AFC East mailbag delivered

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
James in Denver: Tim, Thanks for the great work, I read your blog everyday, when I probably should be working. If he keeps this up, it seems to me Ronnie Brown is a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year. Your thoughts?

Tim Graham: Thanks so much for diverting your attention. I hope you're not a prison tower sniper.

I agree that Ronnie Brown could be an excellent candidate not only for a comeback award, but also a few others. The added buzz around the Dolphins and the Wildcat offense is turning him into a popular subject. Brown's chances to collect some hardware will increase with his exposure.

The fact Brown is less than a year removed from major knee surgery makes his recent play that much more amazing.

Paul in Miami writes: First timer here...Always wanted to ask someone at espn..When you signed your contract, was there anything there written that said ignore the buffalo bills as much as possible? I know, I know..bills are acutally getting some looks this year...but not the past 8..whats up with espn and hating the bills?

Tim Graham: I receive an e-mail like this every week from an angry fan of an AFC East team. ESPN hates the Bills, the Patriots, the Dolphins and the Jets.

All the reasons were laid out in the company handbook when I began working for ESPN.com, but I would be breaking the confidentiality clause in my contract by revealing why we hate those teams so much. My blood pressure is rising just thinking about them!

Mr. Anonymous in De Bary, Fla., writes: What Buffalo Bills player(s) can you see making it to the Pro Bowl at the end of the season? In my opinion I see Lee Evans, Trent Edwards, and Terrence McGee. What are your thoughts?

Tim Graham: It's a long season, but if the Bills continue to win, the quarterback always is a good place to look. Lee Evans will generate some added attention because people will be watching to see if he plays up to his new contract.

Taylor in Chicopee, Mass., writes: tim, what ajusdtments have the bills made buring the bye?

Tim Graham: It's too early to know, Taylor. The Bills held only three practices this week before head coach Dick Jauron gave his players the rest of the weekend off. We'll learn more next week when we find out if Edwards (concussion) and McGee (knee) are back on the field.

Dave from Parts Unknown writes: any future for O'Connell this year in NE?

Tim Graham: Matt Cassel would need to fall apart before the New England Patriots went to Kevin O'Connell. The third-round draft choice from San Diego State has better long-range potential, but Cassel's experience (limited as it may be) will give the Patriots the best chance to win each week. Also, most coaches would prefer to let a rookie quarterback learn from the sideline for at least one season before relying him every Sunday. But O'Connell is the next in line if Cassel were to get hurt.

George from Parts Unknown: Hey Tim which QB in the AFC East has the best hair? And is that to there advantage? Thanks!

Tim Graham: You're asking this of a man who hasn't changed his hairstyle since college and before that wore a parted-down-the-middle mullet.

But let's take a crack at your question. Brett Favre has a close-cropped style and looks like he just rolled out of bed. Chad Pennington has something stapled to his scalp. Trent Edwards seems to have the fashionable, mussed look. But I'm going to go with Matt Cassel. So, to answer the second part of your question, there must not be an advantage.

Jay in Tampa writes: Whats up with Trent Edwards? Will he play next sunday against San Diego?

Tim Graham: There was optimism within the Bills' organization that if they had a game on Sunday then Edwards would have played. But that also might have been a situation where they ask him what he wants to do, and the competitor's response kicks in. So there was a sense of relief at One Bills Drive they could afford to be prudent and take it easy for a few days without needing to worry about a decision.

Mr. Anonymous in Miami writes: do you think ronnie brown is a top 5 running back if stays healthy and what do you think the fins record at end of season would look at there schedule i think there a 9 to 10 win season

Tim Graham: I absolutely consider Brown a top-five running back when he's healthy. He's potent in so many ways. He's an elusive runner and is a receiving threat. My opinion of the Dolphins' potential record changes every week. As mentioned before, anything is possible. They could get on a run.

Heather from Parts Unknown writes: I'm a Patriots fan, and certainly among many who were heartbroken when Ton Brady went down. Is it so hard for the Patriots to just throw us a bone and give us SOME info on Brady? The refusal to even acknowledge what the injury is, then duck reporters' questions about Brady's surgery this week when the guy's just up the 405 is ludicrous. Don't we have a right to know how the team's and the league's MVP is doing for god's sake! Was Bellichick ever a member of the CIA? It's so rough not seeing NO. 12--at least give us something so we don't feel like he fell off the face of the earth.

Tim Graham: There are a lot of fans out there who share your frustrations, Heather.

