Friday, October 22, 2010
Final Word: AFC East
By Tim Graham
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:
Brandon Marshall and the Dolphins can increase their profile with a win against the Steelers.
The Dolphins have a glorious opportunity to vault themselves into the Super Bowl discussion. The Dolphins are the third-best team in the AFC East, but both of their losses are against Nos. 2 and 3 in ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings -- the Jets and Patriots. The Dolphins have been overlooked because both of those losses happened in Sun Life Stadium and in prime time. But they can grab everyone's attention with a victory at home against the No. 1 Steelers. While winless at home, the Dolphins are 3-0 on the road and have beaten a pair of NFC teams commonly forecasted to reach the Super Bowl. They're good, but they haven't established themselves as a contender yet. That could change Sunday.
Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather will need to be careful Sunday in San Diego. There's heightened awareness on big hits. Increased ejections are possible, and officials will be mindful of Meriweather. He was fined $50,000 for his helmet-to-helmet shot on Ravens tight end Todd Heap. The Patriots head cross country with depleted numbers at safety. Jarrad Page hurt his calf against the Ravens and hasn't been able to practice. James Sanders is expected to return, but he has been bothered by a hamstring problem. If Meriweather isn't on his best behavior, the Patriots could find themselves even more short-handed against Philip Rivers, who has completed 63.5 percent of his passes between the field numbers.
The Bills have one weird offense. Let's try to figure this one out ... The Bills rank fourth in the league and second in the AFC in yards gained on first down at 6.3 a pop. They rank fifth in average gained per rush at 4.8 yards. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a 99.9 passer rating. Only two teams have committed fewer penalties. So how in the world do the Bills rank 31st in third-down conversions? The NFL doesn't cull stats specifically for second down, but something must be going on there. Have the Bills been skipping straight from first down to third down and nobody has noticed?
The Joe McKnight draft choice continues to dog the Jets. They used a fourth-round draft choice to draft McKnight out of USC. That wasn't a huge investment, but the trickle-down affect continues to make the decision look terrible. McKnight lost the coaching staff's trust in the preseason because he couldn't pick up the playbook and fumbled too much. But they stuck with him and eventually lost Danny Woodhead and Chauncey Washington to other teams. While McKnight has been deactivated for all but one game, Woodhead has become a smash hit among Patriots fans. I'm pretty sure Woodhead jerseys are being stitched together as I type this. I have hard time imagining anybody wearing one of McKnight's.
We haven't heard anything from the Jets this week, and that's a good thing for Jets fans. One of the bigger concerns for Jets fans had to be their players being unoccupied by work for a week during their bye. They have a few major players -- Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes -- with track records of landing in hot water, and Jets head coach Rex Ryan gave his team the entire week off. Ryan is far more generous than most of his colleagues. Bills coach Chan Gailey, for instance, had his player practice through Friday afternoon of their bye week. The Jets are 5-1 and looking quite solid in their quest to make a Super Bowl run. The last thing they need is another off-field distraction.