Behind Enemy Lines: AFC East Week One Roundup Following the Divsion’s Undefeated Weekend
Week 1 is behind us, and man is it good to have football back. I laughed, I cried, and I needed a new pair of pants after Gronk’s third touchdown. And since you’ve gotten tired of reading articles about how the Dolphins definitely didn’t struggle just a little bit against what could be one of the worst teams in the league, let’s look at the rest of the AFC East. (Let’s be honest, the Redskins are still probably better than the Jets’ opponent).
New England Patriots:
Gronk is not human.
New York Jets:
WARNING: the Jets opponent this past Sunday was the Browns. Any celebration by Jets fans and any analysis of the game should take into account that the Browns are in fact still the Browns.
The Jets looked very good on Sunday (against the Browns). As expected, their defense swarmed the ball and suffocated the opposing offense (the Browns) and forced an impressive five turnovers. OK, so it may not have been that impressive given the team they were playing (the Browns), but this defense showed that offenses are going to have to fight tooth and nail for every yard. Especially if that offense is the Browns’.
The offense also played quite well on Sunday (against the Browns). Todd Bowles showed that, despite being dumb enough to coach the Jets in the first place, he’s quite intelligent, as the Jets ran the ball 36 times (as opposed to 16 attempted passes). Chris Ivory rumbled all over the opposing defense (which belonged to the Browns), and the running back corps as a whole rushed for an average 4.3 yards per carry (against the Browns). Ryan Fitzpatrick even played well (against the Browns), throwing two touchdowns on his way to a 31 – 10 victory (against the Browns).
Rookie linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin was taken to the locker room in the fourth quarter with a head/neck injury, and there has been no update on his condition. Antonio Cromartie left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury. Originally feared to be the dreaded ACL tear (the injury that haunts the dreams of NFL fans around the nation), Cromartie in fact only suffered a sprained knee and could be back as early as this Sunday.
I would like to say again—and I cannot emphasize this enough—everything I just reported happened against the Browns.
For those of you hoping I’d talk about Johnny Football, go home. JFF died in rehab, and Johnny Manziel isn’t worth talking about.
Remember when I told you guys last week that the Bills could slide into a wild card spot? People told me I was stupid (including my dad). But with a statement win over the Colts on Sunday, Rex Ryan showed that he’s still pretty good at this whole defense thing. The Colts looked distraught against the Bills on Sunday, and even Andrew Luck wasn’t enough to pump life into a stagnant Colts offense. Every time the Colts gained some kind of momentum, the Bills buckled down or forced a turnover. There was consistent pressure all day, and even when the Bills weren’t blitzing, Luck was forced to get the ball out of the pocket quickly. This is a scary defense that does scary things, and don’t be surprised when it’s the reason they’re in the playoffs this year (Dad I’m not an idiot).
Now let’s talk about the Bills offense. Don’t worry everyone, there is still plenty of room on board the Tyrod Taylor hype train. The Bills (wisely) didn’t ask him to do much, but when they did he delivered. He was 14 of 19 passing, and made plays with his legs when he needed to. However, like with all mobile quarterbacks, time will tell if Taylor can play on the merits of his arm alone. He could end up like Russel Wilson; a great passer in his own right, with his running ability as icing on the cake. Or he could end up like Colin Kaepernick (gulp).
LeSean McCoy looked less than stellar against the Colts, and that’s the one thing from Sunday that does not bode well for the Bills. The Colts have a shaky run defense to say the least, but Shady failed to grind out many yards on the ground. And the surprising thing is that it’s not the offensive line’s fault; this suspect group of lineman played rather well on Sunday. Shady’s biggest highlight against the Colts was the Chip Kelly rejects photo he organized, and let’s be honest, that was hilarious. But if McCoy figures out how to run behind this Bills offensive lines, I think the Bills have a shot to make the playoffs this year (Dad, I just want you to love me).
New England Patriots (for real this time):
Gronk is not human. I would dedicate an entire section to talking about him, but my editor was unfortunately against the idea.
All in all, Brady and company played very well in their home opener. Brady was immaculate (and perhaps a little pissed off?), throwing 25 of 32 for 288 yards and four touchdowns. At one point in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Brady had more touchdowns than incompletions. While the Steeler’s “don’t cover Gronk” strategy was certainly bold, it didn’t take long for Brady to find and exploit its one fatal flaw (hint: it involved throwing to Gronk).
The offensive line played well despite the absence of center Bryan Stork, and Dion Lewis was the back who got the starting nod during LeGarrette Blount’s absence. For those of you who have no idea who Dion Lewis is, don’t worry, because neither do I. I just know that he’s the reason James White got me 0 fantasy points. While the offense performed well, the Steelers defense is certainly nothing to write home about, and it’s unlikely many other teams will try and replicate the Steeler’s “don’t cover Gronk” strategy. The Patriots offense will get a far more serious test against the Bills this Sunday.
The defense was able to hold what many predicted would be the most prolific offense in the NFL to 11 points until the fourth quarter, which isn’t bad for a unit many are predicting to be the Achilles heel of the Patriots this year. The run defense was rather porous against a rushing attack headlined by DeAngelo Williams, but the Patriots were able bend without breaking, and the Steelers missed two early field goals following strong stops by the Patriots.
The Patriots are already looking to be in midseason form, which is a huge improvement from last year’s Week 1 loss against the Dolphins (which my editor refuses to stop talking about). While Brady and company haven’t quite been challenged yet, this Patriots team could be on track to repeat as AFC East champs yet again.
Also, Gronk is not human.