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Jets’ Statement Upset of Bills Makes AFC East the NFL’s Most Intriguing Division | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

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New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

AP Photo/Noah K. Murray

When the 2022 season began, the AFC East was considered a
foregone conclusion. It was the Buffalo Bills’ world, and the Miami Dolphins,
New England Patriots and New York Jets were just living in it.

However, a funny thing has happened on the way to Buffalo’s supposed coronation. After getting stunned by the Jets in Week 9, the 6-2 Bills are less than a game up on New York and Miami (both 6-3), which outlasted the Bears in Chicago. With the
Patriots also taking care of business at home Sunday against the Colts to improve to 5-4, every
team in the AFC East is above .500 after nine weeks.

A division that was supposed to be a runaway is wide open
heading into the second half of the 2022 regular season. More than that, the AFC East has
become the most intriguing division race in the league.

Week 9 wasn’t supposed to go this way for the Bills. After
downing the Green Bay Packers last week, the Bills had won four straight,
including a statement win at Arrowhead Stadium over the Kansas City Chiefs. At
6-1, the Bills had the best record in the AFC and were regarded by most as the best team in the conference. Buffalo entered Sunday’s games as a double-digit
favorite over the Jets, which were coming off a loss to the Patriots.

Garrett Wilson

AP Photo/Noah K. Murray

The problem is that no one told the Jets they were supposed
to lose. In fact, there are a lot of things people apparently forgot to tell
the Jets about their prospects in 2022.

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone outside the Jets
locker room who gave the team a chance to do much of anything this season. But despite
being without starting quarterback Zach Wilson to open the season, the Jets hit
Week 9 as a 5-3 team.

While the Jets had a winning record, though, the team
lacked a true statement win. New York blew out the Dolphins back in Week 5, but
that was when Miami was forced to roll out its third-string quarterback.

Gang Green got its statement win Sunday.

New York’s upset win was the team’s season in a nutshell.
Despite losing rookie running back Breece Hall to a season-ending ACL tear a
few weeks ago, New York piled up 175 rushing yards against one of the NFL’s
best defenses. New York’s defense played Buffalo’s explosive offense as well as
any team has this season, limiting the Bills to a season-low 17 points, including just
three in the second half.

As has been the case all season long, the Jets
got big contributions from first-round rookies Garrett Wilson (eight catches,
92 yards) and Ahmad Gardner (seven tackles, interception). Wilson didn’t light
it up through the air, but he didn’t make mistakes, either.

And most importantly, despite playing in a back-and-forth game
as a heavy underdog, the Jets never panicked. As
head coach Robert Saleh told reporters after
the game, this is a team that believes it can win games.

“We’re too young to flinch,” Saleh said. “I
know a lot of people are going to be surprised, right? I don’t think there’s a
person surprised in the locker room.”

To say that’s a change in culture is an understatement.

For the Bills, the loss was hardly the end of the world.
Buffalo remains the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the front-runner in the division.
The Bills possess a top-three offense and a top-three defense and may well be the most complete team in the league. They just didn’t look it on
Sunday, and after a shaky performance against the Jets, Bills quarterback Josh
Allen put the blame for the loss squarely on himself.

“It’s tough to win in this league when you’re playing a
good team and your quarterback plays like s–t,” Allen said. “Made
some bad decisions tonight. Really cost our team.”

Josh Allen

AP Photo/Noah K. Murray

It isn’t panic time in Buffalo—not even close. But the Bills’ two losses this season are both inside the division. The Jets and Dolphins are
both right on their heels, and each of them has a head-to-head win over the Bills. The margin for
error in Western New York is gone, and next week the Bills have to take on a
one-loss Vikings team.

While the Jets were stunning the Bills at Met Life Stadium,
the Dolphins were taking care of business in Chicago. Dolphins quarterback Tua
Tagovailoa had another big game, throwing for 302 yards and three scores while
drawing praise from head coach Mike McDaniel.

“The growth has been unbelievable in how he’s playing
the position, learning the whole system and then how he’s handling the ebbs and
flows of natural, in-game momentum,” McDaniel told reporters.
“Saw it again today.”

Granted, it helps to have Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to
throw to, but Tagovailoa has made massive strides as a passer in 2022. And
while the Dolphins are 6-3, all three losses came in games where Tagovailoa
either sat out or was forced from the contest. Tagovailoa has finished six
games this season. The Dolphins have won all six.

Tua Tagovailoa

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Then there’s the 5-4 Patriots, who have seemingly been all
but forgotten. New England pummeled the Colts 26-3 Sunday with a dominant
defensive performance that left head coach Bill Belichick absolutely beaming
while speaking to
reporters
.

“We got pressure on early downs and created some
long-yardage situations,” Belichick said. “Anytime you have good pass
rush, you have good coverage. And anytime you have good coverage, you have good
pass rush.”

OK, so he wasn’t actually beaming. But he was surely smiling
on the inside, because while the Pats may not have the offensive firepower of
the Bills and Dolphins, they have a defense that will keep them in most
games.

There isn’t a bad team in the division. There are no easy
outs. And with plenty of games against one another still to be played, the
second half of the race in the AFC East should be fascinating.

The AFC East isn’t the only division in the league high on intrigue.
There are three teams in the NFC East with at least six wins, including the
league’s last undefeated team. The NFC West and AFC West haven’t lived up to
preseason expectations, but both divisions are loaded with talent.

But if drama is your thing, the AFC East is the place to be.
Because whether it’s the loaded Bills, the explosive Dolphins, the upstart Jets
or Darth Hoodie’s Patriots, there isn’t a bad team to be found. It’s a race
that could (and probably will) go down to the wire.

And as it turns out, the ending to that story may not be as preordained as we thought.





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