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AFC East Roundup: Run ‘em home

Two running backs will make the difference in the division

Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

If you were to state who the best running back in the AFC East was heading into the season, most of you would probably pick Breece Hall of the New York Jets. Even though Hall was coming off an ACL injury, he showed out in a huge way during his injury-shortened rookie year. After Hall, perhaps some would have said New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who was a dual threat last season for New England’s rushing and passing attack.

However, this season it’s been Raheem Mostert down in Miami for the Dolphins and James Cook of the Buffalo Bills who have taken over the division. With only three games left in the 2023 NFL season, Cook and Morris could decide how far their teams go, and which club will win the division.

Raheem Mostert leads the league with 18 rushing touchdowns through 14 games. His closest competition is running back Christian McCaffrey with 13. Mostert has set the Dolphins record for most rushing touchdowns in a season as well as most total touchdowns (20) in a Week 15 victory against the Jets. Mostert isn’t letting his age stop him: 34 more yards will put him over 1,000 for the season, which would make him the first 30-year-old running back to achieve the feat since Adrian Peterson in 2018. Mostert being a threat on the ground opens up the passing game for the Dolphins, and it’s a huge part of why Miami is the highest-scoring offense in the league.

Mostert, however, doesn’t lead the AFC in rushing yards. That honor belongs to James Cook who put on a show against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Cook rushed for 179 yards on the ground and was unstoppable, averaging 7.2 yards per carry. He is also third in the league for the most yards from scrimmage, only trailing McCaffrey and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The Bills have finally found a running back to take the pressure off of quarterback Josh Allen — who only had to throw the ball 15 times on Sunday. The difference appears to be the confidence that interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady has in Cook. Since Brady took over the play-calling duties, Cook has 84 touches and is line to be a workhorse as the regular-season comes to an end.

Fans are in for a treat in Week 18 when Mostert and Cook face off, WRC style, down in Miami. If the Dolphins were to drop one of their next two games and Buffalo keeps on winning, that game would decide the division title.