AFC East Report: Week 7

The weekly AFC East Report is a new feature, which will breakdown the AFC East Division. Each week, analysts who are avid fans of each of the respective AFCE teams, will present an objective analysis of their team and summarize important developments and key updates on each team. A weekly read of this column will keep you posted on all the important developments within the division.

To discuss this piece or this week's games, tune into the "2004 Bills Report" on www.broadcastmonsters.com, beginning at 8 p.m. on Thursday evening. The show is open to call-ins at 1-877-913-9739 and begins at 7 p.m.

This week's AFCE games:

Arizona @ Buffalo; Miami @ Jets; New England @ Pittsburgh

Buffalo Bills:

This Bills team has the word "Failure" written all over it. To date this season absolutely nothing that the front office and coaching staff said would unfold has. The team has regressed in just about every way. Ironically, there is nothing in the immediate future of the team suggesting that there will be any real improvement in play beginning next season. The heart of the team's offensive line is either on the verge of free agency, getting to or already over the hill with injury prone key players, and less than effective otherwise. JP Losman's injury rehabilitation estimates are no reason for hope anytime soon either and a source of tremendous concern for Bills fans.

The offense, in spite of screams that it cannot possibly get any worse over last season, is in fact worse both effectively as well as statistically. In fact, with Miami's "breakout" game following a valiant effort in Buffalo last week, the Bills are making a bee line to actively steal the honors for being the worst team in the NFL out from under Miami's feet. At this point in time it is extremely difficult to imagine the Bills not finishing among the worst five teams in the league and it certainly is no reach to think that they may end up being the worst.

Buffalo was supposed to be a power running team this season with an offense based on that. Grade: F; the offense has not scored a single rushing touchdown and has broken the 100-yard rushing mark only twice this season. Generally speaking, the Bills are putting up fewer rushing yards against their opponents than other teams have vs. the same opponent.

The coaching staff was supposed to not only be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but have him playing like Joe Montana and Boomer Esiason. Grade: F; they have achieved the opposite. They have only strung out the poor play of the offense. Nevertheless, loath to admit a mistake regardless of the cost, they are forging ahead screaming that the team's best chances of winning are with Bledsoe under center. Yeah, that'll bring ‘em runnin' to the stadium on game day!

They have failed to properly assess the condition of the offensive line and its depth which is now an enormous issue counter to team statements suggesting the opposite. As such, they have put this season in jeopardy and as well as casting severe doubts as to the future of this franchise from a confidence perspective.

The Bills under Tom Donahoe are now tied for the worst record in the league in the AFC during his tenure dating back to the beginning of the 2001 season. Tied with Cincinnati and not including the Texans who have not been in the league that long. Only Detroit in the NFL has a worse record otherwise. On this season, the Texans have three wins and the Lions have four wins to the Bills one. The Bills are tied with five other teams for fewest wins in the NFL with one. They have fewer points scored as a team than any team in the league. They are averaging more points scored as a team than only Miami. They have fewer offensive points than any other team in the league including Miami.

They have correlatedly failed to realize the value and importance of having a solid line, thereby slapping conventional wisdom and reason in the face and in the interests of having a solid team.

They have failed to improve this offense in spite of the fact that three of the Bills first four selections in the draft including two first-rounders as well as all but one free agent move were on the offensive side of the ball.

In fact this team has now regressed to a point where it truly may not be possible to get any worse outside of putting up the worst team to ever set foot on the football field in the NFL.

The defense rarely shows up for more than a half. The offense rarely shows up at all and can only seem to score on what I have termed the NFL's version of "T-Ball" with the defense or special teams setting the Bills' offense up in the opponent's red zone or by doing it themselves. At present, approximately half of the team's points have come in that manner. Things were no different this past Sunday with the Bills scoring half of their 6 points on field goal with the defense having already handed the ball to the offense well within field goal range reducing the offense's contribution to this game to 3 points on a single field goal.

Meanwhile, as you can read about in Chris Dellapietria's Dolphins' section, the Fins put up 31 offensive points this past week, more than the total put up by the Bills' offense in their two best offensive outputs combined this season. Boy howdy! That sure reeks.

Meanwhile, in a new feature this season, post game "question & answer" sessions by team GM Commander Tom (Donahoe) and head coach Mike Mularkey, it cannot be any clearer that the team is in a strong state of denial as to exactly what the truth surrounding it is. Continued statements about the team's best chances of winning are when Bledsoe is in there as QB and that the offensive line is really not bad are about as reassuring as notions that the Democrats best chances for winning this presidential election are with Al Gore.

