Three weeks ago, this publication and many others jumped the gun. The idea was that the AFC East was ready to finally again be a beast of a division for the first time since Marino, Kelly and Bledsoe were marquee names in pro football. The Bills, Jets, Dolphins and Patriots were all winners in Week 1. Since that time, however, the Bills have lost a pair of games at home, the Dolphins have lost three in a row (including a loss to Jacksonville) and the Jets lost to arguably the worst team in the league (the Eagles) at home.
The division looks as though it’s going to go the exact same way it has for the majority of this century. The Patriots are going to coast to a division crown.
Based on record alone, the 3-1 Jets are the Pats’ main threat. Of course, you can only play the teams that are on your schedule, but New York hasn’t looked like a team capable of hanging with the Pats in any of its four games this season. In Week 1, they beat the Browns at home (who doesn’t do that?). In Week 2 they beat the Colts in Indy (the Colts are 2-2 and had to scrape and claw to beat both the Titans and Jags the past two weeks). The Jets lost at home to the hapless Eagles (who lost to Washington Sunday) and their win over the Dolphins in London was “ho-hum.”
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The Patriots typically feast on so-so quarterbacks and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the definition of “so-so” in 2015. He has a passer rating of 76.5 so far this season and has thrown at least one interception in every game so far. His passing yardage high this season is 283 and that was a game in which he threw the ball 58 times (completing just 35 of them in the loss to Philly).
As recently as Sunday morning, the Bills were thought to be major competition for the Pats in not only the division but in the race for the Lamar Hunt Trophy. But Sunday’s loss to the previously uninspired Giants exposed Rex Ryan’s bunch. The Bills racked up 135 penalty yardage and did not score a touchdown until the fourth quarter in a 24-10 home loss.
The Dolphins? They’re done. So much so that head coach Joe Philbin had a “meeting” with owner Stephen Ross following Sunday’s 27-14 loss at Wembley Stadium to the Jets and had his job security openly questioned by the media afterwards.
So the Patriots sat back on Sunday and watched their primary rivals do what they’ve done for the better part of the past 15 years – play like also-rans.