AFC East: Ravens-Patriots 1004099

Final Word: AFC East

October, 2, 2009
10/02/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


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Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend's games:

 
  Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE
  Tom Brady and the Patriots will make a statement with a win over the Ravens this Sunday.
The best game of the week is not the New York Jets at New Orleans Saints. As interesting as a battle between two 3-0 teams will be, we'll learn a lot more about the state of the AFC when the Baltimore Ravens visit the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the former Miami Dolphins coaching pariah, is calling the league's second-ranked offense. The Ravens' defense is ranked first against the run and seventh overall. But the Ravens have been relatively vulnerable against the pass. If Tom Brady can manage to work around Ravens safety Ed Reed, then the Patriots could score another big win after that setback to the Jets in Week 2.

The Jets' offensive line still is playing below expectations. Many observers, myself, included considered the Jets among the elite O-line units. They're solid on paper from tackle to tackle, featuring four first-round draft picks. But the Jets have been average in protecting Mark Sanchez and have struggled to generate a run game.

The Jets are tied for 20th in run offense. Take away two long fourth-quarter runs in the season opener, and reigning AFC rushing leader Thomas Jones is averaging 2.3 yards a carry. The starting front five have committed nine penalties for 62 yards.

While everybody's talking about the need to stop Drew Brees, running back Pierre Thomas will be a devil for the Jets' defense. The Saints' offense obviously changed when they started handing the ball to Thomas in the second half of Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills. Thomas didn't touch the ball in the first half, but finished the game with 126 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 9 yards a carry.

Maybe few people noticed because it was against the Bills, and a scan of the box score doesn't show that Thomas did all of that damage in 30 minutes. Brees, meanwhile, threw for only 172 yards to win comfortably.

Bills receiver Terrell Owens should have a nice bounce-back game against the Miami Dolphins. For the first time in 185 games, Owens is coming off a no-catch performance. Bills offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and quarterback Trent Edwards are under fire for not getting Owens and Lee Evans the ball. They've had all week to address those concerns and likely will enter Land Shark Stadium with a plan to get Owens involved early and often.

The Dolphins rank No. 3 against the run, but their pass defense has been the sixth-most lenient. Opposing quarterbacks have a 103.3 passer rating against them and are averaging 9.1 yards per attempt, second-to-worst in the league.

Dolphins reserve Charlie Anderson could be a difference-maker against the Bills. Unless you're a diehard Dolphins, Houston Texans or Ole Miss fan, you probably don't know who the heck Anderson is. He has started just six games in his six-year career. But he will be relied upon Sunday.

Anderson is Joey Porter's backup, and the reigning AFC sack king has been slowed down by a hamstring problem. Porter has insisted he will play, but even if he does, Anderson will see increased snaps. Anderson does have ability. In back-to-back games last year against the Bills and San Francisco 49ers, he recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles.

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