For the topic of last week’s AFC East Roundup, we talked about the early-season offensive rankings within the division. This week, we flip sides to the defense—because, after all, defense wins championships. Defensive football is especially relevant in the AFC East, with so many of the division’s head coaches cutting their teeth on that side of the football.
Buffalo Bills (5-1)
The Buffalo Bills were on their bye for Week 7, enjoying their come-from-behind win on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. Once again in 2022, defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier orchestrates the NFL’s top-ranked defense. The Bills currently lead the league allowing only 281 yards per game, which is almost five yards better than the second-place team. There was some concern about the secondary coming into the season due to injuries and departures, but the unit has allowed just over 200 yards through the air per game. It helps that safety Jordan Poyer is still tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions—even while missing two games.
Perhaps the biggest story on defense is the improvement of the defensive line, which has held opposing rushers to an average of 76 yards per game. For reference, no other team in the league allows less than 90 yards per game.
New York Jets (5-2)
New York Jets second-year head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas continue to build a solid foundation, with the team off to a surprising 5-2 start. The defense has played sound football, only allowing 19.6 points per game. That’s good news for the offense, which likes to control the game on the ground. During their four-game winning streak, the defense hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in any game. The Jets’ eyebrow-raising performance came two weeks ago in holding Aaron Rodgers to just 10 points.
Miami Dolphins (4-3)
The Miami Dolphins feature the division’s only offensive-minded head coach in Mike McDaniel. Miami is allowing their opponents an average of almost 360 yards on offense per game, and yielding 23.6 points per contest. With figures like those, the pressure is firmly on the Dolphins’ offense to put up a ton of points—while navigating through an ocean of injuries at quarterback through the first six weeks of the season.
Miami ranks in the bottom half of the league in passing yards allowed per game, but much of that is due to the nature in which the Dolphins play defense. Miami loves to blitz and asks their cornerbacks to play on an island, which leads either to sacks or chunk plays through the air. The Dolphins started off the season on a hot streak—and were the talk of the league during the month of September—but following three wins to open the season, they’re 1-3 since, and could use a turnaround on defense to help improve their chances at postseason play.
New England Patriots (3-4)
The New England Patriots have been a bit Jekyll & Hyde on defense this season. In Week 7, the Chicago Bears scored 33 points on the Patriots—the last 23 of which went unanswered. To say New England’s defense has been inconsistent is an understatement. Taking the Monday Night Football loss to Chicago out of the equation, the Patriots have given up 37 and 27 points in losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers, respectively. However, the defense followed those performances up with two straight dominant efforts, allowing zero and 15 points in two wins against the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns. The key for New England will be consistency, and stacking positive performances if they hope to regain form towards a winning season in 2022.