- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are seven things we learned about the AFC East in Week 7:
As I was watching the Buffalo Bills lose and the New England Patriots nearly fumble away another game, I was thinking this is another mediocre year for the AFC East. The Patriots are worse than last year's team that made it to the Super Bowl, and the division has no clear No. 2 team. The Bills clearly are pretenders and the New York Jets are limited. Maybe the Miami Dolphins can do something, but they’re a young team still learning how to win consistently. The AFC East is a below-average division thus far. I’m not sure anything changes in the second half of the season.
New England’s running game continues to be important. The Patriots improved to 4-0 this season when rushing for more than 100 yards. New England gained 131 rushing against the Jets. The Patriots are 0-3 this year when not gaining over 100 yards rushing.
How bad is New England's pass defense? Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez connected on a career-high nine passes of 15 yards or more, according to ESPN Stats and Information. The Patriots are getting poor safety play and cornerback back simultaneously. There are gaping holes in their zone defense that Sanchez was able to exploit. New York’s big plays were the most allowed by the Patriots in the past five years.
Let’s end the talk of a Jets quarterback controversy for now. Sanchez is playing solid football lately and played well enough Sunday to beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. That should buy him time to continue without hearing about Tim Tebow. Sanchez threw for 328 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His passer rating was 90.3 in a big game. The unfortunate part is one bad game puts Sanchez back in the crosshairs. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s the reality in New York and with Tebow-mania always one play away.
I like Bills coach Chan Gailey. He’s an honest guy who tells it like it is, and that’s all you can ask for. However, I wrote before the season that the jury is still out on Gailey as an NFL head coach. He’s never had the horses in Buffalo until now. But Gailey has made some head-scratching decisions. On Sunday Gailey refused to go for two points twice in a one-point loss to the Tennessee Titans. He also elected to throw with a lead late in the fourth quarter for the second straight week, which resulted in a second interception. Gailey’s decision to stick with defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt no matter what also will be questioned. Gailey said he won’t consider coaching changes during the bye, which could put Gailey in the hot seat if the defense doesn’t turn it around in the second half of the seaso.
Speaking of Buffalo’s defense, why is Mario Williams so inconsistent? I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but Buffalo’s $100 million defensive end had another non-existent game Sunday. Williams recorded two tackles and zero sacks against a bad Tennessee team. Williams appeared to be turning the corner with two sacks against the Arizona Cardinals. But everyone gets sacks against Arizona’s offensive line. Williams has disappeared in more games than not, and that’s a huge problem for Buffalo.
I'm curious to see what materializes for the Miami Dolphins at wide receiver. The Dolphins have been rumored to be interested in receivers at the trade deadline. Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs has been mentioned, although that move would come with a lot of risk. The development of Jabar Gaffney could be key. The Dolphins recently signed Gaffney in free agency, but the veteran has been inactive while learning the system. Coming off the bye, Gaffney will be expected to make progress. The Dolphins will travel to play the Jets in a big division game on Sunday.