AFC East runs gantlet of 'brutal' early matchups
Mike Florio and Chris Simms wonder what the AFC East picture could look like after a challenging early-season schedule across the division.
- Mike, let me just say this before you dive into the AFC. One of the first things that pops to me-- and I know you saw my text last night a little bit. I mean, we already hit on the Jets schedule, but then I looked at the Patriots and Dolphins, just the AFC East theme. I just went I don't know. The Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, they might have the toughest first five, six, seven games in all of football when you really break it down. And you just go, wow. Yeah, they're talented teams, but, man, the league is putting them to the test right away.
- Yeah. I mean, there they are. And there's going to be that cannibalization as they play each other. Each of them will have six games against very good teams from their own division. And you see it's like looking at one of those very hectic slot machines where you've got arrows and lines. I mean, you see Cowboys popping up over and over again. You see the--
- Well, look at the Patriots.
- --Jaguars in there who are a real contender now. The Patriots have the meat grinder to start the season with the Eagles, Dolphins, Jets, Cowboys, Raiders, and Saints. Now look, they could be 0 and 4.
- Yes, they could.
- They could win those last two.
- But they could be 0 and 4.
- And who knows where your mindset is if you start 0 and 4. Not many teams have ever started 0 and 4 and turned it around. I think it's still just the Bobby Ross Chargers from 1992 that started 0 and 4 and made it to the playoffs. There may have been another one since then, but I don't think so. But yeah, this is a new reality for Bill Belichick and company to be the one that is the punching bag for some of these great teams to start a season.
- No doubt. I mean, we're going to see Billy O'Brien, Mac Jones where they're at. That defense, it's good defense, but man, they're put to the test in those first four games, you know? I don't feel wrong in saying that their team, their roster is the lesser team in the first four games. There's no doubt about that. So that's where it's scary.
Now, again, we know they're a team that knows how to manage games and do things the right way. They've shown that in their history. So they're going to have to do some of that in these games because, yeah, it's not going to be easy. But they're put to the test right away.
And like you said, yeah, you can look at the first six and go, legitimately, yeah, they might be 2 and 4. They might, but can they steal a game? Can they catch the Jets and Aaron Rodgers not playing their best? Whatever it may be, that's what they're going to be looking for to steal something there in those first four.
- The Bills have an opportunity to get off to a great start.
- Yes they do. Right.
- With their schedule. Because they all play the Eagles. They all play the Chiefs. They all play the Cowboys. They all play the Giants.
- And when you look at that, the Jets are the ones who have the hardest schedule as we factor in those big-time teams from outside of the division because they see the Cowboys, the Chiefs, and the Eagles in the first five games. I mean, really, this is-- look, there's only so much you can control. And we would hear the cliches. If we would talk to any of the coaches now, hey, we control what we control. We take them one game at a time. We don't play them. They have to play us. That was the Bengals mantra last year.
- Yeah, that's right.
- But man, the Jets really-- the Jets really got it tough. I'd say they have the toughest of the AFC East teams, Chris--
- --first six weeks of the season.
- I would agree with you there, Mike. I would too. Those first six, that's brutal. That is. Yeah. I'm with you and what you said with Buffalo. Look, you look at the Raiders and Commanders, and you just go on paper, yeah, Buffalo, we expect them to beat those. So we know it's the NFL and they got to play the games. We got that.
But we can also look at it and go, wait, on paper one team is definitively better where there's other games where you go that's a toss up. Both teams are good on paper. You're less than. So I think you can legitimately say that with the Bills to where it favors them that way. Man, the Jets, brutal. The Patriots, the first four, brutal. And then you look at the Dolphins, and it might not look brutal at first, but I just go those are tough matchups for them.
I mean, hey, let's think about it. The Chargers, they were one of the first teams last year that had answers for the Dolphins offense and Mike McDaniel, Tua and that group. Remember? I mean, that was the game where it was like the them for 50 yards in the fourth quarter of the football game, right? Their biggest play of the game was a fumble that Tyreek Hill picked up and ran for a touchdown.
The Patriots showed the ability to slow down the Mike McDaniel offense. The Broncos and Vance Joseph, that ain't going to be easy and dealing with that. And then even with the Bills as we know, up at Buffalo, three out of your first four on the road against some exotic crazy defense, and then the Giants in week 5, which is another crazy, exotic defense. That kind of popped to me, Mike, that's going to test that young-- I don't want to say young offense, but young in its beginnings as far as Mike McDaniel and him being the architect there.
- And the thing to remember about those early season games in Miami.
- Yes, sir.
- You see the Broncos in their dark jerseys, the Giants and their dark jerseys, and the Panthers.
- And they get the Bills, and they don't have to deal with the cold weather game. That was the other thing that jumped out to me. They get them early in the year. Now, you don't have to worry about going up there in December, which is a positive for them. Same with the Patriots.
- Well, not a positive overall for the AFC East. Again, I'm not going to be surprised if only one team comes out of that division and underscores the very real possibility that the Jets won't even make the playoffs and still have to give a first round pick to the Green Bay Packers, because the only trigger in that deal is playing time. Nothing about playoffs. And now that we see that schedule come into focus, maybe they should push a little harder for playoffs being part of the trigger for that second round pick to become a first rounder.
Let's take a break. When we return, we'll look at the schedules of the two best teams in the NFC on paper, the 49ers and the Eagles. Which of them is more likely to continue to rule the conference? We'll do that next here on this special Friday. Chris is in the building.
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