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NFL Week 7: Previewing the AFC East Matchups

It’s rivalry week in the AFC East, as NFL Week 7 will see the four AFC East clubs in inter-division matchups this week.

Due to a scheduling quirk, it’ll be the first division game of the season for the Miami Dolphins, but the third for each of the other three teams.

Coming off their thrilling last-minute victory last week, the New England Patriots are sitting pretty atop the AFC East with their 5-1 record, and now they’ve got a chance to separate themselves even more, as they get set to face the New York Jets for the second time this season. The Buffalo Bills, the only team in the division with a losing record, has a tough task ahead of them, with a road date with the Dolphins on the horizon. Let’s dive a little deeper into the two all-AFC East matchups in the NFL this week:

 

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins, 1pm ET, Sunday

The Dolphins (3-2) are coming off their bye week, and the Bills (2-4) have been struggling lately. Buffalo is still without their rookie quarterback, EJ Manuel, and their defense has allowed an average of 32 points per game in their last two games, both of which were losses to AFC North opponents.

Last week, new starting quarterback Thad Lewis played pretty well, all things considered, but got dinged up himself. If he’s healthy, the Miami native will likely get a chance to beat his hometown team, and the Bills’ 1-2 punch of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller seem to be getting healthier and healthier each week.

Neither running back is at 100% health, and they may not really reach that level for awhile. Luckily, the pass offense should get a boost from top wideout Stevie Johnson, who is getting set to play this week after missing some time due to a lower back injury.

The Dolphins enter this game on a two-game losing streak themselves, but with two weeks to prepare for Buffalo, I’d imagine Miami will be as ready as can be to win this game and stay within striking distance of the Patriots and an AFC playoff spot. Ryan Tannehill has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but the Dolphins will need their running game to take the pressure off of their second-year quarterback. Look for Lamar Miller to emerge as Miami’s feature back sooner rather than later.

 

New England Patriots at New York Jets, 1pm ET, Sunday

This game will be a big litmus test for the home team, as the Jets (3-3) have alternated wins and losses all season long, and would love to keep that pattern up for at least another week. As we discussed on NGN’s “Press Coverage” podcast this week, only one of Jets’ three victories is against AFC opponents, which does not bode well for their (admittedly slim) playoff chances.

The Patriots (5-1) pulled a win out of thin air last week, but they’re pretty banged up this week, especially on defense. Already without defensive tackle Vince Wilfork for the season, the Pats have also lost linebacker Jerod Mayo for the season, and cornerback Aqib Talib is unlikely to play this week either. Wideout Danny Amendola isn’t expected to play either, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the availability of tight end Rob Gronkowski.

For the Jets to come away with the victory, they’ll need the version of Geno Smith who showed up against the Bills and Falcons to re-emerge. Smith’s performance has been up-and-down, as one might expect from any rookie quarterback. If offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can draw up a good game plan, there’s no reason why the Jets can’t take advantage of the Patriots’ injury woes and come away with a big win, in a game in which they’ll be home underdogs.

The Patriots only scored 13 points against the Jets in Week 2, and I think Rex Ryan would sign up for that on Sunday. The onus is going to be on the Jets offense to be efficient and mistake-free, something they’ve been inconsistent with this year. Still, they’ve shown the ability to do it, and if they can do that again on Sunday, MetLife Stadium will be rocking all day long.

 

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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