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AFC East Report: Week 8; Jets squeak out win, Rex Ryan concedes division

While the Patriots beat the Bills, the only other AFC East team playing on Sunday beat the Cleveland Browns.

The 2016 NFL regular season is halfway over and the AFC East looks as it has looked for the better parts of the last 20 years: with the New England Patriots on top. After beating the Buffalo Bills on the road 41-25, the Patriots now have a comfortable three-game lead in the division.

This led Bills head coach Rex Ryan to basically concede the AFC East on Sunday. After the game, Ryan said the following when asked about his team’s standing and chances at winning their first AFC East title since Bill Clinton’s first term in office.

I mean it's the halfway point, but I think in the division, I think it's unrealistic to think you're going to win your division when you just got beat by – how many games now are they up by? Three? Something like that, so I don't see that changing. [...]

I thought within winning the division you're pretty much shot if you really think we can really run the table and still win it. I don't think so. [...]

That team's three games up on us and I think at the halfway point they've lost one game. And No. 12 is back, so yeah, I don't see [the Bills winning the division] happening. I hope I'm wrong.

At 4-4, the Bills still have decent shot at reaching the postseason as they are currently the eighth seed. However, after two divisional losses in a row, the next few weeks loom large for Ryan’s team.

That being said, let’s turn our focus to the lone non-Patriots divisional game in this week’s AFC East Report.

2. Buffalo Bills (4-4)

Week 8: loss (41-25 against the New England Patriots, in Orchard Park NY)

Pats Pulpit is already in the process of analyzing this game:

Patriots vs Bills final score: Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady wreck Rex Ryan’s defense 41-25

8 instant observations from the Patriots 41-25 victory over the Bills

Week 8 Patriots vs Bills snap counts: LG Joe Thuney is the last 100% player for the Patriots

7 winners and 4 losers from the Patriots 41-25 win over the Bills

Patriots 41, Bills 25: Patriots avenge Week 4 loss with a thorough shellacking of the Bills

Salty Bills defenders think Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is overrated

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. Miami Dolphins (3-4)

Week 8: Bye

4. New York Jets (3-5)

Week 8: win (31-28 against the Cleveland Browns, in Cleveland OH)

For the second straight week, the New York Jets left the field as winners after beating the still winless Cleveland Browns 31-28 - despite the game not starting well for Todd Bowles’ team. It fell in an early 10-0 hole as the defense struggled to contain the Browns’ passing game while simultaneously being unable to consistently move the ball.

It was not until the third possession, early in the second quarter, that the Jets crossed midfield. The team took advantage of it’s first successful drive with a 35-yard Bilal Powell (6/76 yds, 1 TD) touchdown-run to cut the deficit to three points. However, the struggles continued for the visitors - especially in the passing game on both offense and defense. Consequently, the team gave up two more scores prior to halftime and entered the locker rooms down 20-7.

While the first half was a disappointment for the Jets, the second turned out to be one of the team’s best 30 minutes of football this season. On the very first drive, New York went 78 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 24-yard scoring pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick (16/34, 228 yds, 1 TD) to Quincy Enunwa (4/93 yds, 1 TD). The Jets would score two more touchdowns on their next two possessions - both runs by Matt Forte (25/82 yds, 2 TDs) - to take a 28-20 lead in the early fourth quarter.

Not only the offense found its rhythm in the second half, the defense did as well. The unit registered two interceptions in the final period (Marcus Gilchrist and Lorenzo Mauldin) leading to three points. The Jets’ defense also did not allow any points until giving up eight in the game’s final seconds. At that point, New York’s third win of the season was only one onside kick away. The team recovered and improved to 3-5 with a 31-28 victory.

While the first half was ugly from the Jets’ perspective, the second was quite successful. Overall, both teams were statistically equal; Cleveland had a slight advantage in yards (407-393), 3rd down percentage (50%-47%) and first downs (22-21), New York in time of possession (33:41-26:19; due in part to 171 rushing yards) and turnover differential (+2). In the end, the Jets made the plays when they needed to make them and were thus able to leave Ohio victorious.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.