Four weeks in -- 2015 NFL season -- AFC East


New England (3-0)

Not much to say here. I did post a separate essay along with these week four reviews. (“Talk of Patriots going undefeated? Not in New England”)

The team looks good… playing well… one of the best in the NFL.

Here’s a big one though… in the next four games, the Patriots have the Cowboys, Colts, Jets and Dolphins. If they can run that stretch, things get really interesting. New England has a history of playing strong in November and December. If… and it’s a big if… if they get to 7-0, they will have cleared the first wave of games against each AFC East opponent (and have a two game lead in the division, since a win over the Jets would give each of the other teams in the division 2 or more losses), and they will have beaten the Steelers and Colts leaving just the Broncos as an opponent on the schedule where a head-to-head victory could matter in playoff seeding.

Still… don’t go getting all excited about perfection. There are still four games against AFC East teams… the Broncos and Giants as just two of the remaining opponents… and, even if they do get to the Super Bowl at 18-0, we’ve all seen what can happen in the final game before. It doesn’t count until they’ve all been won.

New York (3-1)

I’ll say this as simply as I can… Ryan Fitzpatrick comes with a shelf life. Unfortunately, he never has a sell by date that you can see.

Quick… don’t cheat… in his personal trophy room, how many uniforms of professional football teams has Fitzpatrick worn before placing a helmet in the display case at his home?

There’s a reason the man has played with St. Louis, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tennessee and Houston before joining the Jets. He’s been in the league since 2005, and has worn six different uniforms. That’s just less than two years per team. (and keep in mind… four years were spent with the Bills, so it’s quite fair to speculate that he doesn’t buy real estate often.)

If you check out his career stats, they don’t look hideous. Last time he threw more interceptions than touchdowns? 2008 with the Bengals. Last time he completed less than 60% of his passes? 2010, in year two with the Bills. And those career stats… not great, not hideous… hint at the larger problem. Because with so many teams looking for quarterbacks, and many sticking with quarterbacks that seem to be driving their organizations into a brick wall, and a few teams having struggles with open competitions that haven’t been settled even though we’re weeks into the season and none of the quarterback names on their roster have changed since before the summer… Hi there Washington fans! How’s it going Chicago fans? What’s new Houston fans?… if a guy with marginal stats was consistent, he’d probably be able to slide in as an unquestioned starter.

Fitzpatrick isn’t great. But I think we can classify his career stats as a bit better than marginal.

See that word though? Consistent. And at some point this year, Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to do what Ryan Fitzpatrick does. And that could be trouble, since there isn’t anyone else on the roster, available in trade or as a free agent, and there’s no one holding a magical ticket in some organizational sweepstakes that will allow a fan to take the field, that improves on Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The defense? Outstanding.

The offense? Could be the downfall.

Only thing I can say is this… Fitzpatrick may actually make the playoffs this time. He might. Because the defense is going to keep them in most games, and also allow the offense to get away with mediocre performances in a few games. In short… no one in New York is expecting Ryan Fitzpatrick to break scoreboards or set records. It might be nice to see what he can do without everyone pointing at him when things are going wrong.

Buffalo (2-2)

A few months ago, before the season started and it seemed like Tom Brady might be out for a few games, I thought there was a chance that the Buffalo Bills could take the AFC East.

I didn’t believe they would actually do it. I just thought there was a chance. If… big if… the Patriots slipped down into the range of 9 to 11 wins because of a slow start, the Bills were the team I thought were best prepared to potentially step into the opportunity.


Well… Matt Cassel for one. Yes, I know, his career looks eerily similar to Fitzpatrick. The Bills are his fourth team since joining the league in 2005. Heck… his completion percentage is worse than Fitzpatrick’s. But he looked good in 2008 with the Patriots and pretty darn good in 2010 with the Chiefs. And honestly, on a team with a ridiculously strong defense, plus Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy around him on offense, he seemed like a really great fit for the Bills… an experienced quarterback that would readily accept the responsibilities of playing a controlled approach that asked very little of him beyond managing the game.

And then there was that stellar defense. Strong pass rush. Likely one of the top defenses in the league.

So… yeah… I liked what was going on.

Then Cassel basically became the third quarterback on the team. The Patriots destroyed their defense (and honestly, destroyed the entire team), while the entire AFC East is cakewalking across the Colts (making that win a bit suspect). And here we are, the Bills have lost two games… both at home.

So… yeah… I’m scratching my head about the Bills today. 2-2 is not bad… talent is still there… but things don’t seem right. There’s something not connecting here.

Allow me to say this… watch the next three weeks. They play the Titans, Bengals, and Jaguars. The Jacksonville game is one of those lovely journey-to-London games, followed by their bye week. A smart guess is they go 2-1… maybe 3-0 (the Cincinnati game is at home, so there is a shot, but as I’ve noted home field isn’t something they’ve defended well this year). But if they are flying home from England with a losing record… well… all hell could break out. (In fact, after the bye week they play three straight division games, with two of them on the road. Want ugly? Try being 3-4, a home game against Miami followed by a Thursday night game on the road against New York, and then an extended break that comes with the Thursday game leading to the road for the Patriots.)

Remember what I said about Fitzpatrick? That the team is strong enough that expectations aren’t being piled on him? Well… Buffalo loudly and proudly welcomed expectations for this season. And if they begin to fall short, it might be a very painful fall.

Miami (1-3)

There’s not much to love about the Dolphins right now. They appear to be every bit of a mess.

And yet…


Ok… I don’t love the Dolphins. I look at their roster and it’s… just… ok.

Ryan Tannehill is a nice quarterback, but he’s equal parts good and not bad. You know… in general… nice. But he’s just as likely to turn in a performance that makes you want to sign him to a multi-year contract as he is to deliver a stinker that has you watching college games and plotting draft positioning to determine the chances of getting a quarterback of the future to replace him. Here… watch…

Tannehill against the Jaguars… 30 for 44, 359 yards, 2 touchdowns

Tannehill against the Bills… 26 for 49, 297 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions

Dolphins against the Jaguars and Bills… loss and loss

That’s Tannehill… and that’s the Dolphins.

You just don’t know what you’re going to get here. There’s enough talent to suggest a winning streak here and there, and yes I mean this very season. But there’s no structure, no organization, no plan in place. And that puts success at least a year or two away… and if it turns out that the Jets and Bills are improving (stay with me on that… after all, Buffalo could be just be growing pains under a new coaching staff), success for the Dolphins could be further away than that.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at