(CBS New York) — It was tough sledding for most of the AFC East in week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, as the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots all opened up the season with losses. The Miami Dolphins are currently atop the division standings at 1-0, earning that spot with a 17-16 win over the Patriots in Mac Jones’ rookie debut.
This week, all four teams in the division go head-to-head as the Jets host New England at MetLife Stadium and the Bills travel down to Miami to take on the Dolphins. Transition was the keyword for this group of teams all throughout the offseason, as the Jets and Patriots each start a rookie quarterback, the Dolphins roll with second-year signal caller Tua Tagovailoa, and the Bills look to make their first AFC East title defense since 1995.
Week two figures to provide a good measuring stick for all four teams to see how each squad’s transition is going early on in 2021. CBS Boston sports director Steve Burton ran through both divisional matchups with CBS Local’s Katie Johnston ahead of week two.
All times listed are Eastern.
New England Patriots @ New York Jets, Sunday, September 19 @ 1:00 p.m.
When the Jets and Patriots take to the field at MetLife Stadium this Sunday, it will be the two teams’ 125th matchup all time. The Patriots have gotten the better of the rivalry thus far, with 69 wins compared to the Jets’ 54, with one tie mixed in. This week two matchup will provide something the rivalry has never seen before, as both teams start rookie quarterbacks.
For the Jets, Zach Wilson’s first game was a mixed bag. Wilson started just 6-16 for 84 yards with an interception in the first half of last week’s opener in Carolina. The second half was much better, as the offensive line started to give the BYU product time to operate, and he went 14-21 for 174 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers after halftime. Another first-year Jet also contributed in a major way during the second half. Corey Davis was on the receiving end for both of Wilson’s touchdown throws.
Defensively the Jets also found their footing in the second half against the Panthers. Carolina jumped out to an early 16-0 lead in the first half but was held to just three after halftime. With six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Bill Belichick coming to town, Gang Green will need to get off to a faster start to come away with a victory.
For New England, the Patriots lost two fumbles and were assessed over 80 yards in penalties against the Dolphins in week one. If Belichick and company are going to add one to the win column this week those issues cannot become a trend according to Burton.
“There’s two things the Patriots have to go over this week — penalties and ball security,” Burton said. “One of the guys who fumbled the ball, Damien Harris, he’s been walking around all summer with a ball attached to his hand; so he knows better. Then there’s a rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson who fumbled the ball as well. Turnovers killed the Patriots, they had four fumbles and two where they lost the football all together. Then there’s the penalties, they were penalized eight times for 84 yards. That is so unpatriotic when it comes to Bill Belichick teams.”
While there was plenty to dissect in week one, Burton did come away very impressed with the performance of rookie quarterback Mac Jones, saying, “You cannot blame this loss on Mac Jones, he went above and beyond, completed 74 percent of his passes. He was pretty much lights out and spot on for the most part.”
As for his prediction heading into the game, Massachusetts’ own is sticking with his home town team. “I think it’s going to be all New England, because they had a little taste of humble pie,” Burton said. “The Patriots have a strong core, and they should be 1-0. It wasn’t that last week the Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots, the Patriots beat themselves. And so they know going into this week they can’t afford to let that happen in MetLife Stadium. It’s a business trip for them, they know what they have to do. They know they’re a better team than the New York Jets. And the Jets are coming off a loss as well.”
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins, Sunday, September 19 @ 1:00 p.m.
For the other half of the AFC East showdown this weekend, we look at reigning AFC East champion Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins. At just 25-years-old, Josh Allen finds himself as the elder statesmen when it comes to quarterbacks in the East, with Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa the second oldest at 23-years-of-age.
Miami is coming off a big win over the Patriots in week one that saw the Dolphins escape a nail-biter by forcing a fumble deep in their own territory to seal the game in the fourth quarter. Xavien Howard, a 2020 first-team All-Pro, was the one who ripped the ball out of Damien Harris’s hands to close out the contest. Miami’s bend-but-don’t-break defense was the story of the afternoon, as they allowed 393 yards of offense but only one touchdown. On offense the Dolphins accounted for just 276 yards but were able to punch the ball into the end zone twice; once via Tagovailos’ feet and once with his arm.
The Bills offense also struggled to get things going last week as their only touchdown came on a pass from Josh Allen to Gabriel Davis in the second quarter. Despite going into halftime with a 10-0 lead, Buffalo elected to come out throwing rather than run and drain clock in the second half. Overall, Allen threw 51 times last weekend, with only 25 rushing attempts by the Bills as a team. The Bills defense wore down late in the game and allowed 17 fourth-quarter points, which made all the difference in a 23-16 final score.
“Nobody was expecting that,” Burton said. “Josh Allen, quarterback of the Buffalo Bills just underperformed. Here’s a guy that everybody’s expecting big things from, he signed a huge contract. He’s probably one of the top quarterbacks in the national football league, and he laid an egg.”
When it comes to this week’s contest, Burton has high hopes for a bounceback from Allen saying, “I don’t expect him to lay two eggs in a row.” Despite high expectations for Buffalo’s fourth-year QB Burton, expects a tight one in South Beach for week two.
“The Miami Dolphins are a good football team, don’t underestimate them. Obviously they’re the only ones with a win right now, when it comes to the AFC East. But I think the Buffalo Bills are a better team. Now the Buffalo Bills have to travel to Miami, sometimes it’s tougher to win in Miami. But I think the Bills are a better football team than the Dolphins. And the Dolphins are rolling right now, even though this will be only game two of the season.”