In the NFL, a win is a win no matter how they come to be. Some teams start off in a 14-0 hole — like the Miami Dolphins did before outscoring the Carolina Panthers 42-7 the rest of the way. Or consider the Buffalo Bills’ Week 6 situation, where they struggled offensively all night against the New York Giants but scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to squeak out a 14-9 victory. The New York Jets’ defense frustrated the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense all day en route to a 20-14 victory, while the New England Patriots continued their slide by losing to the Las Vegas Raiders 21-17.
No matter which way you look at it though, Week 7 (or Week 8 since the Jets are on a bye), will be a statement week for all teams in the AFC East, giving them direction for the rest of the season.
We’ll start by looking at the Bills-Patriots matchup. Buffalo’s offense has been largely stagnant the past two weeks, with the team seemingly lacking rhythm. What began the season as a high-powered offense has only scored 34 points the last two games. Granted, the Jacksonville Jaguars do have a tough defense — but the Bills became the first team that failed to score more than 24 points against the Giants’ defense this season. Division games are always tough so expect this coming weekend to be no different. With a win, Buffalo would move to 5-2 and stay in striking distance of the division lead. However, dropping to 4-3 (and 1-2 in the AFC East) would present the Bills with a tough hill to climb in pursuit of a fourth straight division title.
Regarding the Patriots, this weekend’s game should provide a more clear indication of the team’s direction. New England is currently sitting at 1-5, and struggling to do anything well. Fans have begun debating the possibly of the Patriots ending up with the number-one pick next April — and the team potentially selecting quarterback Caleb Williams. A win against Buffalo would push them closer to the back of the pecking order, potentially putting the team in no man’s land come draft season. Something to watch for this weekend and beyond is if head coach Bill Belichick continues rolling out Mac Jones under center, or if rookie quarterback Malik Cunningham gets a chance to show what he can do in an extended audition. (Cunningham just signed a three-year contract after being called up from the practice squad.) Maybe the Patriots should look at Bills head coach Sean McDermott’s defensive success when facing a rookie QB before making that decision.
The team with the most to gain next week could very well be the Dolphins, who play a huge Sunday Night Football game against the Eagles. A win on SNF would move Miami to 6-1 and in control of their own destiny for not only the AFC East crown, but also for the No. 1 playoff seed in the conference. Looking down the road a bit, on November 5, the Dolphins have a showdown with Kansas City Chiefs in Germany — which could like have a huge impact on the AFC’s top seed. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is playing like the MVP favorite right now with wide receiver Tyreek Hill shredding opposing defenses. The only cause for concern with Miami is on defense, and whether the unit will start playing to its potential once cornerback Jalen Ramsey enters the fold.
It’ll be a New York state of mind in Week 8, when the Jets face the Giants at MetLife Stadium following a bye. The Jets are currently sitting at 3-3, which is a good spot to be in considering the season-ending injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 1. A win against the Giants would put them in the thick of the Wild Card race, and it could position them for a run at the division crown with two still to play against the Dolphins. The Jets’ defense has played lights out, continuing the theme against the Philadelphia Eagles without their top two cornerbacks. If the Jets can continue dominating on defense, and the offense can average 20 points a game, the Jets can easily get to 10 wins.