The AFC East has exactly one winning team so far. The Buffalo Bills have rattled off three impressive wins and are playing some of the best football of any team in the NFL. Given preseason expectations, that’s hardly surprising. What is surprising is their two-game lead on the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and New York Jets all sit at 1-3. The Dolphins continue to struggle with Tua Tagovailoa on the mend. The Patriots are seeing progress from their young quarterback, even if it isn’t consistently showing up in the win column. And the Jets just pulled out a thriller.
The Jets and Patriots each have a decent shot at their second win in Week 5. The Jets meet the 1-3 Atlanta Falcons in London, and the Patriots travel to Houston to play the 1-3 Texans. The Dolphins and Bills face more difficult matchups, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs respectively.
New York Jets @ Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, October 10, 9:30 a.m.
The New York Jets are coming off their first win of the season, a 27-24 overtime victory over the Tennessee Titans. They’ll look to carry that momentum into London, where they face the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons dropped another to the Washington Football Team, allowing quarterback Taylor Heinicke to throw two TD passes in the final four minutes.
“If they [the Jets] can keep their emotions in check and not get too high after that big overtime win, I think they have a great chance,” said Hartstein. “The Falcons have given up the most points in the league. We saw how Washington put up a lot of points late in that game. The Falcons secondary is horrible. Zach Wilson made some bigtime throws. He has Jamison Crowder back as a safety blanket. He has Corey Davis making big plays.”
Wilson is coming is coming off his best showing so far against the Titans. He piled up 297 yards passing, going 17-27 with two touchdowns. And aside from Crowder and Davis, Keelan Cole caught three passes for 92 yards. The Jets passing game will face a Falcons defense that can’t stop anybody from scoring.
New England Patriots @ Houston Texans, Sunday, October 10, 1:00 p.m.
The Patriots couldn’t overcome the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough. Brady put together a fourth quarter drive to give the Bucs the lead. The Patriots had a shot at the win, but missed a 56-yard field goal rather than going for the first down.
The Houston Texans are a step down from the Buccaneers. And Davis Mills, filling in for the injured Tyrod Taylor, is certainly no Brady. Mills went 19-28 for 168 yards against the Carolina Panthers and 11-21 for 87 yards and four interceptions against the Buffalo Bills.
“Are they [the Patriots] going to get a big win over a Houston team that just got blown out 40-0 to Buffalo and looks like the worst team in the league because of their backup quarterback Davis Mills, who’s clearly not ready?” asked Hartstein.
“The Patriots are not an explosive team,” Hartstein continued. “You see them dink and dunk and matriculate their way down the field. They are not the kind of team that’s looking to put up 40 points. They don’t play that way. So this is a big number. I can’t play it right now. If you forced me, I would take the Patriots, just because of how bad Houston is. But I can’t play it because their offense is not explosive.”
Mac Jones is steadily improving under center for the Patriots. And the Patriots are giving him plenty of opportunities to throw the ball, even if they’re mostly short passes. The Texans allow 8.1 yards per pass play, among the worst in the league. So this could be an opportunity for Jones to stretch the field a little. Mills, on the other hand, could be in for another long day against a Pats defense that successfully limited Brady.
Miami Dolphins @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, October 10, 1:00 p.m.
The Dolphins have lost three straight and could easily be 0-4. The Dolphins defense is allowing 388.3 yards and 27.3 points per game, both in the NFL’s bottom 10. They’ve given up at least 20 consecutive points three weeks in a row.
Brady will be looking to make it four weeks in a row. Topping the Patriots gave him at least one win over every team in the league. He also set the record for regular-season passing yards in a career, surpassing Drew Brees. Brady leads the NFL in passing yards this season with 1,356 and has tossed 10 TD passes against only two interceptions.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, October 10, 8:20 p.m.
The Buffalo Bills head to Kansas City for a rematch of last season’s AFC championship game. The Chiefs won that game, but the Bills are playing better football this season. They are coming off a 40-0 trouncing of the Texans. Buffalo, at 3-1, is the only team in their division with a winning record. They’re averaging 33.5 points per game, second best in the NFL along with the Chiefs. Kansas City, however, sits at 2-2 after tough losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers.
“They [the Bills] have been the better team this year clearly,” said Hartstein. “The Chiefs give up the most yards per play in the league, 6.9. The Bills give up the fewest, 4.0. The Bills invested in their pass rush in the draft. It’s paying off. They’re number two in pressure rate. I think they can get a couple of stops on Patrick Mahomes, make him a little bit uncomfortable, so he puts up only in the high 20s, maybe 30. And Buffalo has been unstoppable, 43 points, 40 points, 35 points their last three games. This offense is what we thought it would be, so I’m definitely leaning towards the Bills.”