AFC East: 2013 Week 2 QB Watch

QB Watch: Patriots' Tom Brady

September, 18, 2013
A weekly analysis of the New England Patriots’ quarterback play.

Rewind: It isn't often Tom Brady is held below the 50 percent completion percentage mark. The team's 13-10 win over the Jets was a struggle, as Brady (19-of-39, 185 yards, 1 TD) and rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson couldn't get on the same page.

Fast-forward: The Buccaneers held down Saints quarterback Drew Brees this past Sunday and are a fast, aggressive defense. For a passing offense looking to build some positive momentum, it's not necessarily the defense you'd hope to see. Better play from the offensive line, both in terms of getting the running game going and protecting Brady, would go a long way toward helping a Brady-led offense that isn't performing up to its standard.

Streak on the line: Brady has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 50 straight games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL and the second longest streak behind Brees (54). If Brady keeps it going, he can tie Brees' record on Oct. 13 against ... you guessed it ... the Saints.

Revisiting scare in joint practice: When the Patriots and Buccaneers practiced together in August, Brady had a scare when end Adrian Clayborn bull-rushed left tackle Nate Solder, pushing him back into Brady as the quarterback immediately grabbed for his left knee. Brady turned out to be OK, but it's a storyline that figures to be revisited this week, and spotlights a key matchup as it relates to Brady -- Solder versus Clayborn.

Prediction: It's another struggle for Brady, who will likely be without top target Danny Amendola for the second straight week. But Brady will be over the 50 percent completion mark, as he's never had back-to-back weeks at sub-50 percent.

QB Watch: Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill

September, 18, 2013
A weekly analysis of the Dolphins' quarterback play.

Rewind: Miami Dolphins second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill picked up a marquee, 24-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Not only was it a big road win that improved Miami’s record to 2-0, but it was Tannehill’s first victory over Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. Both players were in the same draft class, with Luck being the No. 1 overall pick and Tannehill being selected at No. 8. Tannehill outdueled Luck by throwing for 319 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Tannehill improved to 3-1 against quarterbacks from the famed 2012 draft class.

Fast-forward: The opposing quarterbacks do not get any easier for Tannehill. After beating Brandon Weeden in Week 1 and Luck in Week 2, Tannehill now must match throws with Atlanta Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan. Atlanta is the most complete team Miami has faced so far this season. But Tannehill and the Dolphins have several things going for them. First, the Falcons are banged up, which includes a thigh injury to starting tailback Steven Jackson that reportedly will sideline him Sunday. Second, this is Miami’s home opener after playing two straight on the road.

Wallace factor: The Dolphins got top receiver Mike Wallace involved in Week 2, and it paid dividends. Wallace had nine receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 11 times after getting one catch against Cleveland. The Dolphins found creative ways to get Wallace the football, and that’s something the coaching staff must continue to do.

Prediction: Tannehill was 5-3 at home during his rookie season. He has played well on the road so far this year. But I think playing in the friendly confines of Sun Life Stadium helps in terms of avoiding crowd noise. I don’t expect Tannehill to throw for 400 yards, but he needs to play an efficient, mistake-free game if Miami wants to improve to 3-0.

QB Watch: Bills' EJ Manuel

September, 18, 2013
A weekly analysis of the Bills' quarterback play.

Rewind: In his second career start, EJ Manuel led the Buffalo Bills on an 80-yard, game-winning drive with no timeouts remaining for a dramatic 24-23 win over the Carolina Panthers. He finished 27-of-39 for 296 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. It was the sort of performance that excited a city starved for good quarterback play, but head coach Doug Marrone said Monday that Manuel committed mistakes in the game that coaches did not expect him to make. He was fortunate that, after turning the ball over twice in his own territory, the Bills' red zone defense (ranked seventh in the NFL) was able to bail him out. Marrone said they'll work with Manuel to clean up what he characterized as questionable decision-making.

Fast-forward: The New York Jets' defense poses the toughest challenge for Manuel so far this season. Jets defenders have already told Manuel to be on the lookout for the blitz, and it would hardly be shocking if Rex Ryan dialed up even more pressure for the rookie. Even with the speed the Bills have on the outside, I think the Jets will take their chances with Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner in man-to-man coverage and try to make Manuel beat them with his arm. The rookie has been up and down when throwing downfield. Up front, Manuel will have to keep an eye out for defensive end Mo Wilkerson, who is on the rise.

Road test: The Bills will bring their up-tempo offense on the road for the first time this season. Even though it's not often considered among the NFL's loudest venues, MetLife Stadium has the second-largest capacity in the league, with wraparound seating that doesn't allow much sound to escape. It will be a good test for Manuel's ability to manage the no-huddle offense facing a hostile crowd. Last week, Marrone praised Manuel for keeping his composure even when the coach-to-quarterback communication system went out.

Prediction: I think it's reasonable to expect Manuel's performance to dip, going against a strong defense, on the road. The key for Manuel, as it has been, will be to avoid making mistakes. It will be a tough game for him to go over 300 yards passing or throw more than one touchdown. The defenses will decide this game.




Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22