AFC East: 2013 Week 8 Upon Further Review

Upon Further Review: Bills Week 8

October, 28, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Buffalo Bills' 35-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints:

[+] EnlargeThad Lewis
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsBills QB Thad Lewis has impressed coach Doug Marrone with his ability to play through pain.
Bills lose turnover battle: One of the biggest factors in the Bills' Week 7 road win over the Miami Dolphins was their ability to force Dolphins mistakes. Nickell Robey's interception began that game, Aaron Williams' interception prevented a touchdown, and Mario Williams' strip-sack set up the game-winning field goal. The Bills weren't able to make any such plays Sunday, and coach Doug Marrone didn't hold back Monday when addressing the loss. "We are not good enough to lose the turnover battle and win football games," Marrone said. The Bills were minus-3 against the Saints, with two fumbles and an interception.

Field position hurts Bills: It's not rocket science, but the Bills' inability to force turnovers affected their field position. Marrone pointed out that the Bills' average drive started at their 23-yard line, while the Saints began at their 40-yard line. Over an 11-possession game, Marrone noted, the field position difference adds up to 187 yards.

Players didn't influence challenge: After the game, Marrone said that he would review the procedure for challenging plays after he lost both of his challenges Sunday. On Monday, Marrone said he hadn't yet evaluated that process. "I haven't had a chance yet to do that, but I'm gonna do it and I'm not gonna tell anyone," he said. "But I'm doing it. Because I'm O-for." Marrone said running back Fred Jackson and other players urging the sideline to challenge a goal-line spot Sunday didn't influence his decision to throw the red flag. "No. I don't have that type of mentality," he said. "Which is disappointing for me. I know better. The percentages of challenging those types of plays ... I talk about it all the time. I did a poor job. That's on me. But I'm going to change that. Because if I keep it the same and I screw up, then I'm really an idiot."

Lewis' toughness stands out: For the second time in his three games as a starter, Thad Lewis played through injury. Two weeks after spraining his foot in a loss to the Bengals, Lewis played the full game Sunday after taking a shot to his ribs on the first play. Marrone was asked what about Lewis has impressed him the most, and the coach didn't hesitate in answering. "His toughness," Marrone said. "I think we all would agree on that. There's not many people that would hang in there and take those shots." Marrone said that Lewis "showed us a lot."

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 8

October, 28, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the New York Jets’ 49-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

[+] EnlargeDee Milliner
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanDee Milliner and the Jets had their hands full with Bengals WR Marvin Jones on Sunday.
1. A little perspective, please: The Jets reached the midpoint of the season at 4-4. Did anybody expect that? Didn’t think so. They showed their best and worst in a span of seven days, upsetting the New England Patriots and laying an egg against the Bengals. There was no penalty-flag bailout in Cincinnati. It was an alarming no-show by the Jets, who have failed to show any consistency. Taking the half-full view, they’re a resilient bunch, having avoided back-to-back losses, but that trend will be put to the test Sunday against the talented New Orleans Saints. Rex Ryan needs to take a hard look at the operation because something has to be done to eliminate the wild spikes in performance.

2. Post-Revis blues: Look, I’m not going to second-guess the Jets for trading Darrelle Revis -- I thought it was the right move for the long term -- but you knew when they made the deal it would be a rebuilding year for the secondary. It has plenty of warts, and some weeks they’re more visible than others. This was one of those weeks. Every defensive back played poorly, starting with Antonio Cromartie and rookie Dee Milliner. The Bengals are a hot team, but there’s no excuse for five touchdown passes, including four to the No. 2 receiver, Marvin Jones. Ryan said they got beat “in every coverage known to man.” Players talked about mental mistakes such as communication errors and poor leverage techniques on certain routes. Let’s be honest: This is a mediocre secondary when Cromartie isn’t playing at a Pro Bowl level (he’s not) and when the opponent has more than one quality receiving option (the Bengals did).

3. First-quarter yips: For Geno Smith, this was reminiscent of the Week 4 loss to the Tennessee Titans in that he appeared unsettled from the outset. He was 1-for-3 for 17 yards in the first quarter, taking two sacks. The Bengals showed a new wrinkle, blitzing safety Reggie Nelson from the slot. Smith did a poor job of recognizing the look, resulting in the two sacks. Unlike the Titans game, he made it through the first half without a turnover, but his slow start put the offense in a hole. It’s the same old story: When Smith plays well, the Jets win. When he doesn’t, it gets ugly. Quite simply, this team isn’t good enough to overcome sharp dips in his play.

