Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC East [Print without images]

Saturday, October 1, 2011
Walker's weekend mailbag

By James Walker

Let's see what's on the minds of our AFC East community this week.

Shea Lambert from Pilot Mountain, N.C., writes: If the Bills lose to the Bengals this Sunday, would that take away from what they've accomplished already? Would you consider them any less legit?

James Walker: Good question, Shea. I actually had this conversation with Bills receiver Donald Jones in the locker room this week. I think this game is nearly as important as the Week 3 win over New England. This weekend is when Buffalo's maturity will be tested. It's easy for a young team to get up for the Patriots at home. It's not easy to get up for the Bengals on the road. Add in the fact that the Bills are getting a lot of national attention and this could be a trap week if Buffalo allows it. If the Bills lose, I think it evens out the win over the Patriots and we go back to viewing Buffalo the same way we did when it was 2-0 -- a fun team, but questions remain if they're a true contender.


Jeff from Rochester, N.Y., writes: If Ryan Fitzpatrick continues his current pace and the Bills make the playoffs, do you think he would have a legitimate shot at the NFL's MVP award?

Walker: Slow down, Jeff. It’s only three games. Fitzpatrick is in the hunt. NFC West blogger Mike Sando does an MVP Watch every week. But Fitzpatrick has been streaky in the past and it’s a long season. Let’s see how the Bills respond when they experience adversity.


Scott from San Jose, Calif., writes: What do you think the major problem is with the Miami Dolphins?

Walker: The two main issues are execution and the inability to win at home. There’s no excuse for going 1-11 in your last 12 home games. No team can survive that. Also, the execution isn’t there at key moments, especially in the red zone. Many believe it's a coaching issue. But players deserve blame, too.


Justin from Waterloo, Iowa, wants to know if general manager Jeff Ireland is on the hot seat in Miami as well.

Walker: The coach is usually the first person to go in the NFL. So, naturally, that gives Ireland a better chance to survive a bad season. His seat is not as hot as Sparano's. I'm sure behind closed doors he can make the case that Miami has talented players. I don't think many would argue against that point. But everyone is at risk if the team keeps losing. Also, a lot depends on what level coach the Dolphins would look for. Top-shelf names like Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden, for example, probably want complete control. I don't see Cowher or Gruden coming out of retirement to take orders from Ireland. They can wait for better opportunities. At the very least, a big name may want to bring in their own GM they're more comfortable with.


Rich Rokosz from Aventura, Fla., writes: Hey James, can I have your opinion of the spirit of the crowd in Ralph Wilson Stadium as opposed to game in Dolphins’ Stadium?

Walker: Read this article from Week 2 and this article from Week 3. You will have your answer.


Hussein Bayan from Hawthorne, N.J., writes: Do you think the Jets were smart with taking Plax and letting Braylon Edwards sign with another team?

Walker: Plaxico Burress, 34, is an older player. But I'm not concerned with that trade off, Hussein. Edwards was up and down and I understand why the Jets kept Santonio Holmes and didn't retain Edwards, who is injured right now in San Francisco.


Nolan from Portsmouth, N.H., writes: Do you think the issues with the Patriots’ defense are strictly a Patriots issue or more of a league-wide issue?

Walker: It's both, Nolan. Offenses ruled the first month of the 2011 season. But that doesn't mean New England has to be at the bottom of the league in total defense. The Patriots have talent on that side of the ball. A defense with Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, etc. shouldn't be last in the NFL.


Walter from New York writes: James, what do you think is the biggest difference between the AFC East and AFC North in covering both divisions, and which division do you think is better this year?

Walker: The biggest difference I noticed already is the lack of defense in the AFC East, Walter. I'm used to covering a lot of low-scoring games. That's not the case in the AFC East. In Week 1 I had the Dolphins-Patriots (38-24), in Week 2 I had Dolphins-Texans (a modest 23-13), and in Week 3 it was Bills-Patriots (34-31). You can’t blink in the AFC East. Even the Jets' defense has been inconsistent so far. As far as who's better, I'm not making any predictions this year. I'm just having fun watching things unfold. All of that will play itself out.

Comment and complaint department

Michael from Tallahassee, Fla., writes: We keep hearing about how great a coach Bill Belichick is but isn't it possible he is more like Mike Shanahan than anyone wants to admit? Shanny was great with Elway as his QB and not so great without him. Belichick had a career record of 41-55 before Tom Brady came along not to mention, like Shanny's last several teams in Denver, the Patriots’ D has been going backwards the last few years. One would tend to think with all the high draft picks, he hordes the team would be a juggernaut on both sides of the ball.

Walker: Micheal, I’ve noticed a lot of Belichick haters are coming out again after the defense has looked awful the first three weeks. But I’m on the side that Belichick is a Hall of Fame coach. Plenty of great coaches had winning quarterbacks. It’s the most important position on the field. That’s just part of it.


Neil Cuomo from Buffalo writes: I stumbled upon your blog and had to respond, because you brought up such a good point. The Bills were desperate for weapons for years, drafting Marshawn Lynch, James Hardy, Shawn Nelson, none of whom approach the talent and potential of C.J. Spiller and Brad Smith. The fact that those two have had such limited roles is a testament to how good the unheralded guys -- Fred Jackson, Steve Johnson and David Jones -- have turned out to be. It's a long season and I expect Spiller and Smith to be heard from down the road.

Walker: Thanks for the thoughts, Neil. It’s a good problem to have, especially when the Bills are 3-0. It shows quality depth and that the offense hasn't peaked. If an injury or two happens, Spiller and Smith will get their turn. Buffalo is winning so no one is complaining.


Josh D from Buffalo writes: Next time you ask if Buffalo could possibly be the best team in NY just remember that the Bills are the ONLY team in NY. Regardless of where they say their from, the Jets and Giants play in New Jersey.

Walker: I got a lot of emails about that comment in my recent chat, and I don’t understand what the big deal is. Yes, the New York Jets and New York Giants play in East Rutherford, New Jersey. But they are still New York teams. The Washington Redskins play in Maryland. They’re still Washington D.C.‘s NFL team. Maybe I’m missing the point.

AFC East Homer of the Week

DM from New Jersey writes: Buffalo beats NE, Detroit is undefeated , but they both are BELOW the Pats. Gotcha, this is a joke. I wont look at this blog again. Brady won’t have to throw four picks to lose more games! He plays the Jets or Baltimore or Pittsburgh and throws one or two they are DONE because that D can’t stop anyone! All I’m saying is you just put Victor Ortiz over Floyd Mayweather in the power rankings...period. And that’s lame.

Walker: C'mon, DM. Buffalo needs to win a lot more to be the NFL’s version of Floyd Mayweather. Let’s calm down a bit. And New England, which has three Super Bowls in the last decade, certainly isn’t Victor Ortiz. It’s only Week 4, DM. Congrats on being our AFC East "Homer of the Week."

If you have any additional questions, complaints or homer statements like DM’s, feel free to send them to our AFC East inbox.