Here are seven notes and observations from Week 5 in the AFC East:
The ankle injury to Buffalo Bills receiver Donald Jones flew under the radar during Sunday’s big win against the "Dream Team" Philadelphia Eagles. But this is a blow to Buffalo's offense. Jones is the team's only deep threat. Slot receiver David Nelson moved outside to replace Jones, while backup Naaman Roosevelt played in the slot. Nelson said it was his first time playing outside since his days at the University of Florida. Bills coach Chan Gailey said Jones will be out a while, but it is not a season-ending injury. Unless the Bills acquire another deep threat, the offense will rely on a lot of short and intermediate passes.
Here is something you don't know about Bills running back Fred Jackson: He's had three straight games with at least five receptions. Jackson has developed into a complete running back in Buffalo's spread system. He caught six passes for yards 85 yards against Philadelphia. Jackson has sure hands and is a threat on all three downs.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady remains neck and neck with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Total Quarterback Rating. Brady posted an 80.1 against the New York Jets with another good performance. Rodgers scored an 82.1 in Sunday night’s win against the Atlanta Falcons. Overall, Rodgers (84.8) leads Brady (84.2) by a slim margin for the top spot.
The Patriots' schedule doesn't get any easier. New England's next four games are against the Dallas Cowboys (2-2), at the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2), vs. New York Giants (3-2) and a rematch at the New York Jets (2-3). The second half of the season gets much lighter. But New England has to keep winning now to stay in the race for the AFC East title and home-field advantage.
I don't see any easy answers for the Jets. Most weeks they aren't good enough to outscore opponents throwing 40-plus times. And the defense isn't as stout as previous seasons. Therefore, the low-scoring, ground-and-pound approach won't work against elite teams with great offenses. Jets head coach Rex Ryan has to figure this out. Right now New York can beat the Jacksonville Jaguars of the world. But the Jets need to be a lot better at what they do to compete with playoff contenders.
Speaking of the playoffs, the wild-card race is taking shape. It's early. But the Bills (4-1), Steelers (3-2), Tennessee Titans (3-2), Houston Texans (3-2), Oakland Raiders (3-2) and possibly the Jets (2-3) are in the mix. There's only two spots for these six teams. I doubt three make the postseason from the AFC East. So the Bills and Jets could be fighting for one slot. (Yes, I'm projecting New England to win the division). But the Jets have a lot of work to do. It will probably take 10 wins to earn a wild card. That means the Jets need to go 8-3 the rest of the way.
Former Jaguars quarterback David Garrard had a lot to say to ESPN's Chris Mortensen about the Dolphins. But the statement that stood out most was that Miami chased Garrard before the season and was open to replacing starter Chad Henne. "They basically said, 'We want to give our guy (Henne) a chance, see how he performs and if we don't like way it goes, we'll make a move,'" Garrard said. It sounds like Miami wasn't too confident in Henne entering the season. Consider this statement in the offseason, when the Dolphins likely search for a replacement. Henne is a free agent in 2012.