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Week 1 AFC East Recap: Miami wins the ‘Bama battle, Bills get off to slow start

How does the AFC East stack up following Week 1 of the NFL season?

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Week 1 has come and gone, and the Miami Dolphins are kings of the AFC East... for now. With Miami’s Week 1 win over the division rival New England Patriots in Foxborough, the Dolphins are the lone team sitting at 1-0 in the division. The aforementioned Patriots fell just short in a 17-16 loss to the ‘Phins, the Buffalo Bills lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers amidst a shockingly poor showing from Josh Allen’s offense, and the New York Jets, well... they were the New York Jets.

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 1.

AFC East Standings

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

*New York wins a tiebreaker over Buffalo due to the former’s better conference record.

AFC East Headlines

Tua Wins Out in the Battle of ‘Bama Quarterbacks

Over the last 48 hours or so since Miami’s victory, I’ve seen countless Tweets and articles debating which quarterback “out-performed” the other. Really, it’s moot. Despite Mac Jones’ impressive debut, Tua Tagovailoa did just enough to win the game, and as former Jets coach Herm Edwards once succinctly said, “you play to win the game.” Both teams sporadically put together impressive offensive drives and defensive stands, but the Dolphins were able to play cleaner ball in several key facets of the game, most notably redzone scoring, turnover differential, and penalty differential.

Patriots fans can take solace in the fact that Jones looked the part in his inaugural performance. Did he check the ball down frequently? Sure, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he protected the football and drove up and down the field more easily than most Dolphins fans would probably like to admit. His state line (29/39, 281 yds, 1 TD, 0 INTs) and ability to deliver strikes under pressure are harbingers of good things to come should the rookie continue to develop.

Tua, for his part, had one ugly interception late in the game that could’ve spelled doom for the Dolphins, but aside from the turnover, did enough to put Miami in position to win. He had a few strong throws to DeVante Parker and Jaylen Waddle downfield that should have Miami fans salivating at the thought of adding Will Fuller to an already dangerous set of weapons. It’s clear that co-offensive coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville trust the sophomore passer far more than former offensive coordinator Chan Gailey ever did, and that’s a great thing for Miami’s offense.

Josh Allen’s Offense Flounders Against a Fierce Steelers Front

No aerial attack was more dangerous last season the Josh Allen’s (maybe save for Patrick Mahomes’). The Bills’ franchise gunslinger finally corrected the accuracy issues that plagued him through the first few years of his career and combined his newfound pinpoint ball-placement with a cannon arm to shred defenses all over the NFL. That attack was nowhere to be found on Sunday.

Allen managed just 270 yards and 16 points in a whopping 51 passing attempts. The Bills offense was only able to score one touchdown and struggled once it passed Pittsburgh’s 50-yard line. That said, Buffalo’s litany of weapons, Allen’s pedigree, and the team’s revamped defense provide much hope for the future, and it’s unlikely Buffalo finishes outside of the AFC’s top-3 teams this season. The sluggish start is undoubtedly frustrating to Bills fans, but Buffalo is sure to rebound soon, something that likely frightens Dolphins fans given that the two teams play each other in Week 2.

Zach Wilson’s Debut Marred by Mistakes

When Tony Romo said on a CBS Sports conference call that he believes Zach Wilson can be the next Patrick Mahomes, Jets fans were surely smiling wide at the thought that one of the game’s greatest media personalities believes they finally found their next Joe Namath. While Romo might eventually be proven right, Sunday provided a mixed bag of results from Wilson. Jumbled in with a few tantalizing plays that displayed the abilities that led him to being drafted second-overall by the Jets were strokes of inaccuracy and poor decision making, including a wayward pass that led to an easy interception by Carolina’s defense.

To his credit, Wilson was hindered by a support cast that dropped several good passes and let waves of pressure reach the rookie quarterback. His ability to buy time by scrambling behind the line of scrimmage and heaving the ball downfield to give his playmakers a chance should provide hope for the future.

New York’s litany of injuries to key players won’t make things any easier, though. After losing marquee free agent signee Carl Lawson for the year, the team will now be without linebackers Blake Cashman (hamstring) and Jamien Sherwood (ankle), punter Braden Mann (knee), safety Lamarcus Joyner (triceps), and left tackle Mekhi Becton (knee) for the foreseeable future.

Follow Justin Hier on Twitter @HierJustin.