Last week, the AFC East took over prime-time as the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins engaged in an entertaining Sunday Night Football affair, with the Jets winning 31-23. This weekend, the division is once again back in the limelight — but this time, it’s on Monday Night Football.
The 2-1 New England Patriots (-1.0, 1.87) will travel to Miami to take on the 2-1 Dolphins (+1.0, 1.95) in what could be a game to decide top spot in the East. Let’s take a look at some of the key betting storylines heading into this one:
First, we must start with the Patriot defense…specifically, their lack of it. The Pats have been gouged in the first three weeks of the season, giving up 24 points to the Bengals in Week 1, 28 to the Jets in Week 2 and — perhaps most distressingly — a whopping 30 to the lowly Buffalo Bills last Sunday. The problems with the New England defense are plenty: they don’t pressure the QB enough, they can’t get enough stops on third down and by starting so many young players in the secondary (CBs Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington are first- and second-year players; strong safety Patrick Chung is a sophomore as well), they simply lack experience.
This will be a big issue on Monday night, especially given Miami WR Brandon Marshall has broken out in a major way. Last weekend against the Jets, Marshall caught 10 passes for 166 yards and a TD — numbers that nearly doubled his output from the first two games combined. Marshall and QB Chad Henne must be drooling at the prospect of facing New England’s 25th-ranked pass defense, which has already allowed seven passing TDs this season.
In other action this weekend…
2-1 New York Jets (-6.0, 1.91) at 0-3 Buffalo Bills (+6.0, 1.91)
The Bills impressed a few people last week by hanging with the Patriots before ultimately losing 38-30, but don’t expect Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo offense to put up similar numbers this week. The Jets came into this season bragging about how dominant the defense was and, true to form, they’ve been really, really dominant. While the numbers might not necessarily suggest it, the Jets are doing all the necessary things to prevent scoring drives — stuffing the run and creating turnovers. They’ve only allowed five offensive TDs this season (tied for 5th in the NFL) and this can’t be a welcome development for the Bills.
On offense, the Jets have surprised many with back-to-back efforts. QB Mark Sanchez sits third in the AFC with a 104.9 passer rating, behind arguably the two best QBs in the game — Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. He’s developed great chemistry with TE Dustin Keller (15 catches, 226 yards, three TDs) and that seems to have opened up the passing game for WRs Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. That, in turn, has allowed the ground game to do its thing. RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene have been steadying presences (Greene has had his fumbling issues, mind you) and as a result, the Jets boast the ninth-ranked rush offense in the NFL.