Cummings in Orlando writes: The dolphins draft class might just be the most productive of all teams right now... with Parcells/Ireland/Sparano there is an excellent eye for talent.. Dallas is amazing now and its all about their draft.. it makes me very excited about next years draft. I think guys like Langford and Merling are being overlooked, and too bad about Donald Thomas, our 6th rounder.. He would of been a 16 game starter and a STEAL in the draft. I think the original time frame for playoff contention is 2 years from now.. but one more solid draft class, i think we can make the playoffs, were probably going to win 7-8 games this season with a very easy back half of schedule. Holla back TG

Tim Graham: The Dolphins fared remarkably well in their draft, as you noted, and you didn't even mention their potential franchise quarterback in Chad Henne. Plus, they found a couple of talented undrafted rookies in receiver Davone Bess and kicker Dan Carpenter. If only Miami's front office was as adept at selecting free agents as it is rookies.

asheed in Atlanta writes:
Tim, I thoroughly enjoyed the article on Marlin Briscoe. I was familiar with Marlin through various pieces on black QBs I'd seen over the years, however I did not know his particular history as intimately before I read your article. I greatly appreciated that. Again, great work.

Tim Graham: Marlin Briscoe's story is a compelling one. I appreciate you taking the time to let me know what you thought.

Mr. Anonymous in Houston writes: I read your "post" on 40 years ago, Briscoe broke QB barrier and thought it was interesting. What kind of comments did you expect to get in response to that article?

Tim Graham: Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. As for the feedback it generated, I guess I overestimated America's tolerance level. I read a few comments the day the story was posted and then never bothered to check back.

I received similar notes in the mailbag, not surprisingly from people who wouldn't leave a name, a location or a valid e-mail address.

Jesse in Pittsburgh writes: With how things have been this season so far, do you think it's even possible to have a good idea who will win the AFC East? All 4 teams look to have some potential. Bills started strong but they still have all their division games which could change everything. Pats are like a complete mystery to me this year. Jets seem expected to have a good season, but have been real good and real bad. And the Dolphins, my team, are a suprise as I was expecting another season of nothing to look forward to. If you could guess right now how they will all end up, where would you place them? Also, do you place the Dolphins as a decent team, or just recently lucky?

Tim Graham: I don't believe back-to-back wins over the Patriots and Chargers can be considered luck. Maybe you catch one of those teams on a bad day, but posting another big victory reduces chance.

From what we've seen so far, predicting how the AFC East will finish is a fool's errand. I know I've written this line before, but it sums up the situation pretty well: The Patriots beat the Jets who beat the Dolphins who beat the Patriots. The Bills are in the driver's seat with their 4-1 start, but they won't play a divisional game until Week 8. There's too much we don't know about these teams yet.

Rafael from Tampa: it has been great to see the dolphins prove virtually all the commentators at ESPN wrong! I am not just refering to the 2 wins but overall play in all the games this year (exception arizona) have shown a different team this year. Go ahead and keep calling all the future wins this season, "upsets."

Tim Graham: The Dolphins were underdogs against the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers. Therefore, when the Dolphins won, they recorded upsets.

I don't want to rupture an aneurysm or anything, Rafael, but I feel the need to inform you the Dolphins are underdogs again Sunday against the Houston Texans. If they win that one, it will be three upset victories in a row. Now grab a damp washcloth and lay it across your forehead.

Joe in Philadelphia writes: Hey Tim. I like the blog. Keep up the good work! Here is a question: Does the concussion Trent Edwards suffered, and the ensuing lost, depict just how good of a QB he is? Does the way everything played out make his status as a QB rise? Or am I just over thinking things?

Tim Graham: Trent Edwards is the most valuable component of Buffalo's offense, but that wasn't symbolized by Sunday's defeat to the Arizona Cardinals. I'm not sure a healthy Edwards would have made enough of a difference. J.P. Losman didn't lose the game; the defense's inability to put a lid on the Cardinals pass offense, especially on third down, was the main culprit.

Malik in Denver writes: With Matt Cassel running the offense who will have a better year {Reciving wise) Wes Welker or Randy Moss?

Tim Graham: I smell a fantasy football question here. Given the ball-control offense the Patriots are using to maximize Cassel's efficiency, logic would dictate Welker having the better season. As we saw Sunday in San Francisco, Moss still can make the bigger plays, but Welker will be the more frequent target.

Jeff in Buffalo writes: Do you believe the bills will try and make any trades before the deadline? and is there a possible soon-to-come shift in the offensive line, they haven't looked too good since the first game when Peters did not play.

Tim Graham: Trades happen so infrequently in the NFL, but the Bills are a team that recognizes after their blistering start they have a golden opportunity they need to seize. That mentality could lead to a greater willingness to make a move before the deadline. But offensive line help is hard to find. So many teams crave offensive line depth. Bills fans should resign themselves to the virtual certainty these will be the starting five linemen for the rest of the year and hope they come together.

Dean in Kansas City writes: What does the league rules state about using a thrid string QB? Does snapping the ball to a person listed in the program as a running back constitutes an emergency QB? Is there any way Miami is breaking the rules in their new offense set?

Tim Graham: No rules are being broken. The only stipulations on quarterback usage pertain to the player who is designated the third quarterback on the pregame inactive sheet.

