AFC East: 2013 Week 5 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: New York Jets

October, 7, 2013

ATLANTA -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' 30-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome:

What it means: The Jets (3-2), rebounding from an awul performance last week, moved into a second-place tie with the Miami Dolphins -- only one game behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East. They scored on their first three drives for the first time since 2008 and finished it off in dramatic fashion, as rookie quarterback Geno Smith led a game-winning, field-goal drive in the final two minutes. Nick Folk kicked the winner from 43 yards as time expired. This was a huge upset, one of Rex Ryan's biggest wins in a long time. They blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, but rallied behind their rookie.

Stock Watch: Smith has arrived. After 11 turnovers in four games, Smith was flawless (no turnovers) and showed his cool in the final 1:54, completing four passes to set up Folk. This was the performance the Jets had been awaiting, absolute poise in a hostile environment. Smith completed 16 of 20 for 199 yards, throwing three touchdowns. This in no way resembled the rattled kid who stunk it up last week. Ladies and gentlemen, the Jets found their quarterback.

Night of the Tight End: The Falcons' Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer, was virtually unstoppable -- 10 catches for 97 yards. Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow are not going to Canton, but they came up huge for the Jets. Cumberland and Winslow each scored a touchdown, compensating for a banged-up receiving corps. Cumberland (three catches for 79 yards) killed the Falcons with deep seams in the first half. Winslow, who almost did not play because of chronic knee pain, was targeted only once, but it was a one-yard touchdown reception on a play-action bootleg. Winslow did a toe-tap to keep both feet in the end zone, a wily veteran delivering a clutch play in the fourth quarter.

America, meet Mo: Folks in New York know all about defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson; now the entire country does, too. Wilkerson, exploiting a suspect offensive line, staged a dominating performance. The Falcons, with a new starter at left tackle, could not block Wilkerson, who created the Jets' first takeaway since Week 1 -- a strip sack in the third quarter that set up a field goal. He felt he deserved Pro Bowl recognition last season. He may have earned a trip to Hawaii on the Monday night stage, spearheading a defensive effort that included a goal-line stand at the end of the first half.

Defensive wrinkle: Ryan changed his approach, using more two-high safety looks than usual. That's not a staple of the Ryan playbook, but he took the conservative approach on the back end with the hope of eliminating big plays. It worked, as the Jets held wide receiver Julio Jones to eight catches for 99 yards, but they got gashed underneath by Matt Ryan who completed 36 of 45 passes with 319 yards.

What's ahead: The Jets return home to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4), who are coming off a bye week.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

October, 6, 2013

MIAMI -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 26-23 loss to the Baltimore Ravens:

What it means: After a 3-0 start, the Dolphins are stumbling into the bye week with a 3-2 record. Miami had a brutal schedule to start the season, and this probably would have been fine by most Miami fans at the start of the season. But Miami raised expectations after its fast start, and now the perception is the team is struggling. A few big plays at the end gave Miami a chance, but rookie Caleb Sturgis missed a 57-yard field goal at the end.

Stock watch: Ryan Tannehill's stock is back up after a horrible Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints. Tannehill bounced back from a four-turnover performance in New Orleans and had a much better game Sunday. Tannehill threw for 307 yards, one touchdown and had zero turnovers. He also nearly led a game-tying drive at the end but took a big sack.

As far as stock down, Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman had another questionable week of play calling. He made another poor third-and-1 call on the opening drive that was reminiscent of a call from last week's loss to the Saints. Despite heavy criticism last week, Sherman ran outside for no gain and was forced to punt for the second week in a row. The Dolphins also called a timeout before the play. The run-pass ratio was also drastically out of whack for such a close and competitive game. Miami's offensive line also allowed six sacks, which ups the Dolphins' total to 24 sacks allowed this year.

Injury updates: Miami Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake returned to the lineup Sunday, but it was brief and he was mostly ineffective. Wake, who has a sprained knee, played in the first quarter only and didn't register a tackle. He will get two days to rest. Dolphins starting linebacker Dannell Ellerbe also injured his shoulder in the second quarter and didn't return. Cornerback Nolan Carroll injured his ribs in the third quarter and didn't return.

What's next: The Dolphins get a much-needed bye in Week 6. After a 3-2 start, it's time for Miami to re-evaluate the team, improve and get healthy. The Dolphins will host the Buffalo Bills (2-3) in a big AFC East battle in Week 7.

Rapid Reaction: Buffalo Bills

October, 3, 2013
CLEVELAND -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 37-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

What it means for Bills: The Bills lost their second road game and fell to 2-3 overall, but the big story is the health of rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. The 16th overall pick in April's NFL draft suffered a knee injury when he was hit by a Browns defender after scrambling for a first down in the third quarter. Manuel was replaced by undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. Tuel and the Bills couldn't overcome their injuries against the Browns, despite their loss starting quarterback, Brian Hoyer, to a knee injury in the first quarter. With a chance to erase a six-point deficit late in the game, Tuel instead threw a pick-six, sealing the defeat. For the Bills, who have shaken off numerous injuries this season, Manuel's injury was one too many and bears watching in the coming days.

Johnson injures back: Both Bills quarterbacks in this game were without their top receiver for much of the contest. Steve Johnson left the game in the second quarter with a back injury, initially staying on the sideline. He came back into the game later in the half but then departed for the locker room and did not return.

Stock watch: Punter Shawn Powell and the Bills' punt-coverage unit had a tough time corralling Browns returner Travis Benjamin in the first half. After a 57-yard return set up a Browns field goal, Benjamin returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. He finished with 179 punt-return yards, setting a Browns team record.

Hobbled Spiller scores: Running back C.J. Spiller, who entered the game nursing an ankle injury, was used sparingly in the first half, carrying just twice for 3 yards. But on the third play of the second half, Spiller broke off a 54-yard touchdown run, tying the game. He limped his way back to the sideline and had a member of the equipment staff keep the ball. Spiller gained just 7 yards after the touchdown.

What's next: The Bills have nine days until their next game, when they will host another AFC North team, the Cincinnati Bengals, on Oct. 13 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.