Week 5 is over and the AFC East has posted its first collective losing record for a week. After the first quarter of the season the AFC East had one of the best records in the NFL at 11-5. At 12-8, they are now tied for second with the NFC West and behind the AFC West (14 – 6). At the start of the season, I had thought the AFC East and West were going to be in a race for the worst division in football, but it seems I could not have been more wrong. The Dolphins, the Jets, and even my lowly Bills have done their part to make this division competitive. Painful though it may be, we’re going to take a look at what went wrong in Week 5 and cast hopeful eyes towards a Week 6 rebound.
The New England Patriots
Week 5 Results: Bengals 13, Patriots 6
Tom Brady’s streak of 52 games with a TD pass ended with a rain-soaked fizzle on Sunday as the Bengals continued their baffling streak of playing exceptional defense against the top QBs, one week after getting thoroughly handled by the mighty Browns and Brian Hoyer. One would think that an experienced and successful veteran QB would know better than to try a 38:18 ratio of passes to run in a rain soaked game. This might be the worst offensive game the Patriots have played in the last 4 years.
The defense did not fare much better, as Vince Wilfork’s absence was made known by the relentless running attack of the Bengals. They rushed for 162 yards on 39 attempts and scored the game’s only TD on a 1 yard run. The Pats secondary continued to exceed expectations, keeping the oft-times lethal combination of Dalton to Green in check throughout much of the game.
The Patriots have to host the Saints in Week 6, a game that is a difficult match up under the best of circumstances is made more so by the lingering lack of chemistry between Brady and his WRs. Even if Gronk suits up for the game, a wise fan won’t expect much out of him in his first game back.
Saints – 38 (Graham and Sproles exploit poor coverage over the middle and rack up 2 TDs apiece)
Patriots – 23 (Brady can’t connect with WRs down the field due to the aggressive Saints D)
The Miami Dolphins
Week 5 Results: Ravens 26, Dolphins 23
How is Ryan Tannehill still healthy? After giving up 6 sacks in Week 5, Tannehill has taken 24 sacks in 5 games, an incredible number that is 33% more than anyone else in the league thanks to O line play that has been atrocious. The O line is a major reason for the Dolphins running game that produces a meager 69.6 yards per game, good for 28th in the league overall. These two factors combined to put the Dolphins in a two game losing streak right before their Bye Week.
The Defense has not been up to snuff either, with their once dominating front seven only producing 2 sacks and, while they limited the Ravens run game on a per carry basis, they still gave up 133 yards through sheer volume of attempts and, more importantly, 2 TDs to Ray Rice; their secondary fared little better, allowing 269 yards through the air, mostly to Torrey Smith. It’s hard to say one player makes a significant difference in this ultimate team sport, but comparing the Dolphins defense with Cam Wake to one without him is like comparing a pussy cat to a tiger.
The Dolphins have a Week 6 Bye and will host Buffalo in Week 7. I’ll cover that in next week’s edition.
The New York Jets
Week 5 Results: Jets 30, Falcons 28
Well, well, well… just look at those Jets. They’re 3-2, second place in the division, and fresh off a strong performance against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. Geno Smith put up what is easily his best game of the season, 80% completion rate, 199 yards, and 3 TDs with 0 INTs. That last number is key, as the Jets came into Week 5 with a 29th rated -9 turnover differential, largely in thank to Geno’s 8 INTs and 3 fumbles, but he was nearly perfect on Monday night. The Jets O only ran 46 plays, 24 passes to 22 runs, and only had 24:33 ToP, but they showed what playing mistake-free offense combined with stellar defense can do.
Speaking of defense, while no one can fully stop the Atlanta passing attack, the Jets did a great job of keeping them in check, allowing only 319 yards on 45 attempts. The Falcons offense ran 70 plays and had over 10 more minutes on the field than the Jets, but the Jets D did not tire, they did not give up a bevy of big plays, and they kept the Falcons from being the prolific scoring offense that we all know they can be. The goal line stand at the end of the half, despite giving the Falcons 2 extra attempts at a TD thanks to penalties, was crucial and they were aided by Mike Smith’s stupidity (arrogance?) in going for 6 twice on 4th down when they could have kicked a field goal to make it a one score game at the half.
The Jets have a solid chance to go 2 games above .500 when they host the bumbling Steelers in Week 6. I think the Jets D will have a field day on Big Ben behind that patchwork O line in Pittsburgh and will be able to run and pass effectively against that aging defense. The Steelers give up the second fewest yards, but are bottom 10 in points allowed.
Jets – 31 (Geno has another solid outing, 200+ yds and 2 TDs)
Steelers – 16 (Big Ben gets injured after taking 6 sacks in the first half)
The Buffalo Bills
Week 5 Results: Browns 37, Bills 24
Ugh, what a horrible game for both teams. The Browns finally had a spark in Brian Hoyer, so he tears an ACL and is out for the season. The Bills are more than holding their own against a top defense on the road, so EJ Manuel gets hurt and Jeff Tuel throws the game away. In all likelihood the Browns win this game if both QBs are healthy, because the Bills punter was apparently paid to throw the game. That’s the only explanation I have for the line-drive punts straight to the return man who burned him twice for big returns, one for a TD. The bright side, if there is one, is that the Bills had success on the ground even against a Cleveland defense that was giving up a mere 76 yards per game, racking up 155 yards on 31 attempts and all 3 of their TDs. Manuel was playing well, not spectacularly well, but solid, no turnovers and no mistakes, until he got hurt. I have heard reports from the player who hurt him saying that it was a revenge hit and he went low on purpose, but Manuel is not a high profile enough QB for Goodell to fine the player who hurt him.
The Bills D did alright too, sacking Weeden 5 times on 24 drop backs. Mario Williams had 2 solo sacks, bringing his total up to 7.5 for the season, 3 shy of his 10.5 mark in 2012 after only 5 games. They also only gave up 91 yards on 32 rushing attempts (one of those being Hoyer’s season ending QB scramble for 11 yards) and only 199 in the air with only 2 big plays down field against their battered secondary. Were it not for poor punting (welcome back, Moorman!), they played well enough to limit the Browns offensive points, more than enough for the offense to win it. But, Tuel was horrible off the bench, so we lost.
The Bills host the Bengals in Week 6, a match up that I’m not at all sure about. The Bengals offense has not been playing well, the Bills defense has been much, much better than I had even hoped for, so it could go either way. The wild card is the Bills’ new starting QB, Thaddeus Lewis, and how badly the Bengals front 7 can make him play through consistent pressure and hits.
Bengals – 20 (Dalton hits AJ Green once for a big TD and Bernard tears one big run for another)
Bills – 17 (They play well enough to win, but a late INT sets up a game winning FG as time expires)