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Week 4 AFC East Recap: Dolphins continue to plummet, Patriots fall just short against champs

Indianapolis Colts v Miami Dolphins Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills remain firmly entrenched atop the AFC East, while all three teams that were hoping for a chance to gun for the divisional crown this year are seeing those dreams dashed. The New York Jets, however, appear to be pluckier than most imagined, knocking off a 2020 playoff team in the Tennessee Titans in Week 4. The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins both fell short of the mark on Sunday, but the former left its loss with far more hope than the latter.

Every week through the 2021 season, I’ll be recapping the action from around the NFL’s most intriguing division. A companion article will be released later each week to preview the upcoming Sunday’s action for the Dolphins, Patriots, Bills, and Jets. Without further ado, let’s break down everything we saw from the AFC East in Week 4.

AFC East Standings

  1. Buffalo Bills (3-1) overall; (1-0) division
  2. Miami Dolphins (1-3) overall; (1-1) division
  3. New England Patriots (1-3) overall; (1-1) division*
  4. New York Jets (1-3) overall; (0-1) division**

*Miami wins a tiebreaker over New England based on head-to-head record.

**New England wins a tiebreaker over New York based on head-to-head record.

AFC East Scores

Buffalo Bills 40 - Houston Texans 0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19 - New England Patriots 17

Indianapolis Colts 27 - Miami Dolphins 17

New York Jets 27 - Tennessee Titans 24

AFC East Headlines

Mac Jones Stands Tall Against the GOAT, Gives New England Hope for the Future

The Patriots likely aren’t making a playoff run this year, but for many New England fans, that’s going to be ok if Mac Jones continues to display the level of competence he showed against the defending Super Bowl champs. Jones isn’t lighting the league on fire like Justin Herbert last year, nor is he commanding a high-flying, high-scoring Patriots attack (let’s be real: he only put up 17 points on Sunday night). But he looks poised. He looks comfortable. He looks aware beyond his years.

There’s no telling which quarterback from the 2021 class is going to be the most successful, or the least for that matter, but Jones is showing something many teams wait years for their developing QBs to show: on-field command of the offense, and the New England offensive staff should be commended for making things easy on Jones. We’ll see if that’s enough when more Ws are needed to win over the fan base and organization further into the post-dynasty era.

Zach Wilson Nabs First Win, Displays the Skillset that Made Jets Fall in Love

That’s what Jets fans have been waiting for. Wilson has been a turnover machine thus far in his Jets tenure (he threw a pick in this contest as well), but the turnovers were finally exceeded by dynamic playmaking in Week 4 against the Titans. Wilson made several brilliant throws, displayed an ability to regularly escape danger, and extended plays to give his weapons a chance.

The Jets likely still represent one of the easiest games on most teams’ schedules, but if this version of Zach Wilson becomes more prevalent than the one we saw in Weeks 1, 2, and 3, opposing defenses may start paying more attention when Gang Green rolls around on their calendar. The Jets defense still needs work, the offensive line is nowhere near the upper echelon of the league, and the offensive playmakers still leave a bit to be desired, but Wilson made it all work anyway. That’s what a second-overall pick is supposed to do.

Dolphins Fans in Panic Mode After Third Straight Loss

That was rough, and there’s no other way to spin it. Anyone who’s been reading my articles for some time knows that I prefer to be a “glass half full” kind of guy, but when you’re evaluating a football franchise and prognosticating on its potential, it’s important to be honest. The Dolphins look like a bad football right now, and there’s simply no argument to the contrary.

The offensive line is a mess, the quarterback play has been quite poor, the running game is stuck in neutral, the pass catchers are getting little opportunity to take over the game, the coaching staff is making questionable decisions left and right, and as a result of all of that incompetence, the defense is being left on the field for what seems like forever. Many of Miami’s key defenders are actually giving strong individual performances, but it’s not enough when the time of possession is so darn slanted that just about any offense would be able to put up points with so many opportunities. Many Dolphins fans are panicking, and for good reason. Head coach Brian Flores needs to find some fixes, and fast.

Follow Justin Hier on Twitter @HierJustin.