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AFC East Report Week 3: Bills pull off an upset, Jets lose to the Browns

Let’s take a look around the division.

Buffalo Bills v Minnesota Vikings

We are three weeks into the 2018 NFL season and the AFC East has been relatively disappointing so far: three teams have losing records, while a surprising 3-0 division leader has emerged. Let’s dig a bit deeper to how we got to this point in this week’s installment of the AFC East Report:

1. Miami Dolphins (3-0)

Week 3: 28-20 win against the Oakland Raiders, in Miami Gardens FL

The Miami Dolphins stay in the AFC East’s driver’s seat thanks to their best start since the 2013 season: the team was able to defeat the visiting Oakland Raiders 28-20 in a hard-fought game that ultimately saw the home team lose the battle in nearly every statistical category but limit its own mistakes. Therefore, Miami heads into its enormous week four meeting with the New England Patriots a perfect 3-0.

The contest against Oakland started badly for Adam Gase’s squad: the Raiders drove 75 yards in a mere four plays to take a 7-0 lead with under two minutes off the clock. The Dolphins were unable to respond and after a three-and-out allowed the visiting team to again drive into scoring range. However, the defense was able to come up with a 4th-down-stop at the 1-yard line.

As the offense kept searching for its rhythm, the defense made another big play when cornerback Xavien Howard (1 TKL, 2 INTs) picked off Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (27/39, 345 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs). While Miami was unable to capitalize on the takeaway, the team was slowly shifting the field position battle in its favor and ultimately scored a game-tying touchdown on a 35-yard drive capped by a pass from Ryan Tannehill (17/23, 289 yds, 3 TDs) to Kenny Stills (3/61 yds, 1 TD).

Oakland responded with two straight scoring drives to go up 17-7 late in the third quarter, but Miami was able to fought back: a pass from Tannehill to Jakeem Grant (2/70 yds, 2 TDs) brought the team within three points, before a trick play pass from wideout Albert Wilson (2/74 yds, 1 TD) to Grant gave the Dolphins their first lead of the day on a 52-yard catch-and-run. Miami was far from done, though.

Only two plays after another interception by Howard, the Dolphins scored on a 74-yard connection between Tannehill and Wilson to go up 28-17. While Oakland was able to add another field goal, it was too little too late.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

t-2. Buffalo Bills (1-2)

Week 3: 27-6 win against the Minnesota Vikings, in Minneapolis MN

The winless Buffalo Bills were 17-point underdogs going into their week three meeting on the road against the previously undefeated Minnesota Vikings. However, the team showed that it was far from the squad bookmakers made it out to be by dominating last year’s NFC finalists 27-6. Buffalo’s first win of the season was a complete effort in all three phases of the game.

Buffalo started the game very well. After receiving the opening kickoff, the team drove 75 yards in nine plays, with the final of which a 10-yard scramble into the end zone by rookie quarterback Josh Allen (15/22, 196 yds, 1 TD). Only three plays later, the Bills’ defense made a big play when Trent Murphy (2 TKLs, 1.0 SK, 1 FF) sacked Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (40/55, 296, 1 TD, 1 INT) to force a fumble that was recovered by Lorenzo Alexander (1 TKL, 1 FR).

Four plays after the takeaway, the Bills went up 10-0. Three plays after the field goal, the defense forced another turnover when Jerry Hughes (1 TKLS, 1.0 SK, 1 FF) registered a sack-fumble that was picked up by linebacker Matt Milano (8 TKLS, 1.0 SK, 1 FR, 1 INT). This time, it took Buffalo only two plays to score: Allen connected with tight end Jason Croom (1/26 yds, 1 TD) to give the underdog a 17-0 lead not even 10 minutes into the game.

Minnesota failed to respond yet again and after a punt saw the visitors go on another scoring drive – one that ended with Allen crossing the goal line on a 4th down quarterback sneak. With the Buffalo defense continuing its dominance over the opponent and the offense playing efficiently, the team was able to add another field goal before the half and enter the locker room up 27-0.

The second half saw the Bills offense trying to run out the clock as well as possible, while Minnesota still had a tough time getting into any offensive rhythm against a stout defense. And even though the home team scored a late touchdown it was unable to turn its fortunes around and get blown out by the visitors.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

t-2. New York Jets (1-2)

Week 3: 21-17 loss against the Cleveland Browns, in Cleveland OH

After a December 24, 2016 win over the then-San Diego Chargers, the Cleveland Browns had to wait for another victory 19 straight regular season games. Last Thursday, the streak was finally broken and an AFC East team was the unlucky team to fall to the Browns for the first time in 635 days: the New York Jets, who went into Cleveland for a Thursday night battle that saw the two highest-picked passers of this year’s draft go at each other.

The game started as a defensive stalemate with neither team effectively moving the football down the field. Fittingly, the first big play of the night came on a punt: Jets linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (1 TKL) deflected the kick at the line of scrimmage, and his team took over at the Cleveland 28-yard line. Five plays later, ex-Brown Isaiah Crowell (16/34 yds, 2 TDs) found the end zone from seven yards out to give New York a 7-0 lead.

After forcing a defensive three-and-out, the visitors produced yet another scoring drive: marching 63 yards in 10 plays, Crowell scored for a second time to put the Jets ahead 14-0. To make matters worse for the Browns, starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor (4/14, 19 yds) had to leave the game with a concussion late in the second quarter. On came this year’s first overall draft pick, Baker Mayfield (17/23, 201 yds).

Mayfield led his team to a field goal before the half but it needed a big defensive play midway through the third quarter before he and the Browns offense were in scoring range again: wide receiver Robby Anderson (2/22 yds) fumbled on a 17-yard reception, which set up another Cleveland field goal. One drive later, the 0-1-1 Browns were able to tie the game thanks to their first touchdown and a successful two-point conversion.

With momentum on Cleveland’s side, the Jets responded with a field goal drive that took almost seven minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter. However, the Jets defense was unable to stop the Browns on the ensuing possession and instead allowed them to go 75 yards in 17 plays to a) take almost seven minutes off the clock themselves, and b) take a 21-17 lead. The Jets had two chances to drive for the win, but both series ended with interceptions by Sam Darnold (15/31, 169 yds, 2 INTs) the third pick of this year’s draft.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.