AFC East: Division chase will come down to final weeks…it’s on!

Alec Ingold (30) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Alec Ingold (30) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The AFC East is going to be a rollercoaster ride for the next seven weeks with a collision course between two teams in four games.

On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills moved back into sole possession of first place in the division with a big win in Detroit. It took everything the Bills had to hold off the Lions who could have won the game late had it not been for horrible clock management.

With the victory by the Bills, they move to eight wins, 1/2 game ahead of the Miami Dolphins who play on Sunday against the Texans.

The Patriots on Thursday also played just up the road in Minnesota. The back-and-forth game that saw 12 lead changes or tied scoring came down to the wire but the Patriots couldn’t hold off the Vikings late and dropped their 5th game of the year.

The Jets will play on Sunday against the Bears and are hoping to keep pace in the division. What we will see though is a fight over the following six games as the season winds down and for the Dolphins, it’s their worst stretch of football since their opening four weeks.

Miami will play the following:

  • Texans
  • @ 49ers
  • @ Chargers
  • @ Bills
  • Packers
  • @ Patriots
  • Jets

Buffalo Bills

  • @ Patriots
  • Jets
  • Dolphins
  • @ Bears
  • @ Bengals
  • Patriots

New York Jets

  • Bears
  • @ Vikings
  • @ Bills
  • Lions
  • Jaguars
  • Seahawks
  • @Dolphins

New England Patriots

  • Bills
  • @ Cardinals
  • @ Raiders
  • Bengals
  • Dolphins
  • @ Bills

Of the four AFC East teams, the Miami Dolphins have the toughest schedule ahead followed by the Jets, the Patriots, and the Bills.

Miami has to beat the Texans on Sunday. They are heavily favored but this game is a must-win because the stretch is going to be extremely tough. The three game road trip is no joke with three games against potential playoff teams.

The west coast trip will culminate in a third road game in the northeast against the Bills in a game that could have major implications on the AFC East standings. If the Dolphins can enter that weekend with either a game lead or a tie with the Bills, it could shape up to be one of the best games of the year and should decide the division. Why? if the Dolphins go out west and win both of those games, they will be considered favorites for the division.

Meanwhile, the Bills will face three division opponents in the next three weeks with the Patriots and Jets ahead of the Dolphins. The Bills have struggled the last two weeks against the Browns and Lions. Moreso against the Lions and the Patriots and Jets defenses will make Josh Allen work but both of the opposing offenses are not very good and they are games the Bills should win.

The Miami Dolphins need to split, at the very least, the west coast stretch to enter the Bills game one back of the division.

Assuming of course the Bills win both of their next two.

While Miami and Buffalo remain on a collision course, the Jets are not out of anything yet either. They have two big games coming up after Chicago, the Vikings and the Bills. A win against the Bills keeps them in the division race but with so much going on at quarterback, Zach Wilson benched, it’s uncertain if the Jets’ offense can do enough to beat the Bills, or the Vikings.

Finally, the Patriots chase for the division title took a hit on Thursday with their loss to the Vikings. The Patriots fell to 6-5 but their upcoming record isn’t all that bad. They will play the Bills twice and the Dolphins at home but they will face the Raiders and Cardinals who are not good football teams and a Bengals team that is good but inconsistent.

The AFC East is one of the best in the NFL right now and the final six games leave very little room for error. The Dolphins are playing great football but we also have a brutal schedule ahead. If the Dolphins are going to be taken seriously, they have to be able to beat these teams regardless of their location.