At the start of the season the AFC East looked like the most
competitive division in football. Anybody could beat anybody. But
after two weeks that's changed. Now there's an A division and a B
division. Miami and Buffalo are the A's, New York and New England
are the B's, and on Sunday they match up that way.
I like the Bills to upset the Dolphins in Miami. Buffalo looks
unbeatable, with Drew Bledsoe's passing and Travis Henry's
running supplying the kind of balance coaches dream about but
rarely achieve. Plus, the Bills are playing serious defense. The
Dolphins pound away with Ricky Williams, or at least they did
against the Jets on Sunday. But just when people get lulled to
sleep, wideout Chris Chambers makes one of those remarkable
catches that have become his trademark. So I guess you'd say
Miami has some semblance of balance too.
Buffalo beat the Dolphins twice last year, both wins coming in
the six-week window when Ray Lucas was starting for injured Miami
quarterback Jay Fiedler. But New York, with 39-year-old Vinny
Testaverde, had some success going deep against the Dolphins, and
I think Bledsoe will have even more.
Why do we call the Patriots a B-division team when they have the
same 1-1 mark as Miami does? Because they're unbalanced. They
can't run. They flooded the field with wideouts on Sunday, a
sensible thing to do against a crippled Philly secondary, and Tom
Brady pecked the Eagles to death with dinky passes. And, of
course, Donovan McNabb helped New England by having one of the
worst days of his career.
Does that mean we like the visiting Jets to upset New England?
Uh, no. The Jets are even more unbalanced than the Pats. The
running of Curtis Martin, which has carried the offense on many
afternoons when nothing else was working, is no longer a
strength. The most serious part of the 30-year-old Martin's game,
the quick cut followed by an explosive burst, is gone.
I can't forget one play against the Dolphins, early in the second
quarter, when the Jets needed three yards for a first down.
Martin started to his right, off tackle. The hole was jammed, but
then a small window opened to the inside. The old Martin would
have made the lightning cut and knocked over a couple of
off-balance tacklers and picked up nine or 10 yards. But this
time he just rode with the flow, into the crowded part of the
defense--for no gain. Testaverde had some success going deep, but
the end product was one touchdown. The Patriots get the win.
--The Raiders-Broncos meeting on Monday night is a traditional
grudge match. The Broncos are flying, with two straight big wins,
and the Raiders are struggling with a pass attack that produced
103 yards against the Bengals on Sunday. The game's in Denver,
and it almost looks too easy. I'll go with the Broncos anyway.
--Atlanta will upset Tampa Bay. The Bucs played a grueling overtime
game in blistering heat against Carolina, and I believe they will
still be feeling the effects. The Giants will beat the Redskins
in Washington, where New York has won two of the last three. Rams
quarterback Marc Bulger was a little rusty against the 49ers, but
he won't be against the Seahawks. I like St. Louis in an upset.
--The 49ers will win big against Cleveland, the Ravens will keep it
going against San Diego, and I need another upset, so what the
heck--let's take the Bengals over the Steelers, a team that
Cincinnati usually plays tough. --Paul Zimmerman
Last week: 3-7
Season record: 10-9
COLOR PHOTO: RICH KANE/ICON SMI Early signs suggest that the 30-year-old Martin has lost his quickness, yet another blow to the Jets' struggling offense.
Dr. Z's Inside Football, every week during the season at