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All Knotted Up in the AFCE

After six weeks of the 2012 season, the AFC East is a muddled mess. 

The Jets, the Patriots, the Dolphins and the Bills all own 3-3 records.  There is no separation as we head into Week 7 and every AFCE club has reason for optimism.   Randy Lange, our editor-in-chief, looked up the numbers and traced back to 1987 for something more bizarre inside this division.  In 1987, all five teams (the Colts were a member of the East) were 4-4 after eight weeks and then 5-5 following 10 weeks of action.  That is a quarter century folks.

"It's good news, bad news," said Jets head coach Rex Ryan on Monday.  "We're tied for first in our division, so that's great.  We're also tied for last, so it's depressing."

Despite blowing a fourth quarter lead Sunday in Seattle, the Patriots remain the overwhelming favorite to capture a fourth consecutive AFC East title and ninth in 10 years.  But anything can happen in the National Football League and the Jets have given themselves a chance to make a run at the postseason.

Let's take a quick look around the division and what's ahead.

The Favorite — New England Patriots

Upcoming Schedule: vs. NY Jets, @ St. Louis Rams, Bye, vs. Indianapolis, @ NY Jets

Pluses: They still have a Hall of Famer at QB and Tom Brady is leading the NFL's top ranked offense.  The Pats have got four of their road games out of the way and they will be favored in each of their next four contests.  They can move the ball on anyone as evidenced by their 475-yard output against a stingy Seattle defense in Week 6.

Minuses: The Patriots pass defense continues to be suspect and they can be had through the air as they are yielding close to 289 yards per game.  A Boston Herald headline read "O-VERRATED" on Monday.  That might be a rush to judgment, but we will soon find out.  The Pats went away from their rush game Sunday out on the Coast and one suspects they might try to attack the Jets' nickel and dime packages with the run.  The Pats average 152 yards per game on the ground.

Hitting the RoadNew York Jets
Upcoming Schedule: @ NE Patriots, vs. Miami, Bye, @ Seattle, @ St. Louis

Pluses: The ship was steadied Sunday with a dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts.  That was a "Must Win" and the Jets got it done in impressive fashion.  The run game got on track with 252 yards and WR Stephen Hill and TE Dustin Keller returned to the lineup.  Mike Pettine's D has quietly really come on the last six quarters of action and CB Antonio Cromartie has elevated his play.  The Green & White are perfect inside the division at 2-0.

Minuses: The Jets won their last road contest in Miami, but they've lost seven of their past 10 away from the Met and the Pats (1-1), the Seahawks (3-0) and the Rams (3-0) are a combined 7-1 at home.  Rex Ryan's crew needs to travel with this past Sunday's efficiency — run the rock, convert in the red zone and win the turnover battle. 

Searching for Consistency — Buffalo Bills

Upcoming Schedule: vs. Tennessee, Bye, @ Houston, @ New England, vs. Miami

Pluses: The Bills can run the rock and C.J. Spiller is a dynamic playmaker.  Mario Williams finally came through with a dominant effort in the Bills' OT win over the Cards in Arizona as the Bills racked up five sacks.  Like the Patriots, the Bills have already played four road contests.

Minuses:  Ryan Fitzpatrick has his moments, but the Bills can't stretch the field and Steve Johnson gets open quite a bit and often doesn't see the results for his efforts.  The Bills are ranked dead last in the NFL against the run, as they're surrendering 173 yards a contest.  Gutsy win in 'Zona, but this is a club that has given up an average of 48 points a contest in their losses.

Swimming Fine — Miami Dolphins

Upcoming Schedule: Bye,@ NY Jets, @ Indianapolis, vs. Tennessee, @ Buffalo

Pluses:  A bounce here or there and this is a 5-1 team.  The Dolphins had lots of chances to beat the Jets in Week 3 and the Cardinals in Week 4 before falling in OT on both occasions.  Now they are starting to find ways to win games and they are solid on both sides of the line.   Reggie Bush is averaging 4.4 yards a carry and he brings an explosive element to Joe Philbin's club.

Minuses: Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill has impressed with his poise and Brian Hartline is having a breakout campaign on the outside, but the 'Fins could have some problems playing from behind.  The Dolphins are stout against the run, but they are just 27th against the pass and the back end is a question mark.

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