction:
Bengals 31 (Bernard has 100+ on the ground and 2 TDs, Dalton hits Green and Gresham for 2 more)
Patriots 27 (Brady has another good game, but drops down field cost them points)

 

The New York Jets

Week 4 Results: Titans 38 – Jets 13

Geno Smith's iteration of the butt fumbleA week after a stifling defensive performance against Buffalo that lead the team to a win despite 2 interceptions and a record 20 penalties, the Jets looked like a completely different team in Nashville. Outscored 24 – 6 in the first half by Jake Locker, of all people, the Jets could never get anything going against the surprising Titans. Geno Smith’s 67.4% completion rate and 289 yards couldn’t outdo his 4 combined turnovers and the running game never had a chance to get going due to the large early deficit.

The Jets defense gave Jake Locker his first career 3 TD first half performance. They also gave him a dislocated hip thanks to a pair of questionable late hits. Fortunately for the Titans, they had a huge lead and an experienced veteran we’re all familiar with, Ryan Fitzpatrick, to come in and finish the game. The formidable Jets defensive line was pushed around by the Titans revamped offensive line, still stout against the run but only getting 2 sacks after an 8 sack performance only a week earlier. This game was labeled as a test for two surprising 2-1 teams and it’s clear that, despite Geno Smith showing a lot of promie and the team having a great defense, the Titans clearly passed and the Jets emphatically did not.

This week the Jets travel to Atlanta to face a 1-3 Falcons team that is desperate to get their team back on track toward the playoffs. The Jets secondary will be hard pressed to cover the trio of Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, but the Falcons’ banged up offensive line will provide opportunities to pressure Matt Ryan into mistakes. I don’t see it being enough, as the Falcons rarely lose at home and they’ll simply outgun the Jets offense.

Prediction:
Falcons 27 (Gonzalez goes off for 100+ and 2 TDs again – and I’m starting him in FF league this time!)
Jets 17 (Smith makes a couple big plays to keep it interesting, but turnovers cost them the game again)

The Miami Dolphins

Week 4 Results: Saints 38 – Dolphins 17

Tannehill throws an errant pass to a Saints defender.Some claim that the Dolphins 3-0 start was nothing but a soap bubble waiting for a pointy little fleur-de-lis to come along and pop it. Personally, I think that losing to the Saints in the Superdome is nothing to be ashamed of, even if your young QB gives up a lot of turnovers and takes a lot of sacks. Tannehill definitely looked rattled on Monday night under the big spotlight and before a hostile crowd, but his offensive line was not doing even a fair job of protecting him. For some reason, they tried to run the read option, which was semi-effective, but it put Tannehill at risk of further abuse (4 sacks in the game and the most in the NFL thus far). Miller had some success running the ball early, but the Dolphins got behind 35 – 10 halfway through the 3rd quarter and pretty much had to air it out, which lead to two late INTs from Tannehill, in addition to his earlier INT and fumble.

The defense did not fair much better against a rejuvenated Saints offense. Darren Sproles gashed them for a combined 142 yards and 2 TDs and Jimmy Graham made one of the most spectacular catches in triple coverage I’ve ever seen, thanks to amazing ball placement from Drew Brees. All told, the Dolphins gave up the most yards and points allowed so far this season and only managed to sack Drew Brees twice after averaging nearly 5 a game in the first 3 weeks.

This Sunday the Dolphins host the Ravens in only their second home game of the season. The Ravens are coming off a stunning loss at the hands of Buffalo, a game where Joe Flacco through a career high 5 INTs and Ray Rice ran the ball a career low 5 times. This could be a difficult game for the Dolphins, the Ravens are likely irate and looking to lash out at someone and we know Flacco is capable of having good games, plus Rice is always dangerous. I think Miami pulls this one out at home, containing Rice and sacking Flacco multiple times when he’s forced to again put the game on his shoulders to try to win it.

Prediction:
Dolphins 33 (Tannehill has a solid game, 250+ yards, 2 TDs to Clay and Wallace)
Ravens 24 (Rice is limited to <50 yards and Flacco throws 2 crucial INTs to lose the game late)

The Buffalo Bills

Week 4 Results: Bills 23 – Ravens 20

Kiko Alonso's game winning, acrobatic interceptionOnce again the Bills pulled off something they have been utterly incapable of doing in the last few years – winning a close game at home. As was the case with Carolina in Week 2, the defense was the star of the show, racking up an impressive 5 INTs thanks to a flustered Flacco, 4 sacks, and stonewalling Ray Rice and Bernand Pierce, holding them to a meager 24 yards combined. The offense looked better on the ground with Spiller and Jackson both getting carries and being effective. Jacksons move to get the second Bills TD of the game was a thing of beauty and the blocking by FB Frank Summers was key to the whole ground game. The Bills scored first with a pair field goals, the first a product of a solid opening drive and the second a gift from Joe Flacco. Then Manuel returned the favor with a bad fumble, showing a lack of ball security that has set me on edge as a fan. But he redeemed himself somewhat about 5 minutes later, connecting with Robert Woods on a gorgeous 42 yard bomb that hit the rookie WR in stride. All in all, it was an average performance as a whole offensive unit, flashes of greatness tempered by inexplicable mistakes (the bobbled QB keeper comes to mind).

The defense, on the other hand, was exceptional. I’m going to say it: Kiko Alonso is legit. He’s going to be a star on the defense for a long time to come, assuming Ralphie Two-nickels doesn’t let him fly away to another team. 4 INTs through 4 games, leads the team in tackles, plus a game ending sack in Week 2. He’s the star of a draft so far, even with Robert Woods and EJ Manuel player fairly well together. The aforementioned 5 INTs this week, plus 4 sacks and stifling run defense (in Buffalo, of all places) all combined for a well above-average performance for this young defensive unit. With the secondary sorely depleted by injuries, they only gave up a couple of big plays this week, with Aaron Williams moving back to CB from SS and coming up with 2 big INTS and some great pass break ups. I also like how the team showed some grit, with 4 players getting hurt during the game and coming back in to finish it out anyway.

The Bills face a short week preparing for a suddenly formidable foe in Cleveland tonight. Brian Hoyer is playing very well and has built a rapport with both Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. The Bills will be hard pressed to cover both of those receivers with the depleted secondary and they can’t count on 5 INTs to bail them out. The key will be to put a lot of pressure on Hoyer, force him into mistakes, and above all else, score TDs early. Settling for field goals will not win this game. The offensive line will need to step up and protect EJ Manuel or he could spend more time on his back than upright. I’m looking for more classic I formation running this week 2, it was highly effective against Baltimore and should help Spiller and Jackson, both of whom are not 100%.

Prediction:
Bills 24 (Manuel hits 2 TDs to Woods and Chandler and doesn’t turn it over this week)
Browns 17 (Hoyer hits Cameron for a TD early and Gordon beats Justin Rogers deep, but a late INT costs them)

Unrelated Side Note: Jimmy Graham is simply unfair. He’s the best TE in the game, I don’t care what anyone says about Gronkowski. Gronk is a like a tank, he’s massive, suprisingly fast and agile for his size, but he’s a blunt instrument. Graham has size, speed, hands, and brains. He’s the Megatron of TEs, in my humble opinion.

 

Written by: CJ

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