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AFC East roundup: Division’s special teams mostly excelling

The third phase in the game matters as the season continues

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The past couple of weeks for the AFC East Roundup, we’ve discussed both sides of the football as it relates to each team in the division. Of course, there’s still the third phase of the game that some consider to be the most important: special teams.

Currently, the Buffalo Bills lead the AFC East with a 6-1 record, followed by the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, who are both 5-3. The New England Patriots aren’t far behind at 4-4. With the difference as close as it is, we could see special teams make a huge impact down the line this season.

Bills special teams breakdown

Bills kicker Tyler Bass is having another good year kicking for Buffalo, connecting on 11 of his 13 kicks this season. What is noteworthy is that both of Bass’ misses have been credited as blocks, which means it’ not totally his fault for missing. Bass has yet to attempt a kick over 50 yards this season as this is usually the territory where the Bills take their chances and instead go for it on fourth down.

As for punter Sam Martin, he’s the least-seen punter in the league, only booting the ball 13 times on the season. What Martin has been doing well when he does punt is creating hang time to minimize returns. His punts have resulted in just five returns, which have only resulted in 19 total return yards.

Dolphins special teams breakdown

Miami kicker Jason Sanders is in the same boat as Bass, connecting on 11 field goals this season. Sanders has been perfect on connecting on kicks inside of 50 yards, but when he goes outside of that range, he hasn’t been successful on three attempts.

Punter Thomas Morstead has had an up and down season to this point, averaging 45 yards per boot. His net punting average is just over 40 yards, though, which puts him in the bottom half of the league. Morstead also has the distinction this year of being involved in the ‘butt punt” back in Week 3 against Buffalo.

Jets special teams breakdown

The Jets have a consistent kicker this year in veteran Greg Zuerlein, who is 14-of-17 on his field goals this season. A notable stat for Zuerlein is that he’s kicking 75% from over 50 yards on the season, with a long of 57 yards.

More good news for the Jets: they have one of the better punters in the league in Braden Mann, who is near the top of the league with a punting average of almost 48 yards. The bad news is that he is fifth in the league with 40 punts on the season. Mann also ranks fourth in the league in net punting yards, as well.

Patriots special teams breakdown

Finally, we have kicker Nick Folk of the Patriots, who has made 15 field goals on the season—good for sixth in the league. Folk has only missed on two kicks for the season, which both came from at least 40 yards out. The veteran kicker is still showing he can get it done, which is extremely important for an offense that has struggled at times to put touchdowns on the board.

Then there is punter Jake Bailey, who’s averaging 42 yards per punt—which is fine. His net average of 35.5 yards per punt, however, places him dead last in the league.