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NFL Week 5: Previewing the AFC East Matchups

Week 5, and the NFL calendar has turned to October, and in the AFC East, only one team remains unbeaten and atop the division.

The New England Patriots took care of business in Week 4, defeating the Atlanta Falcons to run their record to 4-0, breaking a first-place tie with the Miami Dolphins, who fell to the New Orleans Saints and suffered their first loss of the year.

In Week 5, the AFC East schedule kicks off with the Buffalo Bills playing on Thursday night, and ends on Monday Night Football for the second straight week, this time with the New York Jets getting the nod.

Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns, 8:25 pm ET, Thursday

The Bills and Browns are both 2-2, making this Thursday night matchup on the national stage a little more palatable than expected, at least on paper. Brian Hoyer has been a super-sub at quarterback for the Browns, throwing for a combined 590 yards and 5 touchdowns the past two weeks. That’s as many touchdown passes as Bills rookie EJ Manuel has thrown in all four games combined this season.

The short rest might be detrimental to the Bills this week, as both of their star running backs, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, suffered leg injuries in their Week 4 win. At press time, Spiller has been listed as questionable with an ankle injury, while Jackson’s been listed as probable with an ailing knee. The Bills will need all the help they can get against a suddenly surging Browns team coming off back-to-back W’s.

Hoyer has quickly built quite a rapport with Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon, and the Browns team that traded away Trent Richardson certainly now looks all the better for it, in the present and in the future. Bills rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso has certainly opened eyes with a league-leading four interceptions in as many games, but with Buffalo’s offense scrambling to get healthy, it could be a great opportunity for the Browns to win their third straight game, this time at home with a national audience looking on.

New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals, 1pm ET, Sunday

The Patriots have their share of doubters, but they’ve got a spotless record heading into the second month of the season, and a road date with a slumping Bengals team on the horizon. After a big win over the Packers in Week 3, the Bengals suffered a bad home loss to the Browns last week.

The Bengals are a talented team, but they’ll need to be on their A-game to beat a Patriots team that’s starting to fire on all cylinders after escaping with ugly victories early in the season. Lately, the Patriots have used a backfield by committee in recent weeks, as Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden have picked up the slack after the injury to Shane Vereen.

On defense, the Pats have gotten excellent performances from cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Devin McCourty, and it’s one of the big reasons why they’ve allowed an average of just 14.2 points per game over the first month of the season, good for 6th in the NFL. The Patriots may not be the Patriots of old, but with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, they always find a way to get it done, no matter what.

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins, 1pm ET, Sunday

The Dolphins were humbled by the New Orleans Saints last week, and they’ll look to rebound against the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens, who suffered a dismal loss to the Buffalo Bills last week, in a game where the Ravens seemingly did all they could to beat themselves.

Baltimore did not run the football effectively and abandoned it very quickly against Buffalo, and Joe Flacco threw a career-worst 5 interceptions in an ugly game the Bills went on to win 23-20. Miami had a sloppy game themselves, but they’re a much better football team than Buffalo, so the Ravens can ill afford to shoot themselves in the foot this week if they expect to come away with a win.

The Dolphins have done a lot of things right this season, a testament to their 3-1 record. But they’ll need to do a lot more to prove they’re a legitimate contender. Even after a disappointing loss last week, the Ravens are still the defending champs for a reason. Getting to 4-1 with a win over Baltimore would certainly help legitimize the Dolphins in their quest for a playoff spot.

New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons, 8:40 pm ET, Monday

As discussed on NGN’s flagship “Press Coverage” podcast, the Jets fell to 2-2 after a crushing defeat to the Tennessee Titans last week, and now they’ll face a sputtering but talented Falcons team eager to take out their frustrations after a 1-3 start. It wasn’t long ago that Atlanta was leading the NFC Championship game in their own building, only for things to spiral out of control. They still haven’t stopped the bleeding.

Both teams have banged up running backs, with Steven Jackson likely out for the Falcons and Chris Ivory a game-time decision for the Jets. Gang Green is getting Mike Goodson back from suspension, and he might be a nice compliment to Bilal Powell, who has taken the starting running back role and run with it. Unfortunately for the Jets, their receiving corps is banged up as well.

Starting wideouts Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (concussion) have been ruled out, which means it’s up to Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, newly signed David Nelson and tight ends Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland to step up in their absence. The Falcons defense has had their share of struggles, but facing a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith might be just what they need.

Meanwhile, the Jets defense has been stellar against the run, but not nearly as stout against the pass, and that’s a problem with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez looking to do damage against them. For the Jets to pull off the W, they’re going to have to pull out all the stops in all three phases of the game. It’s not going to be easy, especially on the road under the primetime lights.

 

Jon Presser is the lead host of NGN’s New York Jets podcast, “Press Coverage: Jets Talk with Jon Presser,” live every Tuesday at 7:30 pm ET. Follow “Press Coverage” on Twitter: @PressCoverNYJ

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