Much to the chagrin of football fans outside of New England – who infamously fail miserably in their feeble attempts to discredit the success of the New England Patriots by disparaging the division in which the Patriots play – every team in the AFC East won their week one NFL games. From what we saw Sunday the division is filled with strong defenses that will enable all three of the Patriots rivals to be very competitive every week this season.
It started of course on Thursday night when the Patriots defeated the defending AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh was thoroughly out-coached and their secondary was scorched time and time again by Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. The Steelers were able to move the ball between the 20’s, but there was an immense disparity between the two teams once they got into scoring position. The Pats scored four touchdowns while Pittsburgh was settling for (and as often as not, not succeeding) on field goal attempts. New England was far better prepared with the outcome – the Pats were up 28-14 before a meaningless (except to bettors) touchdown with two seconds remaining – a result of playing far smarter football.
During the off-season Andrew Luck has been propped up to be the best quarterback in the NFL (thanks, fantasy football) while the Colts have been marketed as team most likely to be AFC Champions – as opposed to AFC Finalists – and possibly Super Bowl champions this year.
Indy did nothing to address the issues that plagued them last year – i.e., a horrible defense that can’t cover, can’t generate a pass rush, is atrocious against the run, and an offensive line that is average at best. The World Wide Leader spent a lot of time on a pre-game fluff piece promoting Luck, and then he went and threw a whopping 23 incomplete passes to go with a pair of picks Sunday. Buffalo went up 24-0 before Luck kept fantasy football owners happy with a pair of second half touchdowns.
The Bills rushed for 147 yards on the ground, but interestingly new RB LeSean McCoy – who did have 46 yards on three receptions – ran for only 41 yards, and 2.4 yards per carry. Tyrod Taylor surprised many by winning the job as starting quarterback out of training camp, and the early returns on that decision are quite favorable. Taylor went 14-19 for 195 yards and a touchdown, and added another 41 yards (including a 31-yard scamper) on the ground. Taylor was a perfect 5-5 on passes to Percy Harvin, including a beautiful 51-yard hookup for a touchdown late in the first quarter. That came just a few plays after rookie corner Ronald Darby made a nice play to pick off an Andrew Luck pass intended for T. Y. Hilton.
We will soon get to see if the Bills and Taylor are truly all that, or if they were the beneficiary of an abysmal Indianapolis defense; Buffalo hosts the Patriots next Sunday.
The Miami Dolphins made some major improvements in the off-season, and some were going so far as to say that they would overtake the Patriots this year to win the division. While I am thinking that they may be good enough to make the playoffs, similar to the Colts – after the albeit way too small sample size of one game – we may need to pump the brakes a bit on this team’s hype as well.
On Sunday the Dolphins were scheduled on the most dysfunctional team in the league, one that many are predicting to be the worst in the NFL in 2015. Granted the ‘Fins were on the road to play Washington, but considering the consensus outlook for these two clubs, it should have been an easy W for Miami. The Dolphins fell behind 10-0 early, but finally came back to tie the game early in the 4th quarter. Then with just over ten minutes remaining in the game WR Jarvis returned a punt 69 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Miami’s defense struggled against the run (Alfred Morris averaged 4.8 yards per carry and the Skins rushed for 161 yards), but they did pick off two Kirk Cousins passes to thwart scoring drives – including a pick by Brice McCain on the two-yard line on the Skins drive following Landry’s touchdown. Ndamukong Suh and Ryan Tannehill were not much of a factor on impact plays, but the Dolphins did find a way to walk away with a road victory. The only noticeable play by Suh was one in which he knocked off Morris’ helmet after tackling the Washington running back,
Next up for Miami is a road trip up I-95 north to Jacksonville, followed by their home opener in week three against Buffalo.
Todd Bowles made his debut as head coach of the Jets and New York shutout Cleveland 17-0 in the second half to give Bowles a 31-10 victory. The Jets rushed for 154 yards with Chris Ivory running for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, and Bilal Powell adding another 62 yards on just twelve rushes. Brandon Marshall had a touchdown and caught six of the nine passes thrown his way by Ryan Fitzpatrick, and made a really nice football play early when the outcome was still in doubt. Fitzpatrick (15-24, 170 yards, two touchdowns, one interception). With the Browns up 7-0, Fitzpatrick was picked off on a pass intended for Marshall by Cleveland free safety Tashaun Gipson. The Pro Bowl defensive back took a step to run back the pick, but Marshall stripped Gipson of the ball and recovered the fumble as it rolled towards the end zone. That gave the Jets a first and goal at the nine, and Ivory scored on a ten yard run two plays later to tie the game.
That was the turning point as the Jets dominated from that point on. New York forced five Cleveland turnovers, including three by Johnny Manziel. After Josh McCown was injured late in the first quarter Manziel came in at quarterback for Cleveland. It was a game Manziel would rather forget as he turned the ball over three times (two fumbles, one pick) and went a pedestrian 13-24 for 182 yards.
The Jets travel to Indy to play the Colts next Sunday night, and then return for three home games (Philly, Miami, Washington) before traveling to Foxboro to play the Patriots in week seven.
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Tags: 2015 NFL Season AFC AFC East Buffalo Bills Miami Dolphins New York Jets NFL