After just two games the Buffalo Bills find themselves alone atop the division. It’s a feeling players and fans alike are not accustomed to because of the Patriots complete domination since Bill Belichick was hired as head coach in 2000. That year was his only losing season with New England. Since then they’ve built a dynasty, winning 17 of the last 19 division titles and the last 11 in a row. The other two were the Jets in 2002 and the Dolphins in 2008. So, it’s with optimism as well as a bit of trepidation Bills fans celebrate this small notice now. The Bills venture out of division rivalries and welcome another team off to a hot start from the west coast.
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1. Buffalo Bills: 2-0 (Division 2-0) (Conference 2-0)
-Last Game: Won on the road against the Miami Dolphins 31-28.
-Stand Outs: There’s nothing quite like following the week after a career day with yet another career day. Josh Allen did just that with 24 of 35 completions totaling 417 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. That’s a game that could compete for best showing by any quarterback this season. Allen is getting more comfortable with the deep ball and last Sunday he showed off his improved touch. He had five completions travel over 20 yards, with three of those over 40 yards. One of the biggest reasons Allen is looking more confident is because of the off-season addition of Stephon Diggs. Diggs was the recipient of his quarterback’s great performance, catching eight balls for 153 yards and a touchdown. The 153 yards is his fifth best game total and also his fifth regular season game finishing with over 150 yards.
-Biggest Reason for Concern: Not many predicted that the Bills defense would have problems before the season started. There’s been some lapses resulting in long plays and drives, and only so much of that can be pinned on injuries. Although the absence of starting linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards was obvious. Ryan Fitzpatrick picked on the Bills short and over the middle and finished with 328 yards and two touchdown passes. Giving up 28 points and having the opponent score late to have games come down to onside kicks is not what the Bills want to become commonplace.
-Up Next: The Bills venture outside both their division and conference for the first time this season as they host the 2-0 Los Angeles Rams. The Rams come to Buffalo looking more like they did two years ago when they appeared in the Super Bowl as they try and prove last year missing the playoffs was a fluke. The Rams used a superior running game to beat the Cowboys in week one and quarterback Jared Goff look poised and led his team to win number two versus the Eagles in Philadelphia. Aaron Donald seems superhuman and gives nightmares to quarterbacks and linemen alike. Watch for Rams tight end Tyler Higbee who had three touchdowns last week, especially if the Bills linebacker corps is still depleted.
2. New England Patriots: 1-1 (Division 1-0) (Conference 1-0)
-Last Game: Lost on the road to the Seattle Seahawks 35-30.
-Stand Outs: For the second week in a row Cam Newton looked like he’s belonged in a Patriots uniform his whole career. Another impressive performance by Newton had the Pats falling just short in a terrifically entertaining back and forth game against the Seahawks. With just over four and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Patriots received the kickoff after a Seattle touchdown trailing 35-23. In the two possessions in those waning minutes, Newton marched down the field passing for 124 yards and running for 26 more including a 1-yard touchdown. The game ended as he was stopped on a designed run play just two yards from victory.
-Biggest Reason for Concern: The Patriots quarterback is their leading rusher after two games in both yards and attempts. Cam Newton has 122 yards on 26 carries while their featured back Sony Michel has less than half the yards with 56 on just 17 carries. While Newton is not considered old at just 31 years of age, his body has more wear and tear than most quarterbacks much older than him. With Newton’s past injuries and only Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham backing him up, the New England offense must find a way to get their running backs actually running.
-Up Next: The Las Vegas Raiders leave their new home to visit New England after an inaugural win against the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. The Raiders came into the season with Derek Carr under a microscope and he has shined. Thus far, he has a 73.5 completion percentage, 521 yards passing, four touchdowns and no interceptions. They have the running game clicking as well with Josh Jacobs totaling 181 yards and three scores already. The Raiders have scored 34 points in both contests and it will be the second high-octane offense the Patriots will have to face in consecutive weeks.
3. Miami Dolphins: 0-2 (Division 0-2) (Conference 0-2)
-Last Game: Lost at home against the Buffalo Bills 31-28.
-Stand Outs: Third year man Mike Gesicki is proving that he’s becoming an elite tight end in the NFL. He led all Miami receivers against the Bills with eight catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. He seemed to be open all day and the few times he wasn’t he was making spectacular one-handed grabs. After a clunker against the Patriots in the season opener, wily vet Ryan Fitzpatrick found what the Bills defense had open and maximized it. He kept pace in the game from behind and had the Dolphins leading in the third quarter before finally being defeated. He finished with over 300 yards passing and two touchdowns without turning the ball over.
-Biggest Reason for Concern: Dolphins number one cornerback Byron Jones played only four snaps before leaving the game with a groin injury. With Jones out, Bills quarterback Josh Allen looked unstoppable with his massive day. The Dolphins secondary was consistently beaten downfield, both on the sidelines and on deep crosses. Jones is already ruled out for Miami’s next contest against Jacksonville and they need someone to step up to avoid another aerial assault.
-Up Next: The Dolphins will travel up the eastern seaboard of Florida for a showdown with their state mates, Jacksonville, in primetime on Thursday night. After an upset victory against the Indianapolis Colts, the Jaguars had another impressive outing and fell just shy of a comeback win against the Tennessee Titans on the road. It seems that the Jags don’t know they’re supposed to be bottom dwellers this year and are looking to keep the Dolphins winless on the season.
4. New York Jets: 0-2 (Division 0-1) (Conference 0-1)
-Last Game: Lost at home to the San Francisco 49ers 31-13.
-Stand Outs: Quinnen Williams, the 22-year-old defensive tackle, stood out on a defense that gave up over 30 points to the 49ers. Williams had seven tackles, tied for the team high. He also had two sacks in the game and four tackles for loss. In a game where Jets fans didn’t have much to cheer for, Williams looked to be a glimmer of hope for the future.
-Biggest Reason for Concern: Another season over before the halfway mark. Even at this early point of the season there’s just not a lot the Jets have going on positively. You could say Sam Darnold still has the potential to become a top quarterback in the league but can he do it with the Jets? Their leading receiver missed last Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and their leading rusher is 37-year old Frank Gore with just 87 yards and no touchdowns because Le’Veon Bell is on IR. Jamal Adams’ bad breakup with the Jets could cause a domino effect of players not wanting to suit up for Gang Green and looking for ways out in their prime years.
-Up Next: The Jets head out to the Midwest and Indiana to play the Colts on Sunday. After the surprise loss at the hands of the Jaguars, the Colts rebounded with a win against the Minnesota Vikings in which they led most of the game. The Indy defense shutdown Minnesota, allowing Kirk Cousins just 113 yards passing and only 80 yards rushing as a team. The Jets must come into Sunday with a different strategy against the Colts in hopes of preventing their season from slipping away.