AFC East: Week 3 Preview

Buffalo quarterback E.J. Manuel will look to lead his side to a rare road win.

Buffalo quarterback E.J. Manuel will look to lead his side to a rare road win.

Week 3 in the AFC East sees the undefeated New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins face NFC South opposition in games that really could go either way. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills travel to the New York Jets in a divisional game that could already have a huge impact on the division standings.

Read on for the preview of all three games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots

Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA, 1:00 p.m. ET (matchup)

Rob Gronkowski is now listed as questionable.

Rob Gronkowski is now listed as questionable.

It hasn’t been pretty but the New England Patriots (2-0, 1-0 home) remain undefeated on this young season. Of course, Bill Belichick is hardly likely to be worried about aesthetics when the Patriots are gravely lacking in receivers.

After a pair of close wins over divisional rivals, the Patriots now turn their focus to the NFC South. Tom Brady and his makeshift band of merry men will meet three opponents from the division over the next four weeks, starting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2, 0-1 road) this Sunday.

The Buccaneers are a team in desperate need of a win, not just to tally one in the ‘W’ column but also to curb a torrent of negative publicity and purported infighting. Losses to the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints have some suggesting quarterback Josh Freeman will be looking to be traded while plenty are already pointing the finger at second-year head coach Greg Schiano.

New England will be all too well aware of how dangerous a desperate team can be. The Buccaneers have not beaten the Patriots since September 2000, and that’s exactly how Belichick and Co. will hope to keep it.

The Patriots were without wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin) last week. Amendola is listed as doubtful ahead of Sunday’s game. Meanwhile, tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm, back) has been upgraded to questionable.

New England (-367) opened as the favorite over Tampa Bay (+319) on the moneyline. New England is 5-2 all-time against Tampa Bay, including a 3-1 record at Foxboro. The two last met in 2009, with the Patriots winning 35-7 at Wembley Stadium in London.

The spread opened at 7, where it remains at time of publication. Both the Patriots (0-2-0 ATS) and Buccaneers (1-1-0 ATS) have struggled covering the spread early in this season.

The over/under opened at 46.5 but has dropped to 43.5 as we approach kickoff. Both teams have seen the total go under in their opening two games.

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins

Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL, 4:05 p.m. ET (matchup)

The Dolphins are looking to go 3-0 for the first time since 2002.

The Dolphins are looking to go 3-0 for the first time since 2002.

The Miami Dolphins (2-0, 0-0 home) haven’t started a season 3-0 since 2002. They’ll get the chance to rectify that Sunday as they take to the field in their home-opener against the Atlanta Falcons (1-1, 0-1 road).

Miami shrugged off three interceptions from quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the season-opener, managing to escape with a 23-10 win over the Cleveland Browns that was a lot closer than the final score suggests. The Dolphins then came from behind to beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-20 last weekend, returning home undefeated. Continuing that trend is looking like a tricky task.

Having lost to New Orleans in Week 1, the Falcons fended off the St. Louis Rams last weekend to bring their record level. Mike Smith’s team now faces three straight weeks against the AFC East, with home games against the Patriots (Sept. 29) and Jets (Oct. 7) following this week’s game.

The Falcons’ win over the Rams came at a cost, with five starters leaving the game due to injury. Included among those were CB Asante Samuel (thigh) , who is questionable for Sunday’s visit to Miami, LB Sean Weatherspoon (foot) and RB Steven Jackson (thigh). According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jackson will definitely miss Sunday’s game while Weatherspoon will be out for at least eight games. Furthermore, LB Akeem Dent and WR Julio Jones have both been limited in practice.

For Miami, Tannehill has also been limited in practice this week with a sore shoulder, but is expected to take the field.

Playing at home, Miami (-117) opened as the moneyline favorite over Atlanta (+106), albeit marginally. The spread opened at 1, where it remains with some sportsbooks. Other bookmakers have bumped that figure up to 3. Miami (2-0-0 ATS) has covered the spread in each of its first two games, while Atlanta (1-1-0 ATS) has split its results.

The over/under opened at 43 but has shifted to 44.5 with most bookies, although some now have it at 45. Both teams have split the over/under evenly through Week 2.

Miami owns a 7-4 all-time record against Atlanta, including a 5-2 mark when playing in South Florida, but it is the Falcons that have won the last two meetings between the sides. The Dolphins’ last victory over the Falcons came on December 30, 2001.

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, 4:25 p.m. ET (matchup)

Geno Smith faces fellow rookie E.J. Manuel.

Geno Smith faces fellow rookie E.J. Manuel.

A month ago, nobody expected both E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith to be starting for their respective sides. The two highest-drafted quarterbacks from the 2013 NFL Draft have however both found their way into the starting lineup and will face each other Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Having practically stolen a win from the Buccaneers in Week 1, the New York Jets (1-1, 1-0 home) lost a sloppy game in New England last Thursday. This week they meet another division rival in the form of the Buffalo Bills (1-1, 0-0 road). Losing to the Patriots in the AFC East is one thing; losing at home to a team that hasn’t posted a winning road record since 1999 is something else altogether. The Jets then need to win on Sunday.

Like the Jets, the Bills split their first two home games of the season, first losing to the Patriots before edging the Carolina Panthers 24-23 last week. Now the team will look to pick up a win on the road, something it has struggled with for a long time; the Bills have recorded just eight road wins over the last four years.

If ever there was a time to pick up that elusive road win, Sunday’s game might be it. Despite the fact that the Bills are 1-4 in their last five road games against the Jets, the New York side appears to be on a narrow precipice between mediocrity and outright disaster. Rex Ryan’s team continues to look as though it may be sliding towards the latter, which is good news for the Bills.

The Jets (-134) opened as the favorite over Buffalo (+121) on the moneyline. The spread currently sits anywhere between 1 and 3, depending where you shop. Both teams have covered the spread in each of their opening fixtures.

The over/under opened at 39 but has slipped to 38.5 with most bookmakers. The Jets (0-2-0) have seen the total go under in both games this season, while the Bills (1-1-0) have split the over/under evenly.

Buffalo leads the all-time head-to-head 55-50 and has recorded a 27-27 record in road games. However, the Jets have dominated in recent years, winning eight of the last 10 meetings between the two sides. Buffalo snapped a six-game losing streak against the Jets in their last meeting (Dec. 30, 2012).



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