Before the 2013 NFL Season Kicked off, it was really hard to believe the AFC East was going to be a strong division. However, at the quarter way mark, the AFC East has surprised many people and, at the end of Week 4, is the only Division in Football where all four teams are .500 or better.
So to celebrate the quarter mark of the season, let’s take a quick review of each team to see where they have been and where they seem to be headed.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills might be one of the biggest surprises in the AFC East. Many outside of Erie County believed that the Bills could very easily start the year 0-10, 1-9, or 2-8. And why not? New coaching staff, rookie QB, cheap owner – all the excuses were there. However, the Bills have started the season 2-2 capped with an improbable victory over the reigning Super bowl Champion Ravens this last weekend.
Buffalo has built a young and potentially talented team that has some promising players on both sides of the ball. Though Buffalo has struggled defensively (Ranked 28th in Total Defense), it has been the inexperience of the coaching staff and the Offense that prevented this team from easily starting 4-0.
With 3 of the next 4 games on the road (including trip to Miami and New Orleans), the next month will provide a better indication of where this team is headed. Prior to the start of the 2013 Season, I said that this team may very well contend for 2nd place in the division. At this point I don’t see a reason not to continue to think that.
Miami Dolphins: After securing the coveted 2013 Off Season Championship, Miami’s expectations for the2013 season were raised by the enormous amount of money that was spent in the attempt to quickly upgrade this team over a single off season. Miami jumped out to a very quick 3-0 start with an impressive road win at Indianapolis and then beating a Super bowl contending Atlanta Falcons team at home. By far, Miami’s 3-0 start was much more impressive than their Division Rival Patriots’ 3-0 start.
The offseason spending spree looked like it paid off until Miami visited New Orleans this past Monday night. The Saints exposed every flaw offensively and defensively that the Dolphins have. Specifically: Fast Linebackers that can’t play coverage and a horrible Offensive Line. That coupled with losing to Drew Brees, who could have become a Dolphin before signing with the Saints, was particularly painful.
At the beginning of the season, it was my opinion that due to the Offensive Line, lack of a quality Running Back, and chemistry issues due to all the Free Agents that the Dolphins would fall short of making the playoffs. However, the Dolphins do have some talent on the Defensive side of the ball and their schedule is shaping up to be favorable for them. It would not surprise me if this team is not in the Wild Card hunt later in the year if their offensive line can find a way to play better.
New York Jets: The Jets had the second worse off season in the division. After a frantic search for a replacement GM, a major roster overhaul that sent their best player to Tampa Bay, and a QB competition/controversy during the preseason, most had the Jets dead and buried before the season even kicked off. Through an incredible swing of luck and good fortune, the Jets have found themselves at 2-2. Unlike the Bills, that could easily be 4-0, the Jets, conversely, should be 0-4.
Thanks to some very questionable coaching during preseason, Mark Sanchez was injured thrusting Rookie Quarterback Geno Smith into the starting role. Though Geno has shown some flashes of his physical talent, he has, unfortunately, also shown his ability to look like Mark Sanchez and turn the ball over 11 times in the first four games.
Though the Jets seem to have a fairly decent front seven on defense, it does not appear that it will be enough to overcome the multiple issues that the Jets have on the offensive side of the ball. At best this team will be fighting all season long to stay out of the AFC East basement.
New England Patriots: The Patriots had, by far, the worst off season during the Belichick era. With some help from a favorable schedule and some surprisingly strong defensive efforts, the Patriots managed to start 4-0 for the first time since the 2007 season. This includes two division wins as well.
Prior to the start of the season, I said that the Patriots would take a step back offensively but still would have a Top 10 offense (as of 10/1/13, they are ranked EXACTLY at #10…). There have been some frustrating games watching all of the Rookie Wide Receivers get on the same page as Tom Brady, but there is some optimism that this will result in better production later in the season.
Defensively, the Patriots have enjoyed the benefits of having two capable corners for the first time in many seasons. Through the first four games of the season, the Patriots are allowing about 7 less points per game as they did in 2012. Unfortunately the season ending injury to Vince Wilfork will have a season long impact on this team.
As a Homer, it is always my hope that this is the “19-0” year. In reality this is a team trying to rebuild their offensive identity on the fly while dealing with some serious injuries on both sides of the ball. Push comes to shove, the Brady/Belichick combo is the best QB/Coach tandem in the Division so I would give them a slight advantage over the Miami Dolphins for Division Champs. However, unless something really special happens with the offense over the next 12 games, this could be another year of falling just shy of the Super Bowl.