(CBS Boston) — The New England Patriots have owned the AFC East for the last two decades. The run basically coincides with the arrival of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. With Brady now in Tampa, Belichick and the Patriots are 2-4 and in search of an identity. The Buffalo Bills, at 5-3, have found theirs. And the 3-3 Miami Dolphins will take another step this week, when Tua Tagovailoa makes his first start. Unfortunately, it’s also clear who the winless New York Jets are; that identity is unlikely to change this week.
CBS Boston sports reporter Levan Reid looks at an interesting week in the AFC East, with the Patriots in Buffalo, the Jets in Kansas City and the Dolphins hosting the Rams.
All times listed are Eastern.
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills, Sunday, November 1 @ 1:00 (CBS)
Knowing what Belichick has pulled off over the years, it’s hard to rule out the Patriots just yet. But it’s been a tough season so far under new starting quarterback, Cam Newton. (Meanwhile, Tom Brady was just named NFC Offensive Player Of The Month.) Newton’s play has been a little uneven, and he may not have the weapons around him for that to change.
“[The Patriots] can win this game, but I don’t think they will,” says Reid. “I think they’re in a spot now where they’re trying to find themselves. The one thing with covering the Pats is we’re trying to figure out what they do well. And right now, they don’t do anything well. Whether it be offensively, they can’t run the ball extremely well, they can’t pass the ball. And defensively, they’re having trouble stopping the run.”
The Patriots find themselves underdogs for the first time in the last 30 divisional games. Can Belichick get this team on track? New England’s defense has had success slowing Allen the last couple of years. It will be tough against a Bills team that sits atop the division and has been waiting seemingly forever for this moment.
“The Bills, going into this game, know they have Josh Allen,” Reid points out. “They have the better defense. They have the better rushing attack. They’re explosive on both sides of the ball. They should take care of their business at home. If you’re trying to make sure that the Patriots don’t go any further, this is the time…”
New York Jets @ Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, November 1 @ 1:00 (CBS)
The Jets are the worst team in the NFL and the only winless team. It’s hard to see them getting their first win against the defending Super Bowl Champions. Reid doesn’t think it’s likely either. “Is Kansas City not going to show up? If Kansas City doesn’t show up, there’s a good possibility. That means physically don’t show up, like nobody comes to the stadium to play.”
The Jets have shortcomings all over the field. And those shortcomings don’t match up well with the Chiefs’ strengths. Sam Darnold, leading the NFL’s worst passing attack, will have to throw against one of NFL’s best pass defenses. The Jets’ underwhelming pass defense is charged with slowing Patrick Mahomes. Other circumstances also don’t line up in the Jets’ favor.
“The Jets are in a spot, because Kansas City is all of the sudden being overlooked,” notes Reid. “Everybody’s talking about Tennessee. Everybody’s talking about Pittsburgh. And I’m sure Kansas City’s like ‘by the way, we hold the title. And maybe the best player in the game. And nobody seems to be talking about us.'”
The Chiefs also bolstered their rushing attack with a former Jet who may just hold a grudge. Le’Veon Bell is a few years removed from his productive seasons in Pittsburgh. But he probably has some gas left in the tank. According to Reid, “expect Le’Veon Bell to have a game we haven’t seen him have in a couple years, because he’s going to do it against his ex-team.”
Los Angeles Rams @ Miami Dolphins, Sunday, November 1 @ 1:00 (FOX)
Ryan Fitzpatrick had been having a solid season for the Dolphins so far. But it was clear from the moment Tagovailoa was drafted that his days as a starter were numbered.
Tagovailoa draws a tough matchup against the solid Los Angeles Rams pass defense. The Rams are allowing just 212.4 passing yards per game. That can be credited, in part, to the play of Aaron Donald, who already has eight sacks. As Reid points out, “if you were Tua, wouldn’t you say to coach Flores, ‘can we wait a week’? Because they have this guy Aaron Donald…’
The Rams run defense could pose problems for a Dolphins rushing attack that hasn’t done much this season. Not being able to rely on the run adds a little more weight to Tua’s shoulders. Still, head coach Brian Flores thinks he’s ready. As Reid sees it, “if you talk about the coaching job that has been done, if you look at the end of last season to the beginning of this season, Brian Flores has done a wonderful job. At the same time, maybe in my heart, he should’ve waited a couple of weeks to start Tua. Maybe he saw something I didn’t see.”
The Rams have jumped out to a quiet 5-2 record. And Sean McVay’s team is only a couple years from a Super Bowl appearance. They’ll have a difficult time returning out of a very strong NFC West.
Reid thinks they’ll also have a difficult time coming out of Miami with a win. “I expect the Miami Dolphins to win this game. I expect them to play well. They have a week off to prepare. And they can bring a good amount of defense. They understand how to handle Jared Goff, totally because of Brian Flores and his days with the Patriots. Keep this game kind of tight to the vest. Slow down Aaron Donald, and by that I mean run away from him. Run completely away from him. But I expect the Miami Dolphins to win this game.”