Sunday, October 21, 2012
Five things we learned about AFC East
By James Walker
An exciting Week 7 of football is in the books for the AFC East.
Here are five things we learned about the division:
1. Patriots tops in AFC East
It wasn’t easy, but the New England Patriots (4-3) are back in sole possession of first place in the AFC East after beating the New York Jets 29-26 in overtime Sunday.
Quarterback Tom Brady helped lift the Patriots over the Jets in overtime in Sunday's late game.
New England didn’t play its "A" game, but it was just enough to hold off the undermanned Jets. New York played the Patriots tough without Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes.
The Patriots have been losing close games all season but finally prevailed in a tight one. Quarterback Tom Brady bailed the Patriots out late in the fourth quarter and put together another big scoring drive in overtime. Brady threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns; Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski caught both of them.
After the tough rivalry game, the easy part of the Patriots' schedule is coming up. Their next three opponents are the Rams (3-4), Bills (3-4) and Colts (3-3) -- this is a good time for New England to pad its record and create distance from the other three division teams.
2. Jets are still competitive
Don't write the obituary on the 2012 Jets just yet. They dropped to 3-4 but played a very respectable game at Gillette Stadium.
I wrote that the Jets will not make the playoffs after the season-ending losses of Revis and Holmes. I still hold firm in that prediction, but it doesn’t mean the Jets can’t be competitive in the second half of the season.
They still have proud veterans on their team who won’t go quietly. That was evident Sunday as New York gave the Patriots all they could handle.
If the Jets play efficiently on offense and tough on defense, they can compete with most teams. But New York is going to have tough sledding getting to 10 wins, which could be the number it takes to get to the playoffs in the AFC.
3. Bills are officially pretenders
I’m already preparing to concede my pick of the Bills as a 2012 sleeper. Buffalo officially reached "pretender status" following a 35-34 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
This is the kind of game Buffalo will look back on when it doesn’t make the playoffs. The Titans are a bad team that walked into Ralph Wilson Stadium and dominated offensively. They scored three touchdowns on their first three possessions and the game-winning touchdown with a minute remaining.
The Bills need to take a long look in the mirror during the bye.
“I think we need to re-evaluate everything,” coach Chan Gailey said after the game.
But Gailey said he wouldn’t consider coaching changes. New defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt is in the hot seat after an awful start. But if the Bills’ defense continues to play this way, Gailey eventually will have no choice but to do something.
Yes, Fitzpatrick threw a bad pick in the fourth quarter that led to Tennessee’s game-winning touchdown. But Fitzpatrick had his best game in weeks and also threw for three touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick can be very streaky, but he wasn’t the reason the Bills lost this game. Thirty-four points by the offense and special teams should be enough against a mediocre Titans team.
The defense was the reason the Bills lost. If they consider personnel changes after the bye, it should be on that side of the ball.
5. Dolphins are in a good spot
The Miami Dolphins had an enjoyable bye. They watched the Bills lose and the Patriots and Jets beat each other up in an overtime game.
Miami entered the game tied for first place but is now second behind the Patriots. That’s not a bad spot to be in, especially after getting two weeks of rest. The Dolphins (3-3) will travel to face the Jets (3-4) in a huge AFC East showdown. New York won the first meeting and will be looking to sweep Miami this season.