4. They miss Santonio Holmes: Yeah, he’s a high-maintenance diva (and that extends beyond media relations), but he’s a competent, crafty wide receiver when healthy. His presence on the field doesn’t scare defenses, but it gives them something to think about. Without him, it’s just a mediocre group of receivers. Jeremy Kerley can’t be your No. 1 weapon in the passing game. The Bengals neutralized him, forcing Smith to look elsewhere. When David Nelson becomes your top weapon (he was targeted 12 times, catching eight), something is wrong. The disappearing Stephen Hill has reached milk-carton status, and there’s little production from the tight ends. The team isn't overly optimistic about Holmes (hamstring) returning this week, so it could be Week 10 (after the bye). We know what will be on GM John Idzik’s wish list in the offseason: playmakers.

Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 8

October, 28, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A review of four hot issues following the New England Patriots' 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins:

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesTom Brady faced plenty of pressure Sunday from the Miami defense.
Tom Brady and his swollen right throwing hand: Brady's accuracy, which has long been a hallmark of his play, remains sporadic. It could be because he has discomfort in his right throwing hand. CBS cameras showed multiple close-up shots of the hand, which looked swollen, during the game. While Brady said afterward that the hand is "perfect," the quarterback seldom, if ever, acknowledges injuries.

Managing injuries with bye in mind: The Patriots host the Steelers on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET) and then have their "off" weekend. While getting a victory to improve to 7-2 is the obvious goal, there is also an aspect of managing injuries with the bye week in mind. For example, if it means that cornerback Aqib Talib gets an extra week to rest his injured left hip, perhaps the Patriots take a conservative approach with him this week. Likewise for others such as defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (right knee) and running back Leon Washington (ankle).

Cannon in for Vollmer at right tackle: Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer left Sunday's game in the second quarter with what appeared to be a serious right leg injury. It would be a surprise if Vollmer plays again this season, which thrusts third-year man Marcus Cannon into the starting lineup and bumps eight-year veteran Will Svitek into the swing tackle role. "I thought Marcus went in there and did a good job," coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. "The line we blocked, that’s a good front. We ran the ball competitively."

Trade deadline: With the trade deadline Tuesday, it serves as a reminder that the Patriots have been busy on the in-season trade market in recent years, acquiring receiver Deion Branch from Seattle in 2010 and Talib in 2012. Belichick explained Friday why a trade is probably unlikely, but it shouldn't be ruled out completely. The feeling here is that defensive tackle would be the spot the team is most likely to target. The problem, of course, is that there isn't much supply to meet the demand.

Upon Further Review: Dolphins Week 8

October, 28, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Miami Dolphins' 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots:

Slumping Fins: The Dolphins lost their fourth game in a row and second straight to an AFC East opponent. All the good vibes from Miami’s 3-0 start has been completely erased, and now you must question this team’s confidence. The Dolphins continue to show good effort. But do they have enough talent and focus to overcome this slump? Or will this team go in the tank after such a bad losing streak? Miami hasn't won a game since Sept. 22.

[+] EnlargeMiami's Bryant McKinnie
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)Bryant McKinnie held Chandler Jones to zero sacks and helped the Dolphins to 156 rushing yards.
Revisiting McKinnie decision: Miami made a risky decision to start new left tackle Bryant McKinnie after just three practices with the team. The Dolphins acquired McKinnie on Oct. 21 in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. He got his first start Sunday and played relatively well. McKinnie held New England’s best pass-rusher in Chandler Jones to six tackles and zero sacks. Miami also had its best running day of the season. The Dolphins gained 156 rushing yards and averaged 5.0 yards per carry. McKinnie should improve with more practice time. He was already an upgrade over former starting offensive tackle Tyson Clabo.

Replacing Gibson: The Dolphins are expected to lose slot receiver Brandon Gibson for the season with a significant knee injury. Miami will have further tests on Gibson’s knee this week. But the receiver was on crutches in the locker room and didn’t sound like a player who was coming back anytime soon. Gibson was a favorite of Tannehill and will be hard to replace in the slot. Backup Rishard Matthews will take Gibson’s place. But Miami only has three healthy receivers on its 53-man roster.

Trick or treat: Things do not get easier for Miami. The Dolphins will face a first-place team for the second straight game when they host the Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) on Thursday, which is Halloween night. The Bengals are very talented and thrashed the New York Jets, 49-9, on Sunday. The Dolphins beat the Bengals last year in Cincinnati, which surely hasn’t been forgotten. This will be a tough matchup to for the Dolphins to try to save their season.