- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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We are now able to separate the contenders and pretenders in the AFC East. Let’s take a look at whose stock is rising and falling.
1. New York Jets special teams: Mike Westhoff usually has his group ready to go. But the Jets were completely outplayed and outcoached in Week 8 by the Dolphins. New York allowed a blocked punt, blocked field goal and a successful onside kick against Miami. It’s rare for everything to go wrong in one game, but the Dolphins’ special teams were that dominant and it had a heavy impact on the outcome.
2. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: Just when you think Sanchez might be turning the corner, his inconsistency and inaccuracy comes back in another big loss to the Miami Dolphins. You can’t blame everything on Sanchez, and it's debatable whether benching him for Tim Tebow will improve the Jets. However, it’s clear that through four seasons Sanchez is not a franchise quarterback. Maybe the Jets (3-5) can win with him if everything else is going well around Sanchez. But that’s certainly not the case this season.
3. Jets' trash talking: New York has been relatively quiet with trash talking this year. I’m not sure why the Jets went back to their boastful ways for the Miami game. It turned out the Jets were full of hot air. New York barely showed up to play in any phases of the game. This team lacks depth and cannot withstand the injuries of Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes. It’s best that the Jets just focus on playing competitive football the rest of the season instead of trying to intimidate opponents.
1. Dolphins: It’s fitting that Miami gets the top spot as a group, because the 30-9 victory over Jets was a team effort. Special teams sparked the Dolphins. The defense battered and confused Sanchez with four sacks and the offense took advantage of field position to put points on the board. If Miami continues to play this well in all three phases, the Dolphins will be tough to beat
2. New England Patriots' offense: The Patriots struggled a bit against the Jets but came back strong and dropped 45 points on the St. Louis Rams. Running back Stevan Ridley (127 yards) had it going on the ground and quarterback Tom Brady made various throws through the air. New England also scored a lot thanks to the defense (finally) getting stops. It was a good way for the Patriots to go into the bye week at 5-3.
3. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots tight end: Gronkowski showed flashes of his 2011 form with eight receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. It was Gronkowski’s best performance of the year. At times this season he’s been asked to pass protect more because New England’s offensive line hasn’t been as good as previous years. But catching passes and scoring touchdowns are what “Gronk” does best.