So who’s in first in AFC East?
FLORHAM PARK, N.J.—First is also worst right now in the unpredictably equal AFC East.
The N.Y. Jets, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills all are 3-3—a rare logjam this far into the season that has coaches and players unsure if they should be happy or concerned, or both.
“Let’s face it, we’re tied for first in our division, so that’s great,” he noted.
“We’re also tied for last. It’s a little depressing.”
Since the NFL merger in 1970, this marks only the fourth time every team in a division has the same record after Week 6 or later, and first since the AFC East was knotted up at 5-5 after Week 10 in 1987, according to STATS LLC.
The division also was all tied up at 4-4 in Week 8 that same season—but things already were a bit wacky because one week was cancelled because of a players’ strike, and Weeks 4-6 were played mostly by replacements.
The only other time it has happened was in the AFC Central after Week 9 in 1985.
“It’s crazy,” said Jets’ tight end Dustin Keller. “The whole division is just crazy right now.”
The gridiron gridlock will clear a bit this weekend, though, with the Jets and Patriots set for a division showdown at Foxborough.
The Bills host the Tennessee Titans while the Dolphins are on their bye week.
“At this point going forward, they’re all going to be important [games], and the thing about football is the next game is always more important than the previous game in the NFL,” reasoned Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady.
“So a division opponent is critical.”
Next weekend should shake things up a little more with Buffalo off, New England playing St. Louis in London, and New York hosting Miami in another AFC East match-up.
“I guess the old saying about the parity in the NFL is true, at least through six weeks of the NFL season,” noted Dolphins’ coach Joe Philbin,
“I really haven’t watched that,” he added. “I don’t go home and watch a lot of football. I don’t really study other teams.
“I’m more focused on our own [team and] where we’re at,” Philbin stressed.
“I think it just speaks to the, at this stage, the parity that exists, especially in the AFC.”
Some might say it’s a clear display of mediocrity in the division—the AFC Least, some are calling it—with no teams standing out nearly halfway into the season.
But then again, it’s not just the AFC East. Eleven of the 32 NFL teams have 3-3 records, including Green Bay, which is No. 7 in the AP Pro32 NFL Power Rankings and Buffalo, ranked 24th.
What’s more, 20 teams are at .500 or better—and that doesn’t even include Pittsburgh, Detroit, or Dallas, all at 2-3.
“It looks like the NFL has achieved what they set out to do,” said Bills’ coach Chan Gailey.
“You hope there’s parity and people have to fight their way to the top, and that’s what you try to do,” he explained.
“It looks like it’s worked out.”
Despite having three losses, Bill Belichick’s bunch isn’t far from being undefeated. Four points, to be exact.
The Patriots lost to Arizona 20-18 in Week 2 and 31-30 to Baltimore the following week, followed last Sunday by a 24-23 last-minute stunner in Seattle.
“The season’s still early,” stressed wide receiver Deion Branch. “That’s why you have to just take advantage of the games that you have at hand.
“We all can sit back and say we let a few slip through our hands, which we did. But it is what it is.
“We’re 3-3 and now we just got to move forward and try not to allow those things to happen again so that we won’t find ourselves in this position down the road,” he reasoned.
It’s unfamiliar territory for the Patriots, who lost only three times in the regular season a year ago on their way to going to the Super Bowl.
They also went 14-2 the previous year, so three losses through six games has raised some eyebrows.
“They’re usually a lot better than that at this point in the year,” Keller said.
“But they could turn around at any moment, so we have to be playing our ‘A’ game, otherwise we won’t be able to pull it off.”