Naturally, don't expect the team to understand the frustration of the fans since they cannot even grasp the fundamental underpinnings of reality surrounding the team that they run. The first step towards correcting a problem are problem recognition, but this crew is loath to suggest that perhaps their assessments were off thereby making problem recognition impossible.

They are growing more and more out of touch with the fans on a weekly basis without realizing it, now with answers to those questions clearly falling within the realm of condescension and disrespect for the knowledge and intelligence of those asking them. These Q&A sessions are now much more along the lines of cover-up politics. The fans and media know full well what they heard from Donahoe and the coaching staff prior to the season beginning, what they did not hear, and what their stated expectations were. Yet, now answers to questions begging real answers are couched behind responses indicative only of notions that those responsible have absolutely no intentions of owning up to them.

The Bills will likely play halfway decently this coming Sunday at home vs. the Cardinals who rank 20th or below in all categories of defensive yardage statistics. Bledsoe can pitch a good game vs. teams like that. It is all that he's done throughout most of his career. Heck, if he cannot pitch a good game at home against the Cards, he should be released following the game. Yes, really!

Meanwhile, the Cards are averaging fewer than 12 points-per-game on the road with their only effort above 10 points coming at the hands of the Niners, one of the worst defenses in the league. I could probably write the post-game statements for you now; "…hopefully this will turn things around for us…", "…still have a shot at the playoffs…until we're mathematically eliminated…", "…starting to put it together…"

Y-A-W-N!!!

Just as an interesting analytical side note, in order for the Bills to "mathematically" make the playoffs, they would likely have to finish 9-1 while simultaneously having all of several other teams that are currently 4-2 or better finish 6-4 or worse. The Bills would need at least four of five road wins where they have not won a game in five straight now and are 2-13 in their last 15. Hanging onto notions that this team is still competitive is silly. Time to start working on next season fellas!

Bills 27, Cards 10

There really is very little of anything else to say at this point.

To discuss this piece further, or for general discussions on the Bills and the AFC East, tune into the "2004 Bills Report" live on Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. at www.broadcastmonsters.com. The number to call into the show is 1-877-913-9739. View my other analyses at www.billsreport.com.

Analyst: Mark Weiler; mweiler.billsreport@cox.net

New England Patriots:

21. At the poker table, it means instant success. Luck, really. I mean there's no real strategy to drawing an Ace and a picture card. 21 consecutive wins in the NFL, however is an entirely different story. It's never been done, ever. These 2004 Patriots, who methodically thwart any and all opponents, are getting awful lucky, if you listen to pundits around the league.

Can the NFL and its writers, broadcasters and fans please give the Patriots some respect? All I have heard, for about 6 weeks now, is how the Patriots win because their opponents make mistakes at inopportune times. How the Patriots are "beatable" how they don't dominate, how their average margin of victory over the last 21 games is only 9 points.

Get over it. People hate giving the Patriots credit because they don't have a loud mouthed Terrell Owens making ignorant remarks. They hate talking about the Patriots because there is no controversy, ever. No bulletin board material for opponents to feed off of and no glamorous stars, for the league to market. Has anyone taken a look at Tom Brady recently?

Tom Brady is to Payton Manning, what John Elway was to Dan Marino in the 1990's. Elway and Brady have two Super Bowl rings, Marino and Manning have the stats. I bet Dapper Dan and Pouting Payton would gladly trade 10,000 passing yards and 100 TD's for just one of those rings. Incidentally, Brady is 46-14 (.766) in his last 60 starts, including the postseason.

I watch HBO's inside the NFL every week and listen to Marino tell the world every week how lucky the Patriots are. I listen to the NFL network on my Sirius satellite radio and listen to the NFL Minions telling the nation how Seattle was going to break the Patriots streak, how the Jets were going to break the streak and how (now) Pittsburgh will break the streak.

The Patriots are as lucky on the football field as Warren Buffet is with his Berkshire Hathaway stock portfolio.

Doesn't anyone know that the Patriots win because they are smarter and better prepared than anyone else in the league? Don't they know that the Patriots have the most college educated (read- degreed) players than any other NFL team? Doesn't anyone else know that the Patriots have an entire team of coaches out there on the field each Sunday?

In 2001, without their starting QB (Drew Bledsoe) and their top WR (Terry Glenn) Tom Brady came off the bench and out of obscurity to lead the most improbable team ever to an NFL Championship. How many teams in the NFL have ever done that? How many could do it today? Do you think the Eagles could win in Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens went down for the season?

