Final Word: AFC East

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
1:30
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Here are five nuggets of knowledge about Week 3:

Hitting the ground running: The AFC East has three players in the top five of rushing after two weeks. Buffalo Bills tailback C.J. Spiller (292 yards), Miami Dolphins tailback Reggie Bush (241) and New England Patriots tailback Stevan Ridley (196) are No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 in rushing, respectively. The AFC East is running the football extremely well and not doing it with household names. It remains to be seen if this trend will continue for an entire season. But look for each of these three teams to ride their hot hands for now.

[+] EnlargeMiami's Reggie Bush
Robert Mayer/US PRESSWIREReggie Bush is one of three ACF East players ranked in the NFL's top 5 in rushing yards.
Protecting Brady: While everyone is focusing on the injury to tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle), New England's biggest concern may be its shaky pass protection. Tom Brady has been sacked five times in two games. He is on pace to take 40 sacks this season, which would be the highest total for Brady since 2001. Brady, 35, is only getting older. He needs to take fewer hits later in his career, not more.

House of horrors: The Jets return to the site of last year's implosion at Sun Life Stadium. New York completely fell apart in the regular-season finale last year and is 2-4 against the Dolphins under head coach Rex Ryan. New York must play much better against its AFC East rival. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez also is 2-4 against Miami and needs to play big to avoid a two-game losing streak.

Play-action is key: Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has thrived off play-action passing this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Tannehill has the highest completion percentage (88.9) and QBR (99.6) in the NFL off play-action fakes. Tannehill has completed 8-of-9 play-action passes this season for 129 yards. It’s working because Bush is second in the NFL in rushing. Defenses must respect Miami’s running game, and that puts less pressure and pass rush on Tannehill.

Must-win for Bills: I usually don't like to throw around the term "must-win." But when you consider the team and the upcoming schedule, the Bills (1-1) must win Sunday’s game against the winless Cleveland Browns (0-2). Buffalo's next three games are against the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, who have a combined record of 5-1. It’s very possible that the Bills could lose two or three of those games. That is why it’s important for Buffalo to pad its record against the struggling Browns on the road. These are the kind of games Buffalo must win if the team is going to be a legit playoff contender.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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AFC EAST SCOREBOARD