At the start of the season the AFC East looked like the most competitive division in football. Anybody could beat anybody. But after two weeks that's changed. Now there's an A division and a B division. Miami and Buffalo are the As, New York and New England are the B's, and on Sunday they match up that way.
I like the Bills to upset the Dolphins in Miami. Buffalo looks unbeatable, with Drew Bledsoe's passing and Travis Henry's running supplying the kind of balance coaches dream about but rarely achieve. Plus, the Bills are playing serious defense. The Dolphins pound away with Ricky Williams, or at least they did against the Jets on Sunday. But just when people get lulled to sleep, wideout Chris Chambers makes one of those remarkable catches that have become his trademark. So I guess you'd say Miami has some semblance of balance too.
Buffalo beat the Dolphins twice last year, both wins coming in the six-week window when Ray Lucas was starting for injured Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler. But New York, with 39-year-old Vinny Testaverde, had some success going deep against the Dolphins, and I think Bledsoe will have even more.
Why do we call the Patriots a B-division team when they have the same 1-1 mark as Miami does? Because they're unbalanced. They can't run. They flooded the field with wideouts on Sunday, a sensible thing to do against a crippled Philly secondary, and Tom Brady pecked the Eagles to death with dinky passes. And, of course, Donovan McNabb helped New England by having one of the worst days of his career.
Does that mean we like the visiting Jets to upset New England? Uh, no. The Jets are even more unbalanced than the Pats. The running of Curtis Martin, which has carried the offense on many afternoons when nothing else was working, is no longer a strength. The most serious part of the 30-year-old Martin's game, the quick cut followed by an explosive burst, is gone.
I can't forget one play against the Dolphins, early in the second quarter, when the Jets needed three yards for a first down. Martin started to his right, off tackle. The hole was jammed, but then a small window opened to the inside. The old Martin would have made the lightning cut and knocked over a couple of off-balance tacklers and picked up nine or 10 yards. But this time he just rode with the flow, into the crowded part of the defense—for no gain. Testaverde had some success going deep, but the end product was one touchdown. The Patriots get the win.
?The Raiders-Broncos meeting on Monday night is a traditional grudge match. The Broncos are flying, with two straight big wins, and the Raiders are struggling with a pass attack that produced 103 yards against the Bengals on Sunday. The game's in Denver, and it almost looks too easy. I'll go with the Broncos anyway.
? Atlanta will upset Tampa Bay. The Bucs played a grueling overtime game in blistering heat against Carolina, and I believe they will still be feeling the effects. The Giants will beat the Redskins in Washington, where New York has won two of the last three. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger was a little rusty against the 49ers, but he won't be against the Seahawks. I like St. Louis in an upset.
?The 49ers will win big against Cleveland, the Ravens will keep it going against San Diego, and I need another upset, so what the heck—let's take the Bengals over the Steelers, a team that Cincinnati usually plays tough.
Last week: 3-7
Season record: 10-9