In 2003, they won 15 in a row, including the Super Bowl with 44 different starters and an injury list as long as John Daly teeing off downwind.

In 2004, the Patriots are once again winning, despite playing nearly the entire year without their two top receivers, yet they continue to win, week after week, without Deion Branch and Troy Brown. Could the Indianapolis Colts win without Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne? They can't even win consistently with them in the lineup.

Offensively, Corey Dillon is on pace to run for nearly 1700 yards behind an under-rated and overlooked offensive line. Tom Brady continues to show the poise and heart of a champion. David Givens is emerging as one of the better receivers in the NFL and at 6'0" and 215 pounds, is an ominous presence in the slot, where he went over 100 yards against the Jets.

Defensively, The Pats haven't given up a 100 yard rusher since Edgerrin James in week one. Their tremendous depth allows them to rotate liberally, keeping players fresh mentally and physically. Is it any wonder the Patriots are 31-0 when leading after three quarters? I guess they're just lucky.

So now the Patriots travel to Pittsburgh, to play the 5-1 Steelers and their all-world rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger. I can guarantee you Big Ben has never faced a defense quite like the one he will face on Sunday. Bill Belichick has feasted on rookie QB's throughout his career and I expect coordinator Romeo Crennell to devise some tricky schemes to spook the rookie into making a mistake, thus treating the Patriots to their 22nd lucky win in a row.

Pats 27 Steelers 20

Analyst: Craig Natale; natalysis@yahoo.com

New York Jets:

This game was a measuring stick and the Jets showed themselves well - it looked like the Pats brought their A game at home yet the Jets stayed with them the whole way. While the Jets had a shot to win at the end and the Patriots certainly had a few lucky breaks courtesy of the refs and an unforced fumble in the red zone, make no mistake the Patriots were playing to the score. They probably would have won even if the Jets punched the ball into the end zone on their final drive. Still, there have been many naysayers, and it was good to hear Ty Law call the Jets the best team they've faced all year - this includes Super Bowl contender Indianapolis.

Since this was a game to measure the Jets here's my take on the biggest differences between them and the other team that entered the game 5-0: 1) the Jets secondary needs to be protected, badly; 2) coaching - in this case Edwards and Henderson (Defensive Coordinator) held their own; but Paul Hackett was outclassed; and 3) the Jets made mental mistakes as they learn what it takes to win a big game. They'll be better off for having played in this atmosphere, and by end of year the Jets will have a better shot of beating the Pats at home.

Offense:

They actually put together 3 long drives and played with decent efficiency for a road game. Nevertheless a 7-spot is a 7-spot, and there are a few reasons the Jets put up only one score. First is Jerald Sowell's red zone generosity, handing the ball to New England as if he were Pennington and the defense was Martin. This came when the Patriots had no answer for what the Jets were doing on the opening drive. But more important is the Jets being flat in the 3rd and early 4th quarter. How come Paul Hackett can't stay a step ahead of the opposing team? Is he is the unofficial worst offensive coordinator in terms of adjusting at half time? Consider the Jets were 4 for 4 on third down conversions on their opening drive and finished the game 5 for 12. Granted there were a few dropped passes and a big non-pass interference call on New England in the third quarter, but all year the intermediate pass has been missing, and despite Justin McCareins emergence, it was in awfully short supply again. I've been sounding like a broken record with this issue all year because it's not just a switch you flip. The Jets needed the downfield pass to convert 3rd downs and to open up the run. Throwing a couple of bombs doesn't instill a consistent fear of the pass. Give credit to the offensive line which didn't give up a sack or much pressure to the premier pass rushing team, even though it was clear the Jets needed to throw to move the ball.

Defense:

There were good things and bad things. They regrouped well at halftime stopping the Patriots from putting points on the board and setting up the offense with a turnover near midfield. The D-Line came to play with everyone making contributions through the course of the game. The linebackers had mixed results, with Jonathan Vilma experiencing growing pains. He was victimized on a long pass play that set up the Pats touchdown and was easily moved out of the way by blockers on a few of Dillon's long runs. The secondary was awful outside of Eric Coleman. The Jets must draft a cornerback next year with their first pick and get rid of David Barrett. The best thing you can say for him is he's a sure tackler, I guess practice makes perfect.

