Here are seven notes and observations from Week 2 in the AFC East:
Who was that sloppy New England Patriots team we saw in Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals? Was it just one bad game? We are about to find out when the Patriots travel to face the Baltimore Ravens (1-1) Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. It is a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game and arguably the toughest game on New England’s schedule. The Patriots could be 1-2 after three games, which is surprising for a team that many projected to finish with 13 or 14 wins. There were even some discussions of 16-0. Perhaps many pundits overrated the Patriots if they can’t beat a team like Arizona at home. New England remains the favorite in the AFC East, but it’s time to hold off on talk of winning another Super Bowl for now.
The Patriots need to be honest with what they’re doing with Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker. After denying that Welker was being “phased out” of the offense in Week 1, New England started Julian Edelman in Week 2 and made Welker the backup. Edelman finished the game with more snaps than Welker (75 to 63, according to ESPNBostom.com) but both receivers had five catches. There is no logical reason to make a receiver who caught 122 receptions the previous year a backup unless he’s injured or being phased out. If Patriots’ coaches feel Edelman is a better player or there is some other reason, they need to own up to it.
I liked how the Miami Dolphins coaching staff made some proper adjustments in Week 2 with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. In a loss to Houston, Tannehill was pretty much a sitting duck in the pocket getting pressured and balls batted left and right. But offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and coach Joe Philbin called more designed roll-outs against the Oakland Raiders to get Tannehill to use his athleticism. One called sneak for Tannehill resulted in the first touchdown. It was a subtle adjustment that made a big difference. Tannehill had six batted balls in Week 1 but zero in Week 2.
Keep an eye on Dolphins rookie running back Lamar Miller. He was a good value pick in the fourth round and played well in relief of starter Reggie Bush Sunday. Miller rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Miller was inactive in Week 1 but got the chance to play in Week 2 with Daniel Thomas out with a concussion. Miami’s strength is its running backs. Miller’s play should earn him more playing time.
This is not the time to start the “bench Mark Sanchez” chants in New York. I know the leash is short and Sanchez was baffled in a 27-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was 10-of-27 for 138 yards and couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean in the second half. However, Sanchez has played one really good game and one really bad game to start the season. No reason to panic. Sanchez also was without his security blanket in tight end Dustin Keller. With that said, I’m not sure why Tebow didn’t play more against Pittsburgh. He finished with one rush for 22 yards and three plays total. There was a lot of hype surrounding Tebow’s Wildcat package this preseason and it’s been a dud so far.
The Jets’ upcoming game against the Dolphins is an interesting one, because New York will revisit the scene where the team imploded at the end of last season. The Jets completely fell apart after losing their third straight game to end the season at Sun Life Stadium. New York missed the playoffs and Santonio Holmes was benched late for arguing with Mark Sanchez, which caused an offseason firestorm. New York has a chance to prove it has grown up since then and can band together to beat the Dolphins on the road. If the Jets fall to 1-2, it could be the start of more controversy.
I will be one of the first to say it: It’s time to start the C.J. Spiller era and make him the Buffalo Bills’ permanent starting tailback. The 2010 first-round pick had another solid game, rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns in Buffalo’s 35-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills probably won’t make that decision until they have to. Jackson is one of the leaders on Buffalo’s roster and benching him could make an impact in the locker room. However, Spiller is healthy, more dynamic and approaching his prime. He is playing well enough to where there shouldn’t be any debate.