Here are seven notes and observations in the AFC East:
I'm convinced the Buffalo Bills could play the New York Jets 10 times and probably lose seven or eight of those games. It's not that the Bills are a bad team. The Jets simply have superior personnel at key positions that match up perfectly with what the Bills like to do. New York is one of the few teams comfortable going with six or seven defensive backs. The Jets were all over Buffalo's receivers, which made life tough for Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Jets were far from perfect Sunday, especially on offense, and still won going away by 16 points. If the Jets did not make key mistakes on offense, they could have scored 40 points. The game was that lopsided.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan brought up an interesting point in Sunday's postgame news conference. He challenged the New York media to pick another target who is struggling in order to motivate that player. It's worked all season for the Jets. The New York media at different points jumped on the back of the offensive line, wide receiver Plaxico Burress, tailback Shonn Greene and receiver Santonio Holmes this season. Each time that player or group responded with better performances and/or big plays.
We are about to find out the road mettle of the Bills (5-3). Four of their next five games are away from Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo will start a string of three consecutive away games Sunday with a matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (4-4). The Bills then travel to play the Miami Dolphins and have a rematch against the Jets. Buffalo also plays at San Diego (4-4) on Dec. 11. The Bills, who are 1-2 on the road, have the ability to win these games but have to be more consistent. How Buffalo comes out of this stretch will determine whether they have a chance to stay in the AFC East race.
Bills receiver Steve Johnson showed me something against the Jets. New York corner Darrelle Revis was in his usual all-world form. I've seen plenty of receivers shut it down in the second half while on Revis Island. But Johnson kept playing hard and eventually got a 52-yard reception over Revis. It was one of the few big plays Revis gave up this year. Johnson will see Revis plenty of times in his career and this was a learning experience. Johnson had three receptions for 84 yards.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady showed more frustration with receiver Chad Ochocinco Sunday than we've seen all season. Brady later backed Ochocinco in interviews after the game to prevent controversy. Ochocinco was targeted five times and had zero receptions in a loss to the New York Giants. The pair can't get on the same page. New England runs a very crisp and precise passing offense. That's not the type of receiver they have in Ochocinco, who had a reputation in Cincinnati as a "freelancer." Often Ochocinco would run the wrong routes, but Carson Palmer and Ochocinco played together long enough where they would still make plays. Brady and Ochocinco don't have that chemistry. Plus, New England is the type of team that won't bend the system to fit any one player.
Why has New England gone away from the running game? The Patriots are 1-2 in their past three games. A major reason is New England is averaging just 83.3 rushing yards in those contests. The Patriots are a capable running team but they have gone away from that balanced attack. They have become more predictable and allowed defenders to easily drop in coverage. That has led to an usually high amount of turnovers from Brady.
I feel odd writing this, but the Dolphins could have a lot of say in who wins the AFC East. Miami has been competitive the past three weeks. The Dolphins finally were rewarded with a 31-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Playing at this level, Miami has a chance to upset someone at the top of the division. If the Bills, Patriots or Jets are sleeping, the Dolphins could dish out a surprising loss that would be a big blow to one of these teams' playoff chances.