Pats in Trouble? AFC East Assessment After Week 4

Every four weeks (or quarter of a season if you will) I'll be taking a look at each team in the AFC East and pointing out strong points, cause for concern, I'll be ranking the teams, basically giving you the low down on what to expect from these teams in the next 4 weeks. My primary focus will be the Patriots, so expect a lot more on them than the other teams. It is however useful to know how they're doing as well. For example, is Tannehill really that good? Is Welker being phased out of the offense? Are the bipolar Bills an actual threat? TEBOW TEBOW TEBOW?! All of your questions... well some of them... are answered.

Team: New England Patriots Record: 2-2 Rank: 1

>> I've seen a ton of Patriots fans panic about the record. Rest assured, we are still among the elite teams in the NFL. What some fail to recognize is that we could easily be 4-0. A phantom holding call, and a questionable field goal call. Take those away and we're undefeated.

>> The Pats still have the best quarterback in the division, and a top QB in the NFL- a future first ballot hall of famer. Looking at ESPN's Total QBR statistic, there is an extremely obvious direct correlation between QBR and the outcome of the game that week. For example, in the top 30 performances by quarterbacks this year in terms of QBR, 26 resulted in wins for their teams. The other four games were decided by differences of 1, 3, 3, and 16 points. Numbers don't lie, and when you have a quarterback that puts up high Total QBR stats you're going to win games.

>> Offensively we have the potential to be the best in the NFL. We have two of the top 3 tight ends on our team. With Aaron Hernandez returning from an ankle sprain soon, the Pats will immediately improve. Wes Welker has more receptions than any other player since he's been on the Patriots. Brandon Lloyd has become a new favorite target for Tom Brady. Oh and Wes Welker? Is going no where. He is an integral part of that offense. Expect him to stick around for a while. Basically one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL has one of the best receiving corps in the NFL to throw to, an easy recipe for success.

>> Our running game was amazing against Buffalo, and looks to improve in the near future. With Hernandez back, teams will most likely have to stay in sub packages to defend the pass. This opens up more running lanes for Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen (whenever he's healthy).

>> Defensively only Chandler Jones is generating a pass rush really, which is a huge cause for concern. But he and Dont'a Hightower, our two rookie first round picks, have both played very well in their first four weeks. Hightower went out of the Buffalo game in the first quarter with an injury, and did not return, but has been spotted on the practice field this week, and indication that he'll most likely play on Sunday against the Broncos.

>> Everything else defensively has been rough. New England has benefitted from being a team that consistently has a high number of takeaways. For example, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 4 picks against the Pats. He played terribly right? Wrong. Take a look at his stats, and you'll see that he picked the defense apart. If you take away those 4 plays, he was 28 of 48 for 350 and 4 touchdowns. Scary good. We can't continue to allow play like that.

>> New England lost two close games, ones that they'd normally pull out. Arizona flat out outplayed the Pats, but we were still in position to win. And then Gostkowski boggles my mind and misses a chip shot. Against the Ravens, the Pats got out to a lead, and squandered it away. Tom Brady made his legacy by getting games close enough to be won by a field goal. From the good ol' Tuck Rule Game, to a Super Bowl win or two (we all know who Adam Vinatieri is) Brady has always put his team in a postition to win. And Steven Gostkowski didn't capitalize against the Ravens.

Predictions for the next 4 games:
Denver: W 38-21
Seahawks: W 35-33
Jets: W 42-6
Rams: W 21-14

Record: 6-2

Team: Buffalo Bills Record: 2-2 Rank: 2

>> That's right, the Bills are ranked second in the AFC East. Santonio Holmes and Darelle Revis are out for the season for the Jets, meaning that they officially are terrible. Their only hope is to put in Tim Tebow, but I'll talk about that in their section. The Bills offense has been nothing short of spectacular in my opinion. Running back CJ Spiller is having a breakout year, and Freddy Jackson looks to do well too. But they've both suffered injuries, and based on the game against the Patriots, neither is at 100%. Essentially, they need to produce for the offense to be at its best.