A final note on DeWayne Robertson, who I was a bit critical of early in the year. He came to play, and was a force. He's been getting better each game, and on Sunday he not only stuffed the line of scrimmage but put pressure on Brady numerous times. The roughing the passer call was bogus, and while it certainly helped the Patriots get closer to the goal line, it's not why the Patriots scored. Blame the secondary, blame the decision to rush only 3 on the TD play, but mostly just give the Patriots credit for doing what they had to do.

It was a big game and here's my take on who showed up and who didn't. The prime time players were: McCareins, the O-Line, the D-Line, Eric Barton and Coleman. The no-shows were Santana Moss, Sowell, Vilma and the rest of the secondary, especially Barrett.

Looking forward:

This is not going to be an easy game against Miami. They just dominated the Rams and are going to be more confident on Monday night with the world watching and revenge on their minds. The matchup is more unfavorable this time around as Fiedler has found his passing touch and Chris Chambers will be playing. The Jets always have a hard time covering him, and with Booker and McMichael playing well the Jets secondary is going to get tested a lot. Also, if you think Pennington had difficulties throwing downfield on New England just remember how he played last time against what may be the best pass defense in the league. It will be a dogfight and it's time for the offense to step up and generate points. Wake up Paul Hackett. I will be out next week and unable to provide a write up of that game.

Analyst: Nick Romano

Miami Dolphins:

Dolphins Surprise Rams 31-14

The Miami Dolphins surprised the St. Louis Rams 31-14 and earned their first victory of the 2004 season. Miami, who had not won a regular season game since week 17 of the 2003 campaign, scored on a first quarter (their first 1st Quarter score of the year) 8 yard Sammy Morris run and never trailed the rest of the afternoon. The Dolphins played well in all facets of the game, were highly motivated (especially for an 0-6 team) and committed ZERO turnovers. Fans and media alike gotta hand it to Dave Wannstedt and his staff for circling the wagons and putting together a creative and effective game plan to surprise the Mike Martz's "greatest show on turf."

Offensively, RB Sammy Morris showed signs of emergence for the second straight week as he ran for 83 yards and the 'fins first touchdown. But it was the often criticized QB Jay Fiedler who really got it done! Fiedler was a Bob Griese-like 13-17 for 203 yards with 2 TDs and NO interceptions...WOW! His two TD passes to TE Randy McMichael (42 yds.) and WR Chris Chambers (71 yds.) were sure to make all the Sunday night highlight shows and both were as pretty a touchdown play as you will see! The improved offensive line showed some signs of coming around as well on Sunday believe it or not. While not dominating, notable improvement was evident and hopefully the worst is over for the guys in the trenches. But it was hats off to Fiedler, McMichael and Chambers for their superb play! Not to mention WR Marty Booker for his 48 yard completion to Chambers on a gadget play and RB Travis Minor celebrating his return from injury to score on a 13 yard run in the 4th quarter.

Defensively, the Dolphins were tenacious by grounding the high-powered Ram attack and holding them to 14 points. Ferocious could best describe the efforts of DE Jason Taylor and MLB Zach Thomas as both seem surely headed to Hawaii in February! While the Rams rolled up impressive yardage totals, the Dolphin D made plays when they had to and continued to apply their "bend but don't break" style. Sammy Knight continued his steady play by contributing with a big INT in the end zone to thwart a 2nd half Ram scoring threat. All in all, it was another solid defensive effort bolstered by the play of Taylor and Thomas and again supported all day by Pro Bowl CBs Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain.

One area of huge improvement against the Rams was the special teams play. While K Olindo Mare has been down with a calf injury, Matt Bryant has done a superb job converting all of his PATs and nailing a 42 yard FG midway through the fourth quarter. On a rare successful trick play, the Dolphins converted a fourth down run from the punt formation. But the gem of the day was delivered by rookie LB Tony Bua when he "blew up" not one, but two Rams as he sprung Wes Welker on a long punt return. Speaking of Welker, he seems to have found a home returning kicks for Miami and Bua has certainly made him mark...just ask the Ram defender he sent to the locker room!

Overall, it was a surprising first victory for the fired-up Dolphins as they showed enthusiasm and unity in the face of disastrous season. The offense showed some signs of consistency and creativity while the defense and special teams anchored a total team win. Whether or not this will serve as a springboard to better days ahead, that remains to be seen. Next, the Dolphins travel to the Meadowlands for a Monday nighter against the hated New York Jets who will be looking to rebound from their first loss of the season (13-7 to the Patriots) and sweep the Dolphins in '04. No one can tell which Dolphin team will show up, but expect a hard-hitting bunch looking for a street-fight and something to prove on national TV.

Analyst: Chris Dellapietra


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories