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AFC East Spin cycle: Week Two

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Posted Sept. 17, 2012 @ 1:23 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

The tides changed in the AFC East in Week Two. The Bills and Dolphins had dominating performances to get their respective first wins, the Jets got smacked back to reality and the Patriots got stunned at home. All four teams enter Week Three games with a 1-1 record. 

BILLS

What we learned: RB C.J. Spiller is the real deal, and the Bills are happy to ground and pound their way to a win. After a passing disaster in Week One, Buffalo fed Spiller early and often, and the electric back had another huge performance, with 170 total yards and two TDs. The Bills ran it 36 times and Ryan Fitzpatrick only threw it 19 times, but he was efficient, tossing two TDs and zero interceptions. The Bills are 5-0 the past two seasons when he throws fewer than 30 times.

What’s in store next: The Bills head to Cleveland to play an 0-2 Browns team which finally got RB Trent Richardson going in Week Two, and he will test the Bills’ run defense. If the Bills are for real, and if they want the league to believe what they did to the Chiefs better represents how they will fare this season than the loss to the Jets, then they need to take care of business vs. the Browns. 

What the heck? After being completely absent in Week One, DE Mark Anderson came alive Sunday with three tackles, a tackle for loss and a QB hit. In fact, Anderson led Bills front-seven players with 61 defensive snaps (81 percent). The whole unit stepped up, as Kyle Williams notched two sacks, Marcell Dareus and Alex Carrington grabbed one apiece and Mario Williams had a fumble recovery that led to a touchdown. In the secondary, Leodis McKelvin appears to be relegated again, playing in only five snaps on defense, but he did return a punt 88 yards for a score.

DOLPHINS

What we learned: Reggie Bush can run between the tackles, and he can be a workhorse — in case there are still doubters after he played that role late last season. Bush had a career-high 26 carries and he ran all over the Raiders’ defense for 172 yards and two touchdowns. The Dolphins’ rushing attack (43 carries, 263 yards, 6.1-yard average) was dominant, and it took pressure off rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, who had a much better game and threw his first NFL TD pass. We also learned the run defense is still the bedrock of this team, as it held Darren McFadden to 22 yards on 11 carries.

What’s in store next: The Dolphins’ offense gets a much bigger test against the Jets next week, who likely will have CB Darrelle Revis back. Tannehill’s margin of error will be small against Gang Green, and the Dolphins will be hard-pressed to match their rushing output from Week Two. It will be a big challenge for Joe Philbin and company. Look for the defense to be a little more aggressive in putting pressure on Jets QB Mark Sanchez.

What the heck? Remember all that talk about the Dolphins having the league’s worst WR corps? Much of that sentiment was expressed while Brian Hartline was sidelined with a calf injury. He is clearly healthy, and he had nine catches for 111 yards in the win. Davone Bess added three catches for 43 yards. However, no other wideout had a catch.

JETS

What we learned: Well, for one thing, the offense isn’t going to score 48 points every week, that’s for sure. We saw what a defense like Pittsburgh, even without Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, could do to the Jets’ offense, completely suffocating them after their touchdown drive. The Jets clearly still have things to work on in the new offense — though the "D" didn't help by not getting the Steelers' offense off the field on third downs (Pittsburgh held the ball for more than 36 minutes). Darrelle Revis’ absence was noticeable when Ben Roethlisberger made some big plays to Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, especially the long touchdown pass to Wallace when Antonio Cromartie struggled to play the ball.

What’s in store next: The Jets return to the division for a game against the Dolphins, who helped eliminate the Jets from playoff contention in last year’s regular-season finale. The Jets’ defense should be motivated and has the personnel to give rookie QB Ryan Tannehill fits. The key, though, will be getting the offense back on track, and Miami is not easy to run against.

What the heck? Tim Tebow was on the field for three offensive snaps, and he took one of them for a 22-yard run. It’s clear the Tebow package is not designed for games in which the Jets are trailing, but against a Steelers defense that is so stout against the run, you would think that Tony Sparano would try to go into the bag of tricks a few times. … Rookie WR Stephen Hill had zero catches on two targets after making five catches and two touchdowns in Week One.

PATRIOTS

What we learned: TE Aaron Hernandez means a heck of a lot to this offense. Say what you will about Rob Gronkowski, but Hernandez is the most valuable part to this offense. The Patriots can be so creative with him and he provides mismatches. His ankle injury, which is expected to keep him out for at least six weeks (according to some reports), will force the offense to adapt. The Cardinals befuddled the Pats’ offense and their pressure rattled Tom Brady, who had a passer rating of 79.6. The Pats moved the ball, but couldn’t notch the big plays when they needed to.

What’s in store next: A Bill Belichick team rarely losses back-to-back games, but it happened last season (Steelers, Giants) and very well could happen again vs. a Ravens team looking for revenge from last year’s AFC title game. The Pats’ defense will get its biggest test, having to contain Ray Rice as well as the Ravens’ vertical passing attack. Baltimore’s defense also will be a tough unit to crack for a Patriots squad that will be missing Hernandez. This is a huge game for both teams.

What the heck? PK Stephen Gostkowski was automatic in his first four field-goal attempts, including a 51-yarder and a 53-yarder, yet when the game was on the line, he badly missed a 42-yard kick that would have won the game, and made the Cardinals pay for inexplicably coughing up the ball. Before that, a Rob Gronkowski holding penalty negated a Danny Woodhead TD run, and a false start by Gronk pushed the Patriots back five yards. 

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