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Saturday, September 24, 2011
Walker's weekend mailbag

By James Walker

Thanks for the responses this week. Let's see what's in the mailbag.

Bryan from Rochester, N.Y., writes: If the Buffalo Bills can win this weekend, are they legit contenders to win the AFC East?

James Walker: Bryan, you have to put the Bills right up there if they beat the New England Patriots. To be a contender, you have to beat a contender, and the Patriots are certainly contenders. Barring injury they will have a lot of say in what happens in the AFC this year. Buffalo is still a mystery. We will find out a lot about this Bills team on Sunday.

TK from New Orleans, La., wants to know what the future is for Buffalo Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish.

Walker: Parrish, 29, will be a free agent in 2012, TK. But he's suffered two season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. So that makes it tough. The Bills have had discussions with Parrish in the past. But I think another injury makes him less likely to return. Buffalo is getting good production from other receivers. If that continues the rest of this year, Buffalo probably will let Parrish test the open market.

James from Angola, Ind., wants to know how much does New England need Chad Ochocinco early in the season.

Walker: I would have answered "not much" a week ago, James. But with Aaron Hernandez's knee injury, New England needs someone to make up for that production. New England cutting Dan Gronkowski Friday tells me they're looking to use more three-receiver sets on Sunday. Ochocinco has been the No. 1 receiver his entire career. I think he's up to the task of being a third or fourth option with the Patriots.

Vinnie Paulino from Rochester, N.Y., writes: Is Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas going to be the real deal?

Walker: I like Thomas' ability to run between the tackles, Vinnie. That is what Miami wants to do. Also, it complements Reggie Bush, who is best getting outside. I'm also impressed with Thomas' vision. He sees the field pretty well for a rookie. Fumbles are going to happen when you play young players. Thomas just has to learn from his mistakes.

Brad Olz from Binghamton, N.Y., writes: Are the Jets gonna get the run game going or what?

Walker: Brad, that's been one of the big mysteries in the AFC East thus far. No one expects the Jets to be the NFL's best running team. But No. 28 is unacceptable for this group. I think New York will continue to struggle without center Nick Mangold (ankle). The running game, in many ways, is built around him. I also would like to see fullback John Conner get more snaps. The Jets seem to run a little better when Conner is leading the way.

Comment and complaint department

Here are this week's comments and complaints in the AFC East:

Garret from Dallas writes: It seems some of the more playoff successful teams in recent years are fueled by arrogance and hatred. Michael Strahan and his stomp the Pats. The Jets with their boastful predictions. The Ravens with their snarky comments from Terrell Suggs and company. I really worry the Patriots don't have any edge to them. Like the Red Sox, they are focused on being the pro's pro. It's not working for the Sox and it's not working for the Pats. What can Brady's Bunch do under Belichick’s rule do to create an edge? It's about the ring not wins.

Walker: Very interesting observation, Garret. The Patriots do take a robotic approach to football at times, and this is a very emotional game. Still, New England has talent and it executes as good as anyone. I think that is what it will come down to. But it's way too early to be looking ahead to the playoffs.

Burning_Curses from Charlotte, N.C., writes: It seems the Patriots and eliminating the run from the opposition and forcing them to pass. It will take a great QB to beat them and Rivers maybe the second best in the league this year and the Pats D made him turnover the ball. Is this there strategy? If so is there a QB that can beat them or a run game that will work against them?

Walker: BC, I don't think the Patriots are only focusing on run defense. I just think their front seven is the strongest area the defense. Opponents (correctly) feel the pass is the best way to attack New England. Both the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers have had a lot of success through the air. New England is No. 31 in pass defense after two games. I also think the Brady factor also comes into play. New England is scoring a lot of points. Opponents have to throw more to keep up.

NYJetsMac via Twitter writes: I'll give you my [Sanchez-Henne-Fitz Watch], 2-0, 2-0, 0-2.

Walker: JetsMac, I think you and some others are missing the point of the "Sanchez-Henne-Fitz Watch." Instead of just saying one quarterback is better, let's really examine their play for an entire season and settle this debate. I don't know why the teams are thrown in. For example, if you were debating who was the better running back between Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson, no one would start comparing the Titans and Vikings. So, let's just focus on the play of the quarterbacks.

Joey from Florida writes: Hey James! Just wanted to say hello and welcome full-time to the AFC East blog! We may not be hard hitters like the Steelers and Ravens, but we have 4 teams with rich histories.

Walker: Thanks, Joey. The Jets hit very hard from what I've seen. The Patriots, Dolphins and Bills need to work on their tackling a bit. But it's a long season.

If you have any additional questions, comments or complaints, send them to our AFC East inbox.