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AFC East Week 3 X factors

9/22/2011

The AFC East is off to a fast start. It has the NFL's best division record (6-2) after two weeks.

That also sets up some big matchups in Week 3. The Buffalo Bills (2-0) will host the New England Patriots (2-0) in a battle of undefeated teams. The New York Jets (2-0) will travel to play the Oakland Raiders (1-1), and the Miami Dolphins (0-2) will face the Cleveland Browns (1-1).

Here are some underrated, X factors who could make a big impact in Week 3:

Patriots

X factor: WR Chad Ochocinco

Analysis: Now is the perfect time for Ochocinco to get more involved in New England's offense. Tight end Aaron Hernandez will miss Sunday's game against Buffalo with a knee injury. New England ran a lot of dual tight ends with Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, which limited Ochocinco's reps. This week New England probably will have more three-receiver sets to get Ochocinco involved. He has just three catches for 59 yards in two games.

Bills

X factor: MLB Nick Barnett

Analysis: If the Bills want to pull the upset, someone has to make a big play on defense against the Patriots. The most consistent defender through two weeks has been Barnett. He registered 18 tackles and a forced fumble in two games. Chances are, the Bills-Patriots game will be a shootout. But the winner could be determined by which defense and/or defensive player makes a huge play to stop momentum.

Dolphins

X factor: WRs Davone Bess

Analysis: Look for Browns No. 1 corner Joe Haden to be matched up with Dolphins No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall this week. But Cleveland's defense has a major drop-off after Haden at corner. This could open things up for Bess. Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne targets Marshall a lot. But he may find more success attacking Cleveland's second (Sheldon Brown) and third corners (Dimitri Patterson). Bess is quick in the slot and knows what to do with the football. He leads the Dolphins with 19.1 yards per reception.

Jets

X factor: DE Muhammad Wilkerson

Analysis: Wilkerson has been a force for the Jets since his arrival. The rookie earned a starting job in Week 1 on New York’s stout defense, which is impressive. Wilkerson recorded two tackles and a sack that resulted in a safety against Jacksonville. He's held his ground against the run in New York's 3-4 defense. That's key against the Raiders, who have the NFL's second-leading rusher in tailback Darren McFadden.