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Audibles: AFC East Week 5 preview

10/3/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Buffalo Bills (4-0) at Arizona Cardinals (2-2), 4:15 p.m. ET

Bills fans are worked up about their team's unblemished start, but the opposition so far couldn't be described as sensational. The Cardinals will be their biggest test yet.

The Cardinals rank fifth in total offense and ninth in total defense even though they're coming off a wild 56-35 loss to the New York Jets, who were set up by a bazillion turnovers in Cardinals territory.

The Bills have executed complete performances in the sense all three phases have made significant contributions. But they haven't given a 60-minute performance since the season opener.

In three straight games Buffalo has trailed in the fourth quarter. Buffalo has been magnificent late, but the slows starts are a dangerous trend.

Bills cornerback Terrence McGee is out with a knee injury, which means rookie Leodis McKelvin could be vulnerable against Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. But if the Bills can escape the desert with another win, they'll be 5-0 heading into their bye and firmly in command of the division.

New England Patriots (2-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-2), 4:15 p.m. ET

We'll learn whether the Patriots are spiraling out of control after their humbling loss to the Dolphins in Week 3. The Patriots are headed to the West Coast for a pair of games. They visit the Chargers next, and they're not coming home in between.

Many believe the Patriots sans Tom Brady were exposed as closer to pedestrian than stupendous. But they did have a week off, and they're 6-2 under Bill Belichick after byes.

The Patriots must find a way to win to preserve some of their mojo. Another loss to a team considered among the bottom half in the NFL could have a rippling effect on a team and fuel an identity crisis.

Or the Patriots can snuff any smoldering angst with a convincing road victory.

San Diego Chargers (2-2) at Miami Dolphins (1-2), 1 p.m. ET

Only one AFC East-related game features two clubs coming off victories. The Chargers are trying to reassert themselves as a conference power, while the Dolphins are trying to win two straight for the first time since November 2006.

A game that looked like a probable blowout a few weeks ago looks like it could be a doozy. The Dolphins two weeks ago posted 38 points on the mighty Patriots defense and had an extra week to prepare for the Chargers, who rank 28th in total defense and dead last against the pass.

The Dolphins will find out if their dominance over the Patriots was an anomaly or if their offense really has figured out how to combine running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams with quarterback Chad Pennington's high-percentage passing.

The Dolphins, though, rank 26th against the pass, and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has ripped up defenses with 10 touchdowns and a 109.8 passer rating.