AFC East Stock Watch

September, 27, 2011
9/27/11
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins head coach: When I moved to Miami before the the Dolphins' Week 1 game against the New England Patriots, fans and sports talk shows already were talking about Sparano on the hot seat. So you can imagine how heated the conversation is now after an 0-3 start. The Dolphins are staying the course with Sparano, and I think that's the best move. But he needs to turn the Dolphins around quickly. A tough road game against the San Diego Chargers (2-1) doesn't make his job any easier.

2. New York Jets' run defense: What happened? That's about all you can say after the defensive-minded Jets gave up 234 rushing yards to the Oakland Raiders. Raiders tailback Darren McFadden shredded the Jets for 171 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Some of Oakland's big gains came on trick plays and broken plays. New York's run defense usually is disciplined, but not this week.

3. Chad Ochocinco, New England receiver: I'm on record giving Ochocinco plenty of time to get acclimated in New England. I don't think the Patriots need him this early. Ochocinco is learning a new team and a new system for the first time in 10 years. But there's no defending Ochocinco's drop of an easy touchdown pass. That's unacceptable for the former Pro Bowler. Ochocinco also was the target on a slant route that was picked off by Bills corner Leodis McKelvin.

RISING

[+] EnlargeDrayton Florence
AP Photo/David DupreyDrayton Florence's touchdown capped a Buffalo comeback and gave the Bills the lead in the fourth quarter.
1. Buffalo Bills: The city of Buffalo is rocking this week after the Bills pulled off a shocking upset against the Patriots. Buffalo (3-0) is the NFL's biggest surprise and the only undefeated team in the AFC. The Bills also are in sole possession of first place in the AFC East. The Bills have to prove that they have staying power and that this start is no fluke. Their next game will be on the road against the struggling Cincinnati Bengals (1-2), who are on a two-game losing streak.

2. Wes Welker, Patriots receiver: Welker had a career game against Buffalo. He stepped up in the absence of injured tight end Aaron Hernandez and set a Patriots record with 16 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Welker played a smart, efficient game and kept the chains moving for New England. With Hernandez out and Ochocinco struggling, Welker and teammate Rob Gronkowski have to continue to carry New England's passing offense.

3. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: Sanchez nearly overcame little help from the running game and a rare, bad outing from New York's defense to beat Oakland. Sanchez threw for 369 yards, two touchdowns and one interception to keep the Jets in the game. I think it was Sanchez's best performance of the season. His top target was running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who recorded five receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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