>> The Bills will win and lose by Ryan Fitzpatrick. It seems obvious, but their team is 2-0 when Fitzy doesn't throw a pick, and 0-2 when he does. His performances in their wins is a completely different quarterback than when they lose. If the Bills want to contend for a playoff spot, they'll need to have consistent play from their signal-caller.

>> Where is Mario Williams? Super Mario isn't giving the Bills the production that they had hoped for, and after making him the highest paid defensive player in history, the Bills really are expecting more out of Super Mario. The defense on the whole could be playing a lot better, allowing 100 total points in 2 games against division opponents (48 to Jets, 52 to Patriots) If you can tell me anything about their pass rush, you're lying; it's non existent. Blown coverages, miscommunication. It's rough in Orchard Park.

>> Still look at Buffalo for a wild card spot. I've said many times, this is the year that the Bills break their playoff drought. I'd be willing to bet my first born son (luckily I have no children to wager) that the Bills make the playoffs. Keep an eye out on health, and consistency on the offensive side of the ball, to see whether the Bills wind up 7-9 or 10-6 in the playoffs.

Predictions for the next 4 games:
49ers: L 14-31
Cardinals: W 35-7
Titans: W 21:18
Texans: W 38-28

Record: 5-3

Team: Miami Dolphins Record: 1-3 Rank: 3

>> The Dolphins being ranked here really has nothing to do with them, but rather with Jets injuries. They've got the worst record in the AFC East, and I don't see that changing too much. They will surpass NY though. The Dolphins are certainly a lower tier team in the National Football League, and it doesn't make much sense to be honest. They have a top 5 defense on paper, and a solid every down back who, until it was vacated, won the Heisman Memorial Trophy. One of the best left tackles in pro football, and a young stud in Ryan Tannehill, and you'd think they would be a decent team. Well, here's my first point.

>> They don't have wide receivers. Brian Hartline is leading the NFL in receiving yards. Don't rush to put him on your fantasy team. Opposing defenses will double team Hartline, and he will become a non-factor for the Fish. All of their other receivers lack the talent to demand a double team, and can be easily shut down in man coverage. Don't expect them to enjoy much success this year.

>> What's the defense doing exactly? Their letting up an average of 22.5 points per game, which as most of us know, isn't exactly a stout defensive effort. No rookie quarterback is going to be able to carry their team to 23 points week in and week out. Sorry Fins, you need to step it up.

>> Lastly, the Dolphins could really use some draft help. They took Tannehill in the first round, and didn't really get him any help at the WR position. They took B.J. Cunningham (Michigan State) and Rishard Matthews (Nevada) neither of whom has downfield speed. The faster of the two (Cunningham) only ran a 4.59 40 yard dash.

Predictions for the next 4 games:

Bengals: L 35-9
Rams: L 28-21
Jets: W 30-13
Colts: W 28-27

Record: 3-5

Team: New York Jets Record: 2-2 Rank: 4

>>That's right, the Jets are dead last. They might not have been, but with the news of Santonio Holmes being out for the year, I'd say the Jets should lose hope. That's their second best key starter gone. Darelle Revis is the best player on the football team, and he's gone too. So now the Jets have no number 1 receiver (and Holmes is more of a number 2 to begin with) to go with mediocre play from the league's worst starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. Yikes.

>> Ground and pound isn't working. If you traded for Tebow, use him. Don't worry about your little baby quarterback's feelings, and whether or not he'll throw a hissy fit if Tim Tebow gets reps in the game, Tebow gives you a better chance to win than Sanchez does. Bench Sanchez now, and Tebow can pull out some wins, but if not, get ready for a long season Rex Ryan.

>> Also, Rex didn't make a Super Bowl guarantee, but not putting Revis on IR "in case he can play in the Super Bowl" is probably even stupider. Win some games, then talk Super Bowl.

>> I won't even go into detail on the Jets just because of how much they frustrate me. Thanks for reading folks.

Predictions for the next 4 games:

Texans: L 45-10
Colts: L 31-7
Patriots: L 42-6
Dolphins: L 30-13

Record: 2-6