While all other inactive players can't play that day, the third quarterback remains in uniform and can enter the game at any time. But if he is inserted before the fourth quarter, the first two quarterbacks are prohibited from playing from that point. If the third quarterback is used in the fourth quarter, the other quarterbacks can re-enter the game.

The rule was instituted in 1991 as an insurance policy because many teams were keeping only two quarterbacks on their rosters to make room for other players.

Tim Graham: Had Favre remained in Mississippi, neither the Dolphins nor the Jets would be as good as they've been. Both teams likely would be embroiled in quarterback controversies. The Jets still might be agonizing over Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens. The Dolphins would be trying to sort through Josh McCown, John Beck and rookie Chad Henne, who very well might be starting.

Chris from Parts Unknown writes: Hey Tim, we all know the dolphins are playing serious ball right now, at this pace, playing with this energy, we can get 10 wins. I'm wondering who can realistically make the ProBowl on this squad, obviously R
onnie Brown and Joey Porter, but what about a Matt Roth, Chad Pennington, Yeremiah Bell, Jake Long...

Tim Graham: A 10-win prediction sounds a tad ambitious to me, but the Dolphins are playing well enough to win any given week, so who knows? The one under-the-radar Dolphin who seems to be garnering the most respect among players from other teams is cornerback Will Allen. He's playing at a high level.

Brown is on the verge of receiving the same widespread notice as LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook, while Porter already has a Pro Bowl track record that makes it easier for a repeat selection.

Mustafa in Delaware writes: Hey Tim, I was wondering can you see the Pittsburgh Steelers as an elite team? My opinion they are. Why i say that? Well i wonder to my self this team has alot of talent and a good coach. The defense is there. the offense is there too, when there healthy. So wats missing for the Steelers?

Tim Graham: The Steelers need a healthy Willie Parker back in the lineup and better offensive line play so Ben Roethlisberger doesn't end up wearing a toe tag.

Mr. Anonymous from Wheatfield, N.Y., writes: Why are the hash marks still used in the NFL and what is the point?

Tim Graham: The hash marks are the outer-most boundary where the ball can be placed to be snapped. College hash marks are 40 feet wide. The NFL's narrower configuration (18 feet, 6 inches) opens up the passing game. Such a setup increases the area between the hashes and the sidelines while keeping the ball as close to the middle of the field as possible. It also decreases difficult angles for field goals.

David from Parts Unknown writes: Granted only the first quarter of the season is over and it is still difficult to determine the contenders from pretenders, but with the dolphins beating the pats and chargers back to back we are only 1 loss behind the bills and pats, could you see us being talked about for playoff contention still come weeks 14 15 deep into the season?

Tim Graham: What should give Dolphins fans hope is parity within the AFC East and a soft schedule. The rest of the division has a smooth road, too. But based on the past two weeks the Dolphins are, to borrow a boxing term, a live opponent.

For the power rankings portion of this week's mailbag, I'll let everybody vent.

Mr. Anonymous in Rockville, Md., writes: I can't BELIEVE that you put us at number 5 in the power rankings! How in the WORLD could you justify the cowgirls at TWO and the REDSKINS at FIVE!!!??? We just beat them and the pigeons, I mean eagles at home!?! Where is your logic? I think you've been writing about boxing and the NHL for too long because it's pretty obvious you know nothing about the NFL. Did you see how we've exposed the cowgirls now? Teams don't fear them! HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!

Dan from Parts Unknown writes: Philadelphia at six? Really? Come on. I know it's not an exact science, but be fair. I don't believe they're the sixth best now and if you look at their schedule, they won't be at the end of the year, either.

Geckler from Charlotte, N.C., writes: Tim, Putting the Dolphins at 23rd??? I respect your blogs and I keep tabs on them everyday, but this is ludicrous...Hands down, they are the hottest team in the NFL right now, they should be at least 15th or 16th. Bill Williamson should be the new writer for the AFC East. He made the right call by picking the Dolphins at 12.

Fluflu (I don't make this up, I swear) from Parts Unknown writes: Tim, nice job giving the dolphis the lowest ranking among all your counterparts....you even know this team better than them all. Do you know something we dont? Ricky looks slow, dbs are horrible, special teams stink (ginn) and no name avg recieving crew. But we are somehow getting it done. We are a tough team....

David in Fort Myers, Fla., writes: I happen to agree about the Dolphins' power ranking. I hope that most of the players read the story, it may give them more fuel for their fire. Its obvious that they are able to compete with the best teams in the AFC when they PLAY WELL. What do you think of the possible trap game coming up in Houston?

Mr. Anonymous from Palm Beach Gardens writes: How on earth does New England or San Diego get a power ranking so far above the Dolphins...based on this years perfomances they are not what the predictions suggested...If we were getting power rankings based on last years reputation where would the fins be...that's right dead last...your only as good as your last fight...quit thinking the Pats or Bolts are going anywhere this year ...and don't forget the superbowl loser hangover...sorry pats fans