Tuesday, November 22, 2011
AFC East Stock Watch
By James Walker
1. The AFC East: I noticed some division fans didn't like my column on the AFC East as a mediocre division. Yes, there are other struggling divisions. But I expected more from the AFC East, especially after the Buffalo Bills' hot start in September. The past month has exposed the AFC East as weaker than expected. It's possible that only one team -- the New England Patriots (7-3) -- will make the playoffs out of that division. No other team has a winning record.
2. Bills: I think most reasonable football observers expected the Bills to hit a rough patch at some point. Buffalo started off fast at 3-0, and there was very little chance the surprising Bills could keep up that kind of pace. But the way Buffalo has lost the past three weeks is embarrassing. Several Bills players acknowledged as much in the locker room Sunday. Buffalo looks like the Indianapolis Colts lately. The Bills haven't bothered to show up in games, losing by a combined score of 109-26 in their past three. Buffalo has a chance to rebound this week with a huge rematch against the New York Jets.
3. Jets' offense: It's hard to point the finger at one area of New York's offense, because everything has been failing lately. New York's running backs are injured, the offensive line allowed eight sacks in two games and quarterback Mark Sanchez hasn't looked comfortable. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer also fails to get the most out of his talented skill players most weeks, and his play-calling at times is shaky. New York is in must-win mode for the rest of the year. The Jets have a lot of problems to clean up offensively, and it may be too late to make the playoffs.
1. Miami Dolphins' defense: This is the defense Dolphins fans expected all season. Miami had the NFL's sixth-ranked defense last year but struggled during its 0-7 start this year. But the past few weeks, the Dolphins' defense is wreaking havoc again and putting the team in position to win games. Miami forced two turnovers and held Buffalo to 262 total yards and 0-for-12 on third-down conversions in a 35-8 victory. The Dolphins have allowed just 20 points the past three games.
Rob Gronkowski added to his touchdown total with two more Monday night.
2. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots tight end: At some point, opponents will realize they have to defend Gronkowski around the end zone. "Big Gronk" caught two more touchdown passes in New England's 34-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. Gronkowski has 10 touchdowns this season and 17 touchdowns in the red zone since 2010, which leads the NFL. Gronkowski is emerging as one of the league's top tight ends. He has a great combination of size, athleticism and soft hands.
3. Matt Moore, Dolphins quarterback: Moore's stock continues to rise after he led Miami to its third win in a row. Moore is playing consistent football and not making mistakes. His Total Quarterback Rating of 98.2 was the best in the NFL for Week 11. Moore still has a lot to prove to be Miami’s long-term solution at quarterback. But at least he's making the conversation interesting.