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Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Three-Point Stance: AFC East

By John Parolin, ESPN Stats & Information

While the Patriots take some time off, this week’s edition of the Three-Point Stance will check in with the rest of the AFC East. Optimism reigns in Orchard Park, with the 4-2 Bills right in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt and only one game behind New England. Locker-room discord and an inconsistent offense have the talented Jets at 3-3 and winless on the road. As for Miami? Every Stanford football game is appointment viewing, as the 0-5 Dolphins are squarely among the frontrunners in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Bills* The 2010 Buffalo Bills couldn’t stop the run at all, allowing a league-worst 4.75 yards per rush and 138 first downs. Offseason acquisitions like Nick Barnett and Marcell Dareus have changed some of the personnel in Buffalo’s front seven, but through six weeks the results have been worse. The Bills are allowing 5.1 yards per rush this season (30th in the NFL) and no team has allowed more rushing first downs (47) or touchdowns (eight) than Buffalo. So what is wrong with Buffalo’s rush defense? Opponents have been able to impose their will at the line of scrimmage, as Buffalo is allowing 3.4 yards per rush before contacting the ball carrier, a mark that is by far the worst in the league (average 1.8 yards). The defensive linemen are getting pushed back, while the linebackers have been slow to react and plug holes. Until Buffalo improves in this area, look for opposing offenses to keep the ball on the ground.

Jets* Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes raised some eyebrows with his comments earlier in the season about his offensive line’s performance. Holmes expressed frustration with quarterback Mark Sanchez's lack of time in the pocket, and cited protection issues as the reason for the Jets’ struggles throwing downfield. However, Sanchez has been sacked or under pressure on only 21.1 percent of his dropbacks this season, the ninth-best total in the league. Pass protection hasn’t been an issue for the Jets offensive line, but the running game is a different story. With All-Pro center Nick Mangold fighting off injuries, the Jets offensive line has struggled to create running lanes at the line of scrimmage. Jets rushers are averaging only 1.9 yards before contact per rush (29th in the NFL), and the inconsistent running game has the Jets still searching for an offensive identity.

Dolphins* In August, Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis declared himself and fellow corner Sean Smith the “best tandem in the league.” However, through six weeks the Dolphins pass defense has been closer to the other end of the spectrum, struggling to both pressure quarterbacks and cover receivers. The Dolphins have registered eight sacks this season, tied for third-worst in the NFL. Miami not only can’t get to opposing quarterbacks, but can’t protect its own. Now-injured starting quarterback Chad Henne played 12 and a half quarters this season, and is still tied for 15th in the NFL in sacks (11). It’s been a season to forget on South Beach, and Dolphins fans are hoping for help in April’s draft.