After two weeks, the picture in the AFC East is already taking shape.
We can now see which teams have the most work to do in order to remain relevant this year and which ones are looking like they could be serious playoff contenders.
New England Patriots 1–1:
In Week 1, the Patriots defense held the Miami Dolphins to a league-low 11 points. Their offense also imposed their will on Miami with an unstoppable ground game.
This week, New England knew that the same game-plan would not be successful against the Seattle Seahawks. That’s because the Dolphins are still trying to find out who they are and the Seahawks are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
The Patriots fell in a 35-30 nailbiter to the Seahawks. The game came down to the last play with the Seahawks stopping Cam Newton short of the goal line with time expiring.
The Patriots showed that they can move the ball through the air whenever they want. They looked good against Seattle and the rest of the AFC East should take notice.
Julien Edelman had a career outing with eight receptions for 179 yards. And Newton threw for 397 yards while rushing for another 47 yards. The Seahawks were a good measuring stick and if the Patriots continue to build on this, they could be marching to yet another AFC East title.
Next up for the Patriots:
The Patriots return to Foxboro to take on the Las Vegas Raiders. This is a critical early-season AFC matchup. For as good a Patriots look, a loss could put them under 500. More importantly, they could find themselves losing more ground to the Bills and on the wrong end of playoff tie-break scenarios.
Jon Gruden has rebuilt the 2-0 Raiders into a contender. The Raiders opened their new stadium in Las Vegas with a win against the New Orleans Saints. The Raiders’ tight end Will Fuller was unstoppable against the Saints.
But so far, No opponent has been able to take advantage of the Patriot’s departures on defense. These Raiders are legit and might be the first to do so. Josh Jacobs, Derek Carr and the aforementioned Fuller are a handful.
As good as New England has looked so far, they will need to elevate to another level against the Raiders or they could be starting the season 1-2.
Buffalo Bills 2–0:
The Buffalo Bills are making everyone that said that this was their year look very smart so far. Yes, the Bills beat the dysfunctional New York Jets and rebuilding Dolphins. However, you can’t fault them for the schedule. The Bills have to go out and win these types of games.
The exciting thing for Buffalo so far is the play of Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Allen followed up a 300-yard performance against the Jets with a 400-yard performance against the Dolphins. And Diggs torched the Dolphins with 153 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills are now in the driver’s seat in the AFC East. It’ll be interesting to see if they maintain control as the competition stiffens.
Next up for the Bills:
Speaking of stiffer competition, the Bills will get their first true test of the season this week as they go up against the Los Angeles Rams. This is a home game for the Bills but not exactly an advantage. The home-field advantage for the Bills is fueled by frigid winter temps and a raucous crowd. Neither of which will be factors this Sunday.
Furthermore, Sean McVay is an excellent coach and prepares his team well for cross country matchups. In fact, he’s 5-0 with the Rams when playing in 1 p.m. ET games, which includes last week’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
A loss for the Bills in this game won’t be devastating. However, the outcome of this game would be a good indication of if Buffalo are serious contenders or not.
New York Jets 0–2:
For the second time in his head coaching career, Adam Gase finds himself on the hot seat. The Jets did lose some key players in the offseason and they also lost some to injury during the season. Nevertheless, the Jets currently look like the worst team in the NFL.
To make matters worse, Gase’s calling card was supposed to be his ability to develop quarterbacks. That wasn’t evident when he worked with Ryan Tannehill. And Sam Darnold isn’t looking good either.
New York was not favored in this week’s matchup against San Francisco, but the game wasn’t even competitive in the 31-13 loss, despite the 49ers losing a lot of key players to injuries.
Next up for the Jets:
It’s possible that the Jets are just getting off to a slow start. The schedule makers also didn’t do them any favors by giving them two of the better defensive teams in the league to start the season.
This week we’ll learn who the Jets really are. The Jets will take on the 1-1 Indianapolis Colts who are coming off a big win against the Minnesota Vikings. The Jets are on the brink of an 0-3 start. And a loss here could end their season in a competitive AFC before it ever had a chance to get started.
Miami Dolphins 0–2:
Miami’s offense struggled against New England in Week 1, and the defense was also unable to stop the run. But Miami’s secondary was not tested against the Patriots.
Buffalo’s wide receiver core is a strength and the Week 2 matchup was supposed to be strength versus strength, as Miami’s secondary was projected to be one of the best.
Byron Jones going down with an injury on Buffalo’s first drive definitely impacted the game. The Dolphins weren’t able to make adjustments to compensate for the loss of Jones. Allen went on to have the best game of his career, throwing for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Injuries are a part of the game. And Miami also exploited the Bills by heavily using Mike Gesicki as Buffalo was thin at linebacker. Gesicki responded with a career game of his own with 130 receiving yards.
In a game where the Bills were heavy favorites, Miami should be encouraged for keeping this one close despite a poor showing on defense.
Miami also was very close to pulling off the upset if not for some missed opportunities like the Preston Williams drop in the end zone.
Next up for the Dolphins:
No one likes starting out 0-2, yet for the second consecutive year that’s where the Dolphins find themselves. Miami has a quick turnaround as they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night.
Before the season, this looked like an easy win for the Dolphins. The 1-1 Jaguars parted ways with their best players on offense and defense, as Yannick Ngakoue, Jalen Ramsey, and Leonard Fournette are all suiting up for other teams.
Powered by ‘Minshew Mania’ the Jaguars so far have looked like the better team.
Jacksonville beat the Colts in Week 1 and came up one drive short of beating the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. The same Titans that were one game away from the Super Bowl last season. Gardiner Minshew has thrown for three touchdowns in both games this season.
Miami has to quickly figure out how to fix what ails their defense or they could be looking at an 0-3 record and competing with the Jets for the title of worst team in the league.