Final Word: AFC East

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
4:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:


[+] EnlargeDeion Branch
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesReceiver Deion Branch has rejoined the Patriots after catching 13 passes with Seattle this season.
Don't expect a huge statistical impact from Deion Branch. The Patriots traded for him to help fill the void left by Randy Moss, but there are three reasons you shouldn't expect big contributions right away: 1) Branch isn't the same type of player Moss is; 2) Moss wasn't being used as we'd come to expect anymore; 3) Branch might be sharing snaps with Brandon Tate until Branch gets comfortable with the playbook. The Patriots have established their offense this year with multiple tight ends and don't spread out three-plus receivers anymore. Moss caught only nine passes for New England before the trade. Expect Tom Brady to lean heavily on slot receiver Wes Welker, his tight ends and a revitalized ground game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has been running the way Patriots fans wished Laurence Maroney would.

The Dolphins can barge back into the division title discussion with a victory at Lambeau Field. Sunday's game against the Packers is a pivotal one. Either the Dolphins will be spiraling with a third straight loss, or they'll be undefeated on the road with another upset victory against an NFC foe many considered a preseason Super Bowl contender. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers expected to be properly healed from last week's concussion, the Dolphins aren't supposed to win. But the Packers are banged up enough to remove confidence from any prediction.

The Jets don't need to win this Sunday, but a victory would put them in a dominant position. I'm not saying the Jets can afford to take a week off, but Sunday's game against the Broncos at Invesco Field is one of the least important in terms of the standings. If the Jets happen to drop this one, fans shouldn't get too worked up. The Jets have gotten off to a 4-1 start. They're undefeated within the division, have a winning record at home and away. Had you offered all of that plus a 4-2 record at the break to Rex Ryan before the season started, I'm sure he would have taken it. Sunday's game wouldn't even factor into the tie-breaking procedures until the fourth step, because the Broncos aren't a common opponent within the AFC East.

We'll find out Sunday if the Patriots' defense is up to snuff. The Ravens are a running juggernaut that can throw a little. They also lead the NFL in third-down conversions. They will be a rugged test for the Patriots' worrisome defense, which has been forgotten about recently. In that Week 4 obliteration of the Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium, the Patriots' defense and special teams enjoyed a rollicking night. They returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, blocked a punt and intercepted four passes, taking one back for a score. Then the focus shifted to the offense when the Patriots traded Moss and acquired Branch in separate deals during their bye week. The Patriots can't count on 21 points from their special teams every week to gloss over their defensive inadequacies. They rank 29th in total defense, 20th in run defense and 28th in pass defense.

The Bills have four days to turn some players into draft picks. There's little optimism surrounding the Bills at the moment. They're 0-4 and on their bye week. Five of their next seven games are against teams that either lead their divisions or won them last year. The Steelers are one of the exceptions, and they happen to be considered elite this year. The Bills won't play another game in Ralph Wilson Stadium until Nov. 14 because their next home game takes place in Toronto. So what's the next event Bills fans should be watching out for? The trade deadline is at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Maybe they'll unload some players.

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