State of the AFC East, Week 6
Week 6 was five seconds away from being great, at least from my perspective. The Jets got humiliated, the Bills outperformed all expectations with a practice squad QB, and the Patriots got lucky against New Orleans. Week 7 looms large as two divisional match ups are on the schedule. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The New York Jets & New England Patriots
Week 6 Results: Steelers 19, Jets 6 – Patriots 30, Saints 27
Geno Smith continues his roller coaster style of play, following up his best statistical performance of the season with a tremendous flop against Pittsburgh. A mere 55% completion rate, 187 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, and he took 3 sacks on top of that. A combination of poor play calling and poor decision making lead to this disaster, as the Jets failed to get anything going against a previously winless team. The run defense played as well as they usually do, but a few key big plays given up to Big Ben were the difference makers.
The Patriots are fresh off another “miracle” comeback win. I swear if I see another clip on ESPN of Brady’s “magical” TD pass to Thompkins (followed up by some baseball crap in Boston), I may vomit. I find it unusual that the sports media is completely ignoring the headlock Solder has on Junior Galette in that final play, but I probably shouldn’t be surprised given who we’re talking about here. Regardless, the Saints blew it by failing to run the clock out in two possessions with less than three minutes left, thus giving Brady another chance to work his “magic”. I guess they got too excited when Brady threw what should have been another game ending INT. The Patriots defense did play well, despite the absence of Wilfork and the loss of Mayo, holding Brees to less than 50% completions and 230 yards. Most impressively, they held Jimmy Graham without a catch, much less a TD, for the entire game.
Next week the Jets host New England, which is why they’re lumped together like this. The Jets should look to exploit the gaps left by Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, but will need to rely on Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory to do so, since Mike Goodson is now on IR. The New England secondary has been playing well and will cause more problems for Geno Smith’s already depleted list of targets. It should be interesting to see how the Patriots’ O Line holds up against the Jets since they gave up 5 sacks to the Saints in Week 6 (should have been 6!) and the Jets have an overall better defensive line. This game could get ugly early, but I see the Patriots wining again in another close game that goes down to the wire.
Patriots – 24 (Brady actually throws more TDs than INTs for the first time in 3 weeks)
Jets – 23 (Geno hovers between “good Geno” and “bad Geno” and mediocre Geno is not enough to win)
The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins
Week 6 Results: Bengals 27, Bills 24 – Dolphins BYE
I, for one, am as happy as I could conceivably be after my team loses in OT. After all, the Bills were starting a guy at QB who was a week off the practice squad, a guy who had made only one start in his entire NFL career, a guy who threw for 2 TDs, no INTs, and ran in a third TD. Yeah, the Bills lost, and for that I once again blame some questionable play calling from the new coaching staff. I do appreciate aggressive play calling and a decision to go for it on 4th and goal from the 1 is not necessarily a bad decision, but when you’re only down 10 in the first half, why not make it a one-score game? And if you want to be bold, why try the same damn play 3 times in a row, then go for a pass on 4th down? I don’t get it, but I digress. The Bills outperformed my expectations against a superior team (in the process accomplishing what Tom Brady could not do in Week 5, a passing TD). A few tweaks on defense and a few better calls on offense and this game goes from a potential blowout loss to a major upset. It’s not all sunshine and roses; Thad Lewis did suffer a minor injury but it looks like it won’t keep him out of the game in Miami. The defense didn’t play with the aggressive, relentless ferocity they showed against Carolina and Baltimore, failing to put consistent pressure on Dalton and allowing him to have his best game of the 2013 season.
Speaking of Miami, they’re fresh off a bye week, 2 whole weeks to prepare for a visiting divisional opponent. The potential for Miami to run away with this game is very much there, but that defense has not been the run stuffing, sack happy force we’ve seen in the last few years. The Miami O line has been playing poorly which has lead to Tannehill being the most sacked QB in the NFL (which says a lot considering that Terelle Pryor is second, has played in one more game, and got sacked 10 times in Week 6) and to the Dolphins owning the 4th worst running game in the league. Their passing game has been inconsistent, despite Tannehill’s improvements and the additions to the WR corp over the offseason. The downside is you never know if they’re going to flop or go off for 350 yards and 2 or 3 TDs.
When I look at this match up, I see a lot of opportunities for both teams. The Bills strength is their #3 running game; Miami’s run defense is ranked 15th, not bad but not great. The Miami running game is 4th worst, but the Bills running defense is 5th worst. The potential for both teams to run well in this game is very high and whoever has the most success running the ball will depend on who gets out to an early lead, in my opinion. There’s also a wildcard in the Bills’ secondary. Last week was the first action Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore have seen all season. They were limited in snaps, so neither made a huge impact against Cincinnati, but they might see more time on the field and more meaningful snaps in Miami. If they are back and playing well then I’m predicting a multiple INT game for the Tanne-chise.
Bills – 31 (Total rushing over 150 yards, 2 TDs. Lewis passes for 2 more with 1 INT)
Dolphins – 24 (Tannehill goes for 2 TDs, 2 INTs, one late in the 4th to set up the Bills’ game winning TD)