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AFC East Report: Week 6

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The AFC East was in full blowout-mode this week – for better or for worse.

If the regular season ended today – which gladly it does not – the AFC East would send two teams to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Back then, the Patriots and Jets represented the division in the postseason and the two men who coached those teams, Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan, have their 2016 squads in the driver’s seat for the playoffs this year as well.

The Patriots, after blowing out the visiting Cincinnati Bengals 35-17, sit atop the AFC East and the conference rankings with a 5-1 record, followed by the Bills, who were able to extend their winning streak:

2. Buffalo Bills (4-2)

Week 6: win (45-16 against the San Francisco 49ers, in Orchard Park NY)

After starting the season 0-2, the Bills have rebounded quite nicely. In week 6, the team was able to celebrate its next victory – the fourth in a row – by blowing out the visiting San Francisco 49ers. The game did not start according to plan as Buffalo’s first offensive series ended on its own 30-yard line: Tyrod Taylor (17/26, 179 yds, 2 TDs) lost a fumble and the 49ers turned it into three points.

The team bounced back quickly, though, and took a 7-3 lead on its next possession when LeSean McCoy (19/140 yds, 3 TDs) scored his first touchdown of the day. Only four plays later, Buffalo was down again before McCoy’s second score put the Bills back ahead 14-10 on their very next drive. The teams exchanged field goals before heading into the locker rooms.

The second half did not start as entertaining as the first one ended. It took almost 13 minutes of game-time until the next points were scored on a touchdown pass from Taylor to wideout Justin Hunter (1/30 yds, 1 TD). The 49ers scored a field goal on their next possession but it was all Bills afterwards: on their next three possessions the team scored three touchdowns to win 45-16.

As the score indicates, it was a dominating effort by Buffalo. The team outgained its opponent in every major statistical category, be it yards gained (492 to 300), 3rd down conversions (61% to 23%) or red zone offense (4/4 to 0/2). Rex Ryan’s squad looked like a playoff contender against San Francisco in all three phases of the game. It will be interesting to see if the team can keep up that pace.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. Miami Dolphins (2-4)

Week 6: win (30-15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Miami Gardens FL)

Entering the game, the Steelers were the clear favorites to beat the Dolphins in South Florida. However, Miami played its most complete game of the year and was able to defeat one of the AFC’s powerhouses. The offense led by Ryan Tannehill (24/32, 252 yds) played efficient ball-control football, while the defense was opportunistic and registered two takeaways.

After forcing a Pittsburgh punt on the opening drive, the Dolphins took a 3-0 lead. However, they would not be ahead for long as the Steelers went up 8-3 after Miami’s defense gave up a 60-yard rushing touchdown and subsequent two-point pass. In the second quarter, the home team would re-gain momentum and the lead as it scored 13 unanswered points to head into halftime up 16-8.

Miami could have extended the lead but a 24-yard field goal attempt on the opening possession of the second half was blocked. The Steelers could not take advantage of the miss, however, as their next drive ended in Ben Roethlisberger’s (19/34, 189 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs) second pick of the day. Six plays later, the best player on the field – running back Jay Ajayi (25/204 yds, 2 TDs) – put the Dolphins ahead 23-8.

Late in the fourth quarter, the visitors made it a one-possession game again. However, on Miami’s very next offensive play Ajayi ran 62 yards to the endzone to put the proverbial nail in the coffin. Miami 30, Pittsburgh 15 – in a game not as close as the final score might indicate. After all, the Dolphins gained almost 200 more yards of offense (474 to 297), held the ball for 36:30 and out-performed their opponent on 3rd down and in the red zone.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. New York Jets (1-5)

Week 6: loss (28-3 against the Arizona Cardinals, in Glendale AZ)

The Jets’ Monday night contest in Arizona was one of the season’s ugliest games – partly because of the team’s inept performance, especially on offense, but mainly because of the fact that referee Jerome Boger’s crew destroyed any flow by throwing 23 penalty flags in 60 minutes of football. In short: it was tough to watch, not only for Jets fans. Their team, however, did nothing to make the night more entertaining.

New York struggled to move the ball on offense until the first drive of the second quarter, when the team had seven-play, 58-yard drive to score its only points of the night. However, at that point, the Jets were already down 7-3 and were unable to stop the Cardinals from scoring another touchdown prior to half.

Quarters three and four were more of the same: Arizona had time-consuming drives, New York had no answer. While the team’s defense did its best to contain the Cardinals’ potent offense and forced the opponent to drive methodically down the field – which it did and thus finished the day with 396 yards –, the unit was unable to make any momentum-swinging plays. In the meantime, the Jets’ offense was unable to make anything.

The unit finished with a mere 230 yards, 11 first downs and a 15% success-rate on 3rd down; the team’s two red zone trips ended with a field goal and an interception. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (16/31, 174 yds, 1 INT), just like the entire offense, was out of rhythm the entire night. The veteran was actually pulled after his third-quarter pick and replaced by Geno Smith (4/6, 31 yds, 1 INT), who did not fare any better – and who has been named the team’s starter for Sunday’s game against Baltimore.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.