Thursday, October 6, 2011
AFC East quarter-season report card
By James Walker
A quarter of the season is in the books. Here is our first report card of all four teams in the AFC East.
Buffalo Bills (3-1, first place in AFC East)
Quarter-season MVP: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Analysis: Fitzpatrick and tailback Fred Jackson were in consideration for Buffalo’s early-season MVP. But Fitzpatrick gets the nod, because he runs the show and is off to a hot start. Fitzpatrick has thrown for 1,040 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Even in his one bad game against Cincinnati, he didn’t commit a turnover. Buffalo is ninth in total offense but fourth in scoring. This group usually doesn’t settle for many field goals. The Bills are plus-seven in turnover ratio, because Fitzpatrick is smart with the football and the defense is opportunistic. Buffalo’s defense is tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions and two returned for touchdowns. But the group gives up more than 400 yards per game. It's going to be hard for Buffalo to win every game via shootout.
New England Patriots (3-1, second place)
Quarter-season MVP: Quarterback Tom Brady
Analysis: Brady is an easy MVP pick, although receiver Wes Welker deserves a lot of credit as well. The difference is Welker wouldn't put up monster numbers without Brady. What more can you say about New England's offense? They are first in total yards (507.5 per game) and tied for second in scoring (33.8). But the defense has been horrendous this season. There were some signs of improvement last week against the Raiders. But New England’s defense remains 32nd in the NFL. Brady is so hot that, so far, it doesn't matter. But what happens in the playoffs if New England’s offense can’t light it up every game?
New York Jets (2-2, third place)
Quarter-season MVP: Linebacker David Harris
Analysis: New York's MVP choice was a hard one. Several players are doing well, such as linebacker Bart Scott and tight end Dustin Keller. But I went with Harris. He has 22 tackles, one sack and an interception return for a touchdown. The offense, which is ranked No. 25 in the NFL, shows flashes of potential then disappears. There are games when quarterback Mark Sanchez throws for 300 yards and others when he gets pummeled. The running game has been non-existent and the offensive line has been the worst part of the team so far. The defense isn't as dominant as previous years, but it's still solid. The Jets are ranked eighth in total defense.
Miami Dolphins (0-4, fourth place)
Quarter-season MVP: Punter Brandon Fields
Analysis: I was struggling to pick an early MVP for the winless Dolphins. I was thinking on the lines of tailback Daniel Thomas, but he's been hurt and in and out of the lineup. Linebacker Cameron Wake has a team-high three sacks but only nine tackles. Quarterback Chad Henne has been decent but not spectacular. So I went to Twitter to see who Dolphins fans would pick. They hit the nail on the head: Punter Brandon Fields. He's been the most consistent player for Miami. He's averaging 51.6 yards per punt and landed seven kicks inside the 20. Miami's defense hasn't taken advantage. The Dolphins have gone from sixth last year to No. 30 this season. The offense has been decent but fails to execute at key moments and in the red zone. With Henne's injury, I don't know if this unit can get much better the rest of the season.