In this week’s edition of our AFC East Preview, all eyes will be on the NFL’s most interesting division of 2021. It’s the storyline of the week around the league: Tom Brady returns to Foxborough for the first time since leaving his first NFL home, the place he dominated season in and season out for nearly two decades. But let’s not forget, while the New England Patriots are in the spotlight, the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets have vital matchups on the line this week as well. Let’s dive right into the preview.
AFC East Standings
- Buffalo Bills (2-1) overall; (1-0) division
- Miami Dolphins (1-2) overall; (1-1) division
- New England Patriots (1-2) overall; (1-1) division*
- New York Jets (0-3) overall; (0-1) division
*Miami wins a tiebreaker over New England based on head-to-head record.
Tennessee Titans at New York Jets – October 3rd at 1:00pm ET
With surging contenders popping up all over the conference in the Las Vegas Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, and Denver Broncos making headlines amidst AFC stalwarts in the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, people seem to forget how competitive the Titans have been in recent years. As far as get-right matchups go for the Jets, this simply isn’t one of them. Derrick Henry is still the best runner in football, Ryan Tannehill is playing great complementary football, and the Titans defense, albeit not great, is good enough to slow this lowly Jets attack. While Zach Wilson may fare better this week than he did against a formidable Broncos defensive front, don’t expect him to keep up with Tannehill and Henry.
Score prediction: Tennesse 33 – New York 17
Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins – October 3rd at 1:00pm ET
Now this is what you call a get-right game. Indianapolis has been a mess on both sides of the ball. Turnovers and injuries on offense, a step back in play compared to last season on defense, and overall poor execution have led the Colts to an 0-3 record and two losses by more than one score in the team’s opening three weeks. Stating quarterback Carson Wentz and stalwart right tackle Braden Smith are hobbled, All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson is likely out for the foreseeable future, and veteran wideout T.Y. Hilton is still on injured reserve. The Colts are in a bad spot right now and are at risk of falling into irrelevance before the first quarter of the season comes to a close.
Meanwhile, Miami is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the 3-0 Las Vegas Raiders and is desperately in need of some positive momentum following a promising start back in Week 1. Jacoby Brissett is entering his second game as Miami’s interim starter while Tua Tagovailoa recovers from fractured ribs, and the former delivered a mixed performance last Sunday. The veteran placeholder will be heading into familiar territory, as he spent years in Indianapolis as Andrew Luck’s understudy and eventual replacement, and then as Philip Rivers’ backup in 2020. In early-week press conferences, Miami’s coaching staff talked at length about the team’s need to create more urgency, explosive plays, and scoring opportunities on offense; if there was ever a week to follow through on press conference promises, this is it.
Score prediction: Miami 24 – Indianapolis 20
Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills – October 3rd at 1:00pm ET
Davis Mills vs Josh Allen. That sounds fair. I simply don’t see how this game isn’t over by the end of the first half. Over the past two weeks, Buffalo has torched two opponents that, before the season, were considered solid playoff contenders (though both were missing starting quarterbacks for most if not all of their contests). Houston’s defense is a mess, its offense is stuck in neutral without Tyrod Taylor, and its coaching staff simply doesn’t have enough ammunition to keep up in what should be a rout in favor of Buffalo. Expect Josh Allen to continue rolling in this one.
Score prediction: Buffalo 35 – Houston 14
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots – October 3rd at 8:20pm ET
‘Tompa’ Bay takes on Bill Belichick. Storylines don’t get any sweeter. There’s no doubt you’ve heard this matchup discussed at length throughout the week already, but for good reason. It’s the revenge game of all revenge games. After taking team friendly deal after team friendly deal with the Patriots, Tom Brady finally wanted to run his own show, and he’s done so to perfection with the Bucs. He’s the head recruiter, the field general, the king. And Tampa Bay has a ring to show for it.
Now, with Belichick desperately trying to rebuild a dynasty that seems to be firmly in the rearview, Brady is heading back home to show his former team what it’s missing after having let him walk out the door. Simply put, Tampa’s team is better in almost every respect. Poor Mac Jones. He’ll have to trot out onto the field with a fervent fanbase staring down expecting him to be the next Brady. Unlucky for him: there is no next Brady. There’s only one. And he’ll be on the enemy sideline this time around.
Score prediction: Tampa Bay 31 – New England 21
Follow Justin Hier on Twitter @HierJustin