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Around the AFC East

<p>David Dionisio has submitted his take on the AFC East and the battles typical of one of the toughest divisions in the AFC. His observations on the Patriots, Jet, Bills and Dolphins are here for you to take exception to, agree with or just plain enjoy.</p> <p>Once again, we hope you enjoy his piece, and ask for you to <a href="https://secure.theinsiders.com/a.z?s=121&p=5&c=18" target="_blank">let us know</a> what you think.</p>

Around the AFC East
By David Dionisio, Site Contributor


Balance, any Tibetan monk worth his weight in orange robes will tell you, is the key to a prosperous, contented life and Bill Belichick, along with personnel guru Scott Pioli, has applied these philosophies to the New England Patriots offense.
While I'm not sure that Bill tried to get his troops to execute plays using their mind's eye in the offseason, the River of Truth does indeed now flow from the Patriot's backfield, and its name is Corey Dillon.

Offensive equilibrium is a concept the Patriots eschewed while marching toward two Super Bowl championships in three years, surviving with a deadly efficient passing attack and a serviceable running game that, in fact, featured two specialists: short-yardage bruiser Antowain Smith and third-down back extraordinaire Kevin Faulk.

With the acquisition of three-time Pro Bowler Dillon, for merely a second round draft choice which the Bengals used to pick Madieu Williams (the same Madieu Williams who was repeatedly torched by Chad Pennington in Week One), the Patriots have their most explosive offensive weapon coming from behind the line since a young Curtis Martin galloped all over the Foxboro grounds from 1995-97 (I won't mention Robert Edwards, of whom I still find it painful to talk about and what might have been).

Symmetry abounds from every corner of the Pats offensive depth chart this year, especially at the tight end position. The oft-frustrating Daniel Graham, who appears to have put his dropped ball problems behind him, had always shown himself as an excellent blocker whose physical skills seemed to belie his production. Add to the mix rookie Ben Watson, who has the skills of a receiver in the open field but the body of a lineman, and you've got quite a potent mix of speed, power and the ever elusive youth.

All of this balance spouting fourth from the line of scrimmage will give the Pats next three AFC East opponents, at the Bills this week, then home for the Dolphins and (after a home date with the Seahawks) another home tilt with the Jets, a severe case of vertigo.
The Bills are currently suffering from what is known as Pete Carroll-itis, which is having a superb defense and a Frankenstein at quarterback who, through poor execution, poor playing calling and the holding…holding…holding of the ball, causes said superb defense to blast the offense in the papers after ten straight weeks of 13-10 games (just watch, it'll happen eventually in Buffalo).

There are lies, there are damn lies, and then there are statistics. Don't be fooled by Buffalo's 78 rushing yards allowed per game, nor the paltry 171 passing yards they surrender. As eye popping as those figures may be, let's remember they were compiled against the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars, two teams of whom I'm pretty sure we won't be seeing much of in late January.
The numbers we should focus on are 81 and 161.5, which represent the Bills respective rushing and passing yards per game. Drew Bledsoe, Travis Henry, Eric Moulds and Mike Williams? Yes, they are all on the offensive side of the ball for the Bills. To no avail, apparently.

Tom Brady and company should have a field day against Buffalo, particularly in the second half when the Bills defense will be worn out and Dillon can take over. Takeo Spikes, London Fletcher and Sam Adams are stalwarts against the run but the Bills' secondary is woefully thin. Replacing Antoine Winfield with Troy Vincent may seem to be a wash but Vincent is older and a more physical corner than the speedy Winfield. Vincent could use that extra speed as he will be chasing the Pats cadre of receivers all afternoon.
Lack of a consistent, clock-eating running game almost brought on the demise of the Pats in more than a few big games, like say, Super Bowl XXXVIII, as well as playoff games versus Tennessee and Indianapolis, but now they will be able to squeeze some big plays out of the Bills and then Mr. Brady can merely turn around, hand it to Dillon and watch.

The Miami Dolphins are a team in complete disarray and the Pats would do well to fatten up on them. Their defense still has some big time playmakers, like Jason Taylor and Sam Madison, but judging by the fact that some of the Bengals defensive linemen had their own apartments in the Dolphins backfield during Week One (just imagine what Richard Seymour and his line mates will do), the sheer volume of snaps they will have to defend will be too much to overcome. A team with no offense like Miami, whose ability to move the ball is somewhere roaming the Earth and getting spliffed with Lenny Kravitz, will never win the war of attrition that the Patriots have mastered.

A Week Seven showdown with the New York Jets in Foxboro will provide the toughest inter-divisional test of the Patriots young season. As evidenced by the Panthers relentless pressure in the Super Bowl, the Patriots unheralded offensive line struggles mightily with a quick and powerful defensive front. Belichick and Charlie Weis were well aware of this and changed Brady's drop from five to three steps to assist his unspectacular but solid line.

The Jets may not have the uber-athletic Julius Peppers, but they have John Abraham and Shaun Ellis (taken back-to-back with the 12th and 13th picks of the 2000 draft, one of those picks being Belichick compensation) bursting off the edges and wreaking havoc on the passing game. Bowling ball-esque Dwayne Robertson, who the Patriots feverishly tried to trade up for in 2003 but were out-maneuvered by the Jets, is finally showing signs of being a premier player in the trenches. Robertson, much like Ted Washington for the Patriots last year, is the defensive keystone.

Jets coach Herman Edwards wants Robertson to use his 6'1", 317 pound body to plug up the middle, hopefully drawing the attention of multiple blockers. Robertson's play of late is garnering him more double teams and that will open lanes for linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton, as well as strong safety Reggie Tongue, allowing them to make plays in the Patriots backfield.
Victory is to be counted on against the Bills and 'Fins, as they both sport some nifty, if somewhat incomplete, defenses but don't have the requisite offense to keep Brady off the field. The Pats defense assures that Brady, et al, will never have to scramble for points, thus allowing them to use their valued balance any which way they want. The Jets will throw the Patriots a bit of a monkey wrench, as they can cause problems in the backfield as well as utilize Curtis Martin to keeps the chains, and the clock, moving.

Ultimately, the Patriots will emerge victorious from all these games, cementing their stranglehold on the AFC East. Charlie Weis has been accused of being too prolific with passing plays in order to showcase his offense and bolster his head coaching chances. Methinks that will not be an issue anymore as when the Patriots get a comfortable lead they will just use their balance. Now, with Dillon, its as if Weis has a new toy that he hasn't figured out exactly how to use most effectively. Yet. But he will, and in a most noxious fashion.

David can has agreed to join the site and be another of our regular contributors to the Patriots Insider. He has written pieces for Allsports and the Cyberstuff websites. You can find him in the forums under the screen name: Trangle

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