The Patriots are back on top of the division, but can they sustain their command?
State of the Division
The New England Patriots were thought to go undefeated in their quest for another Super Bowl title. That dream ended in the season opener against the Chiefs. The Patriots defensive struggles had the team looking like a shell of itself, and whether or not Tom Brady could overcome the defensive shortcomings remains a cause for concern.
With the surging Buffalo Bills, the surprising Miami Dolphins and the “tanking” New York Jets all playing well, New England has been unable runaway with the division as they’ve been accustomed to doing in season’s past.
The Patriots are still the favorites to wear the AFC East crown, but it will not be as easy as predicted prior to the season. If New England’s defensive deficiencies continue to force Brady to play out-of-his-mind football, could a staggering Patriots team be knocked off their throne?
New England Patriots (4-2) – The Pats dropped two games to Kansas City and Carolina, but they could have lost two more. The Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and division rival Jets all could have beaten New England. The Texans were seconds away, the Bucs were a kicker away and the Jets were a controversial call away from trading L’s for W’s. The Patriots win against New Orleans is their only dominating victory this season. Nonetheless, a win is a win. Bill Belichick will find a way to stop the bleeding and Brady will continue to be the life-jacket keeping this team afloat. The next four games for New England are all winnable and can give the Patriots a sizable lead heading into three consecutive division games. At worst, the Patriots will split the next four games with both losses coming on the road.
Next four games: Atlanta, Los Angeles (Chargers), @Denver and @Oakland.
Buffalo Bills (3-2)– The Bills are in a better position than many anticipated after shipping pieces of their roster across the league in trades. With Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby and Stephen Gillmore (among others) wearing different uniforms, Buffalo has proven addition by subtraction can be beneficial. Tyrod Taylor has been playing well, throwing six touchdowns to just two interceptions on the year. Micah Hyde is having a sensational year in his first season circling the wagons. The former Green Bay Packer leads the league in interceptions and has been a welcomed addition to the new look Buffalo defense. The Bills face an ailing Jameis Winston, who tends to turnover the ball when healthy. Hyde could make it miserable for Winston and add to his pick total on the season. The Raiders looked like the Raiders-of-old in a win against the Chiefs. The Jets will be tough and Drew Brees’ Saints also field a team whose strength has been on the defensive side of the ball. The Bills next four games are winnable, but the gritty Buffalo Bills have to be the team that shows up and shows out.
Next four games: Tampa Bay, Oakland, @New York (Jets) and New Orleans.
New York Jets (3-3)– If this is what “tanking” looks like, someone needs to advise the Jets they are doing it wrong. New York looked like a one win team in the first two weeks of the season, but are now playing really good football. After being destroyed by Oakland, the Jets went on to win three straight. Granted, two of the wins were over the Dolphins and Browns. New York shocked Jacksonville in overtime and nearly knocked off New England. The Jets must continue to surprise and play us-against-the-world football. Even if they don’t make the post season, they can spoil other teams’ playoff chances.
Next four games: @Miami, Atlanta, Buffalo and @Tampa Bay.
Miami Dolphins (3-3)– The Dolphins are an interesting team. Looking lethargic in the first few games, Miami has managed to win the past two games over Tennessee and Atlanta. Both the Titans and Falcons are considered contenders, but both teams weren’t 100% and it showed. The Dolphins will have a chance to prove the last two weeks were Miami winning, not their opponents losing. If Miami loses today, they’ll be swept by the Jets in the division. The Ravens have been streaky. Oakland and New England could be games Miami won’t stand a chance in. It could be a rough four week stretch for Jay Cutler’s ‘Phins.
Next four games: New York (Jets), @Baltimore, Oakland and @New England.
Next Four Weeks Predicted Standings
The Buffalo Bills will give New England a run for their money. Ultimately, the division title will either stay in Foxborough or head to Buffalo. The Bills have to find a way to maintain their success and avoid losing games they should win. Neither the Bills nor the Patriots can afford digging themselves in a hole, but New England is more probably to find their way out of one if it comes down to that. Miami will not stay hot and will likely finish last in the AFC East. New York will continue to play tough, slug-fest football, but whether or not the Jets can pile up wins is uncertain. Expect New England to stay atop the AFC East, but the Bills won’t be too far behind.
New England – 7-3
Buffalo – 6-3
New York- 4-6