|ESPN.com: AFC East||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Cincinnati Bengals (0-5) at New York Jets (2-2), 1 p.m. ET
The Jets emerge from their bye with a marvelous opportunity to assert themselves in the AFC East race.
There's a colossal difference between 2-2 and 1-3. The distinction is substantially more than one mere victory, and the Jets made sure they went into their off week in an optimistic mind frame by rolling up 56 points on the Arizona Cardinals, a team that has defeated two other AFC East teams.
The Jets' next three opponents have a combined record of 2-12, including the winless Bengals. Then the Jets visit the Oakland Raiders and host the Kansas City Chiefs before heading to Buffalo for a potential first-place battle. After that, the Jets host the St. Louis Rams in Week 10.
New York on paper is better than four of those five teams. The bye week should have assisted Brett Favre's development within the Jets offensive system, and running back Jesse Chatman is back from a four-game suspension.
If the Jets can solve their defensive problems -- 83 points allowed the past two games -- this will be a rewarding few weeks for them.
Miami Dolphins (2-2) at Houston Texans (0-4), 1 p.m. ET
Two AFC East clubs are playing winless opponents, but the Texans are dissimilar from the Bengals in that they don't deserve to have a zero in their left column.
The Dolphins, who've won two in a row against preseason Super Bowl candidates, should remain humble. Not only are there enough players left in the locker room who went through last season's debacle, but also they're actually underdogs Sunday.
Miami has evolved from laughingstock to one of the NFL's most entertaining teams. But don't get suckered into thinking it's all about Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat offense. Chad Pennington has been highly efficient, and the defense has come alive.
The Dolphins didn't beat the Chargers last week because of their offense but by holding them to 10 points. They snuffed LaDainian Tomlinson on fourth-and-goal from the 1. The Dolphins rank eighth in total defense and seventh in rush defense.
New England Patriots (3-1) at San Diego Chargers (2-3), 8:30 p.m. EST
The bicoastal rivalry, offering a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game, surely has lost some of its zip. No Tom Brady, no Shawne Merriman, no Chris Chambers. Tomlinson has been ineffective. We don't have the Junior Seau story line anymore, either.
When the schedule makers selected the prime-time matchups, nobody could have guessed both teams would have losses to the Dolphins.
Revenge, venomous talk and Super Bowl overtones aren't nearly as heavy for the latest installment. The Patriots need to maintain some sans-Brady momentum from last week's triumph in San Francisco, while the Chargers are desperate to not fall too far behind the Denver Broncos.
The Patriots have won 11 of the past 13 meetings, but this one will be a difficult task. They stayed out West after beating the 49ers, and while all feedback from the Patriots has been glowing about the decision, it didn't work out too well for the Cardinals, who pulled a similar maneuver but lost to the Washington Redskins and Jets.