Nov 3, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter (2) kicks a field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs as punter Brian Moorman (8) holds for him during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Chiefs beat the Bills 23-13. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
After 9 weeks of the NFL, the AFC East has been one of the most intriguing divisions in the NFL this season, with top stories ranging from Aaron Hernandez, Mark Sanchez, and, most recently, Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. News aside, on the field all four teams have been an enigma in each team’s own way. In case you missed part 1, which covered the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, it can be read here. As of now here are the current standings in the AFC East.
MIAMI DOLPHINS: 4-4
This offseason, the Miami Dolphins splurged in free agency, signing big name stars such as Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, and Brent Grimes. Clearly, the Dolphins were ready for business coming into this year, although so far the season hasn’t gone exactly as they had hoped. After starting the season 3-0, Miami went on a 4 game losing streak, including two untimely divisional losses to the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. The Dolphins rebounded last Thursday with an impressive overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals, although it will require a lot for Miami to get back into the playoff chase. Luckily, 2nd year quarterback Ryan Tannehill is finally getting comfortable with the NFL. He now has 2 300+ yard games this year, including a 319 yard, 1 TD game in an impressive 24-20 victory over the Colts in week 2. Although Tannehill has struggled at times, he finally looks like a playoff caliber quarterback.
Another factor in the Dolphin’s playoff chances is Lamar Miller, who many believed would be a phenomenal running back this year. However, an abysmal start to the season has delayed his emergence in the NFL as a top RB. Lamar Miller has only ran for 100+ yards once this year, and that was in his most recent game against the Bengals. Fortunately, Miller has played extremely well recently, rushing for 89 and 105 yards in his last two games. If Miller continues to keep his production at a high level, than the Dolphins should be able to function much better as an offense in the remaining weeks. However, the Dolphins have lost two bad games to the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills, two games that they should not have lost. Miami may very well be 6-2 right now, and those two devastating losses may come back to hurt them.
In a 26-23 loss against Baltimore, Tannehill and the Dolphins were driving down the field until a costly sack and an incompletion forced them to attempt a 57 yard field goal, which Sturgis missed. In the Buffalo loss, Miami had the lead with less than 4 minutes to go when Tannehill was sacked and fumbled the ball. Buffalo recovered the fumble, which set them up for the go-ahead field goal to win the game 23-21. However, the Dolphins should have a much easier schedule coming up. The combined winning percentage of their remaining opponents is .455%, while their previous opponents have a .544 winning percentage. The Dolphins have begun to click, and if they can move past the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito dilemma they will have a great chance at making the playoffs.
PROJECTED RECORD: 9-7
Out of all the teams in the AFC East, the Bills are the only one with a losing record. Buffalo has been plagued with injury all year. Their first round draft pick, E.J. Manuel, has been out since suffering a knee injury in week 5 against the Browns, but that is nowhere near all of their problems. RB C.J. Spiller, WR Stevie Johnson, WR Marquise Goodwin, DB Jairus Byrd, and DB Stephen Gilmore have all missed time this year, and in Gilmore’s case he is out for the remainder of the year. Due to their abysmal 3-6 record, it seems unlikely that the Bills will reach the playoffs. However, with E.J. Manuel likely coming back from injury this week, the rest of the season will be an opportunity for the Bills’ administration to see what E.J. Manuel can bring to the table for the future of the organization.
There is no doubt that the Bills have talent on their roster. This year, several rookies have stepped up and will likely be the future of the franchise, and these players include QB E.J. Manuel, WR Robert Woods, WR/KR Marquise Goodwin, LB Kiko Alonso, DB Nickel Robey, and K Dustin Hopkins. All of these rookies have shown great potential, and can lead to great success in the future for the Buffalo Bills. Also, the Bills have great veterans on the team, including the dynamic running back duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, DE Mario Williams, and TE Scott Chandler.
With all this talent on the team, one has to wonder why the Bills are only 3-6. The Bills are also 3rd in the NFL in both interceptions and sacks, and 7th in rushing yards per game. The biggest problem for the Bills is their defense, because even though they have racked up plenty interceptions and sacks, they have allowed a ton of yardage and points. Also, Buffalo has turned the ball over 16 times, which is tied for the 9th worst in the NFL. However, the main cause for their lack of success is there disastrous play inside the 20 yard line. The Bills have the 31st best red-zone touchdown percentage in the NFL, which is only better than the Jaguars. The Bills score touchdowns in only 42.31% of their red-zone opportunities, and if they plan on finding success in the future they need to start playing better in the red-zone.
PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10
This sums up the AFC East mid-season reports, and here are the projected standings for the AFC East:
The Patriots will likely win the division, but the bigger surprise is that both the Jets and the Dolphins have a feasible chance at achieving the 6th Wild Card spot, as long as the Chargers/Browns/Ravens do not go on a crazy winning streak.