The AFC East was expected to be one of the powerhouse conferences entering the 2010 NFL Season, and it hasn’t disappointed. The New England Patriots are the only team in the league with only one loss and the New York Jets have played extremely well. Both teams seem poised to make the playoffs this season, although they both need to watch out for the Miami Dolphins, who have quietly put together a solid season.
New England Patriots Midseason Report (6-1)
The Patriots have played as well as anyone could have expected so far this season. Tom Brady and the offense have been explosive, and the defense seems to be putting things together after a slow start. Even when they aren’t dominating their opponents, the Patriots still find ways to win, and it’s impossible to count out a team led by Brady and coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots are starting to look like the team to beat in the AFC, although they do get some stiff competition from the Jets, Ravens and Steelers.
Total Offense: 330.3 yards/game (19th)
Total Defense: 384.0 yards/game allowed (28th)
New England Patriots Midseason Grade: A-
New York Jets Midseason Report (5-2)
The Jets entered the season with impossibly high expectations, and even though they’ve struggled at times with their offensive output, New York’s season so far has to be deemed a success. The Jets’ defense has been terrific, as only the Pittsburgh Steelers have given up fewer points per game in the NFL. The Jets have also gotten a huge boost from their rushing attack, as both LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Green have been effective running the football.
The main weakness heading into the second half of the NFL season appears to be quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has played well in the Jets’ three games against their AFC East rivals, but he has a meager 54.7 passer rating against non-AFC East opponents. Sanchez is going to have to be more consistent in the second half of the season if the Jets want to make a run deep into the playoffs.
Total Offense: 337.9 yards/game (15th)
Total Defense: 307.3 yards/game allowed (7th)
New York Jets Midseason Grade: B+
Miami Dolphins Midseason Report (4-3)
The Dolphins are a conundrum. They are 4-0 on the road, yet 0-3 at home. Their defense is ranked 8th in the league and their offense is ranked 13th, both of which are better than the Patriots, yet they sit two games behind the Patriots and aren’t widely considered a legitimate playoff threat.
One of the Dolphins’ problems this season has been their special teams play. The Patriots dominated Miami largely due to a kickoff return for a touchdown and two blocked kicks. The Dolphins fired their special teams coach after that game, and have looked much better over the past three games, although they need to win at least one or two home games if they want to make a serious run at the playoffs.
Total Offense: 343.7 yards/game (13th)
Total Defense: 309.4 yards/game allowed (9th)
Miami Dolphins Midseason Grade: B
Buffalo Bills Midseason Report (0-7)
Despite being the only winless team left in the NFL this season, the Bills haven’t looked like the worst team in the league. Four of Buffalo’s seven losses have been by eight points or less. Since putting Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting quarterback role in Week 3, the Bills’ offense has looked much stronger than it did early on. The Bills have also been victimized by bad luck, as was evidenced by a game winning field goal in Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs being nullified by a strategic timeout call from the Kansas City sidelines. The Bills’ aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, but they should be able to put together at least a couple wins in the second half of the season, and could be a sleeper going into 2011 if they can improve their offensive and defensive lines.
Total Offense: 299.6 yards/game (26th)
Total Defense: 384.3 yards/game allowed (29th)
Buffalo Bills Midseason Grade: D
AFC East 2010 Midseason Predictions
Not a lot should change between now and the end of the season in the AFC East. The Patriots should be able to put together a 12 or 13 win season and win the division, with the Jets getting an AFC Wild Card spot at 11-5. The Dolphins don’t quite have the firepower to slip ahead of anyone, and will finish around 8-8 and narrowly miss the playoffs for the second straight season. The Bills will play better in the second half than they did in the first half, finishing around 3-13 or 4-12.
All stats and standings from espn.com
All records and statistics are accurate through Week 8 of the 2010 NFL Season