Sunday, August 25, 2013
Patriots' AFC East foes in focus
By Field Yates
The Patriots have the weekend off, which provided us with an opportunity to lock in on some other games around the NFL.
On Saturday, each of the Patriots' AFC East rivals was in action, starting with the Bills, who traveled to Landover, Md., to take on the Redskins.
Below is a look at the noteworthy storylines from the games involving AFC East teams, with some thoughts on how they relate to the Patriots:
Redskins 30, Bills 7 The Bills were without top draft choice EJ Manuel, who had the inside track on the starting quarterback job before recently undergoing a minor knee procedure. The Bills declared Manuel would miss the rest of the preseason, leading some to wonder if he'll be ready for Week 1 against the Patriots. If not, veteran Kevin Kolb would be in line to be under center, although he left Saturday's game with concussion-like symptoms. He's dealt with concussions previously, and the Bills are concerned enough about his status that they're bringing in a pair of veteran quarterbacks, Matt Leinart and John Beck, for tryouts, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. (UPDATE: Schefter later reported the Bills will sign Leinart.)
Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel presently sits atop the Bills' QB depth chart.
As if the quarterback uncertainty wasn't enough, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, arguably the Bills' best defensive player, left the game with a wrist injury. Running back C.J. Spiller also left the game, with a knee issue, but he eventually returned.
The Bills are in the early stages of a franchise makeover and can ill afford to be without their top young talent as the season begins. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel seems to be atop the quarterback depth chart for now, and the Patriots could face a beaten-up team during Week 1.
Jets 24, Giants 21 (overtime) Speaking of uncertain quarterback situations, things went from bad to worse for the Jets on Saturday night. Rookie Geno Smith earned the start, looking to win the job over incumbent starter Mark Sanchez. But Smith threw three interceptions in extended playing time, finishing with a quarterback rating of 45.6.
Meanwhile, Sanchez was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury after a hit from Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin.
Without confirmation of the severity of Sanchez's injury, it's unclear whether the Jets will even have a choice of who will start at quarterback when the team comes to Foxborough for a Week 2 matchup. Either way, it's not a particularly inspiring group.
Buccaneers 17, Dolphins 16 On the other end of the spectrum, the Dolphins got a sharp effort from second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who looks ready to improve upon a sufficient rookie season. Protection will be one of the keys for Miami this season, as second-year player Jonathan Martin has been called upon to replace left tackle Jake Long, who is now on the Rams.
The Patriots don't play the Dolphins until Week 8, so we'll have a much better feel for what they offer after a handful of regular-season games. Based off of the preseason, Miami looks like a safe bet to pose the biggest threat to the Patriots in 2013, although our sense is the Patriots remain the prohibitive favorites in the division.