Miami Dolphins Dominate Jets In Week 8: What This Means To The AFC East
Miami Gang Tackle
At the half way mark of the 2012 NFL season, the power structure of the AFC East has undergone a surprising shift. The New York Jets can no longer be considered a true contender in the division, and the Miami Dolphins seem to have taken their place.
Although the two teams split their division series, the first game was more lost by the Dolphins than won by the Jets, and game two was a complete blowout. The Jets were embarrassed at home, losing by 21, in a game that saw the Dolphins starting quarterback go out in the first quarter with a quad injury, when Ryan Tannehill was sidelined after a Calvin Pace sack.
The rookie QB said after the game that he had hyper-extended his knee and had a deep thigh bruise, and that he could have returned in an emergency situation. No such emergency ever took place, as Matt Moore improved his record against the Jets to 3-1-1.
The win secures the second position in the AFC East, and keeps them just 1 game back of the New England Patriots. The Buffalo Bills are a game back at 3-4, and the loss puts the Jets squarely at the bottom of the division.
The shake up of the divisional pecking order is something most people would not have believed before the season began. If anything, most analysts would have thought it would be the Buffalo Bills that would make the leap. The Bills made the loudest moves in the offseason, and the Dolphins appeared inept throughout both the dog days of free agency, and training camp.
Here is a look at the ACF East, and what the Dolphins win means for each team...
AFC East-New England Patriots
New England Patriots (5-3)
The St. Louis Rams were the first to score on Sunday, but the Patriots responded by scoring 45 unanswered points and putting on a show for the London crowd. Even playing on the other side of the Atlantic, Tom Brady shows why New England is still the most explosive team in the division.
Regardless of where the game was played, the win was an important one for the Patriots, who have been tested often over the first 8 weeks of the season. Two of the Patriots three losses have come at the hands of teams New England would normally run through, and in Week 7, the Jets actually held the lead late, and lost in overtime.
With the Dolphins winning in New York, New England is still feeling the heat on their tail. The two teams have yet to meet this season, and with the way the Patriots have stumbled this season, both games could make the difference for either team.
AFC East-Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins (4-3)
For Miami, the win shows the growth of the team since the start of OTA’s. Drafting a quarterback with the 8th pick in the draft was a risky move, but so far it appears as though the pick was well spent. Ryan Tannehill has been everything the Dolphins front office hoped he would be, and the rest of the team has stepped up to support their young quarterback as he adjusts to the NFL.
With Tannehill going out in the first quarter, the Dolphins quickly adapted to the situation, and all phases of the game did their part to dismantle the Jets. Seeing the team rise to the challenge may be the best sign the coaching staff has witnessed all season. Despite a change of on-field leadership, the Dolphins executed with precision, rising above the adversity and declaring themselves the better of of the two teams.
Splitting the season series with the Jets was crucial for the Dolphins if they want to challenge the Patriots for the AFC East’s ticket to the playoffs. They had given away the first game to the Jets and could not afford to lose both. The dominance they displayed was a surprise with the way the Jets had been playing over the last two weeks, but if Miami was looking to make a statement, they came across loud and clear.
AFC East-Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills (3-4)
The Bills were on a bye in Week 8, but the Dolphins win over the Jets affects them, too. From being tied for first in the AFC East at the start of Week 7, they are now 2 games behind the Dolphins and 3 back of New England. With only 8 games left, Buffalo has to come out of their bye with the understanding that they have very little wiggle room.
The Bills have the potential of ripping off a long winning streak. Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown again and again he can move the ball down the field and score touchdowns. He also can throw 4 interceptions a game, which are usually the difference between a win or a loss. With C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson proving the two-back system is alive and well, the onus is really on the defense.
Before the season began, it looked as though the Bills had scored the biggest defensive fish in the sea when they signed Mario Williams to a monster contract. Unfortunately, Williams has not been consistent, and the Buffalo defense is giving up the most points per game in the entire NFL. With 4 divisional match-ups, including two with the Dolphins, the Buffalo defense will have to make adjustments if they plan to stay in contention.
AFC East-New York Jets
New York Jets (3-5)
The Jets have been in must-win mode for the last several weeks, with Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez feeling the heat. Even though they had been 3-3 along with the rest of the division in Week 7, the feeling around the Jets all season long has been one of a team falling apart at the seams.
Rex Ryan may be struggling through his final season as the Jets head coach, and losing so emphatically to the Jets oldest rival simply underlines that thought. It seems as though there has been a quarterback controversy since the moment the Jets traded for Tim Tebow, and Mark Sanchez has been inconsistent, playing well in one game, and appearing incompetent the next.
Losing in such a manner to the Dolphins places the Jets where they truly belong, which is the bottom of the division. They have lost two of their best players to season ending injury, and the play on the field has been consistently inconsistent, effectively mirroring the play of their quarterback.
Things look bleak for Gang Green, and this loss may have just sealed their fate, choking out any postseason hopes the team may have been holding on to.
For a game played in the middle of the season, the Dolphins win is having a major impact on the entire division. Naturally it works out the best for the Dolphins and the worst for the Jets, but every team’s position within the division is affected by the shift.
New England benefits from no longer needing to keep their eye on the Jets like they have in seasons past, but now they must pay attention to the new kid on the block, and Miami does not look like they will be rolling over for last year’s AFC Champions.
Buffalo falls another game behind and sits securely in the bottom half of the division, a position they were surely not expecting to be in after making so many moves in the offseason. Hope is not lost for the Bills, but time is running short, and if they are going to turn it around, they need to do so now.
The Jets that went to back-to-back AFC Championship games are no more. This team looks nothing like that team. The defense has fallen apart, and the offense is often inept. The loss not only places them in the bottom of the league, but it also demoralizes the team and their fans. The chants for Tim Tebow are only going to get louder and it may not be long before the Jets finally give the controversial quarterback a chance.
For the Dolphins, this win is just one of many they need to get down the stretch. They still face New England and Buffalo twice each in the coming weeks, and if they do not make the most of those games, then all of the conversation is for naught. The injury to Tannehill will need to be monitored, and the running game is still not back to its early season dominance. There are still areas the Dolphins need to improve at, but there has been great progress so far in Miami, and there is no reason to believe it won’t continue.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.