(CBS New York) -- The Buffalo Bills entered the season as the AFC East favorites, thanks to a stellar season, an AFC Championship appearance, and a bright young star at quarterback. The Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and New York Jets faced plenty of uncertainty. Questions remain going into Week 8. And good answers, at least for the Dolphins and Jets, don't seem to be forthcoming.
The Bills return from their Week 7 bye to face a Dolphins team in disarray. The Patriots look for some confirmation of their progress in Los Angeles against the Chargers. And the Jets hope to avoid another blowout against the Cincinnati Bengals.
CBS New York sports anchor Steve Overmyer looks at the three AFC East matchups in Week 8.
All times listed are Eastern.
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills, Sunday, October 31 @ 1:00 p.m. on CBS
The Bills and Dolphins are two teams going in very different directions. The first sign of that divergence came in Week 2, when Buffalo blanked Miami, 35-0. Since then the Bills have remained impressive, shutting teams down en route to a 4-2 record and the division lead. The Dolphins have continued to flounder, losing six straight and sinking into the AFC East cellar.
"Miami just looks like a team right now that is discontent," Overmyer noted. "You've got a quarterback who literally came out and said that he doesn't think the team, the franchise, believes in him. And why not? Clearly this is a Miami team that is trying to trade for Deshaun Watson. And that really cuts the legs out from under your starting quarterback, when everybody on the roster knows that this team is trying to bring in a better quarterback instead of you."
Tagovailoa, like the rest of the team, has had a tough season. He broke his ribs in their first loss to the Bills, giving way to backup Jacoby Brissett. He was less than full strength when he returned in mid-October, only to fall to the then-winless Jacksonville Jaguars and then the Atlanta Falcons. He's averaged over 300 yards passing the last two weeks in losses to suspect defenses.
"Let's be honest, Tua has not been outstanding," Overmyer confirmed. "But he did throw four touchdowns in the last game. He has shown sparks. This is likely his last chance before the trade deadline clearly to try to prove his worth. And this was a guy who was the number five overall pick in the 2020 draft. Tua was supposed to be the franchise for Miami. And it has not gone well. He's continually getting harassed by any team, any defensive line that puts pressure on him."
The Buffalo defense certainly won't give Tua a break. This unit is allowing a league-low 270.2 yards and 16.3 points per game. Their pass defense is strong, and they force their share of turnovers. And their offense is among the best in the NFL in putting up yards and points.
"The Bills and Josh Allen and what they do on the offensive side," confirmed Overmyer. "This combination that the Bills bring to the table week in and week out, both on the offensive side and, when you look at their DVOA rankings, how strong they are on the defensive side. This seems like an absolute no-brainer that the Bills are going to walk away with this one."
New England Patriots @ Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, October 31 @ 4:05 p.m. on CBS
The Patriots are coming off an impressive offensive showing in Week 7. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones led them to 54 points in a blowout win over the Jets. He went 24-36 for 307 yards and two touchdowns, building on what's becoming a solid rookie season. Running back Damien Harris piled up 106 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. It was his second consecutive 100-yard game.
"I think there are a lot of people who are very inspired by what Mac Jones and the Patriots did against the Jets," said Overmyer. "But again, it was against the Jets. They're not going to be facing the same quality of defense this next week against the Chargers."
The Chargers have allowed only 201.8 yards passing per game in their six games, fourth in the league. That stingy defense in the passing game is helped by a strong pass rush, led by outside linebacker Joey Bosa. On the other side of the ball, Justin Herbert continues to impress, building on last season's Rookie of the Year campaign. The offense puts up 282.8 yards passing per game, with wideouts Keenan Allen and Mike Williams the main beneficiaries. Austin Ekeler, who's been productive in the run game, is another target out of the backfield.
The Chargers are coming off a bye, which was preceded by an ugly loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. "There's always a little bit of a question mark when a young quarterback and a young team with young leadership comes off of a bye," Overmyer said. "How are they going to respond? Because we saw last week, Robert Saleh with the New York Jets, came off of a bye, and the team basically was an absolute dud. So are the Chargers on their best week better than the Patriots? Absolutely they are. Coming off of a bye week gives you a little bit of hesitancy, especially when you see that the Patriots' losses this year have been very narrow losses to very good teams."
According to Overmyer, "when you really look at this and you break down what the Chargers can do on the offensive side, even if it is a letdown game for Herbert, he still has Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. They can still run the ball. This Chargers team I feel like is a head above the Patriots. And you can see that if you are looking at the betting lines. You can see how much of a favorite they are in this game. And that's why I just think that it's going to be too big of a challenge for Bill Belichick to be able to beat the Chargers this week."
Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Jets, Sunday, October 31 @ 1:00 p.m. on CBS
In past seasons, when both the Bengals and Jets were (to put it nicely) rebuilding, this would not be among the week's best matchups. The Bengals, however, have clearly turned a corner. Joe Burrow's promising rookie season ended on injured reserve with a torn ACL and MCL. But he's continued to grow in his second year, and the addition of fifth-overall pick Ja'Marr Chase at wide receiver has certainly helped. Joe Mixon continues to be a threat out of the backfield.
If the playoffs started this week, the Bengals, at 5-2, would be the top seed in the AFC. Aside from the offensive improvement, the defense has also taken a step forward. They're one of only a handful of teams to allow under 100 yards per game rushing, and one of an even smaller handful to allow less than 20 points per game. None of this bodes well for the Jets.
"The Bengals are clearly, far and away 10 times better than what the Jets are," said Overmyer. The Jets are one of the worst teams in the NFL. And, on top of that, they don't even have their rookie quarterback and Zach Wilson. Mike White is going to be the quarterback for the Jets this week, which you might think would be an okay thing if they could run the ball. But the Jets can't even run the ball. They have the lowest yards-per-carry average in the entire NFL. So they're not even helping their young quarterback out what once again. The Jets just don't seem to have a way to move the ball. And defensively, they have this bend-but-don't-break defense. But last week, they broke. They broke to the tune of 550 yards and 54 points to Mac Jones and The New England Patriots."
Burrow is ahead of Jones in his development and has more weapons at his disposal. "What's going to happen now with Joe Burrow, who's just coming off a 400-yard passing game, and Ja'Marr Chase had 200 receiving yards?" asked Overmyer. "Let's not forget about Uzomah, the tight end. The Jets give up a ton of yards in the seam to the tight end. They have a very inexperienced secondary. It's clear they're playing a defense 1.0. They don't really have an advanced defensive system in place right now, because they have so many young players in that defensive backfield."
According to Overmyer, "this could be a big blowout."
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