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Week 8 takeaways: The Dolphins are the best team in the AFC East

Jeff Simmons
·6-min read

The Buffalo Bills’ victory over the New England Patriots was deemed by some as a changing of the guard in the AFC East, but the best team in the division didn’t play in that game. Believe it or not, the best team in the AFC East is the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins are playing at a far higher level than the Bills over the last month, as Josh Allen’s previous issues have resurfaced. Miami has won three straight games, including an impressive 28-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8 with next to no production from rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa in his NFL debut. Alternatively, the Bills have just one win in their last four weeks and needed to force a fumble deep in their own territory to hold off a late surge from the rather underwhelming Patriots.

There is plenty of evidence to support Miami’s legitimacy. The Dolphins’ point differential, an important measure of overall quality, is plus-58 (fifth in AFC), while the Bills, who lead the division with a 6-2 record, have a negative point differential (minus-1), a sign they are winning with an unsustainable formula. Buffalo has been disappointing on defense, ranking 29th in the NFL in DVOA, while Miami ranks in the top-10.

Head coach Brian Flores has built a complete team in his second season with Miami. That much was evident Sunday, as they managed to rack up a passing, rushing, special teams and defensive touchdown against the Rams.

The Dolphins will certainly need more from Tagovailoa if they want to pass Buffalo in the standings. The rookie was just 12-of-22 for 93 yards and a touchdown, but Allen wasn’t much better on Sunday, going 11-of-18 for 154 yards with no scores through the air. Allen has not thrown a touchdown over his last two games, while his completion percentage has dropped considerably since his MVP-level start over the first four games.

Right now, Miami is a more complete team than Buffalo from top to bottom and Flores should be in the conversation for coach of the year.

The Miami Dolphins are beginning to put it all together, as they showed in Tua Tagovailoa's NFL debut in Week 8 against the Rams. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
The Miami Dolphins are beginning to put it all together. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Lamar Jackson wilts again in big game vs. Steelers

The Baltimore Ravens came so close to pulling off a late victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the loss should emphasize the issues surrounding QB Lamar Jackson’s development as a passer. Jackson has regressed this season from the pocket, having completed just 60 percent of his passes and boasting only one game with more than two touchdown passes. It makes you wonder if the league has done a good enough job countering the Ravens’ offensive scheme.

The Steelers were able to confuse him and he turned the ball over a career-high four times, including a pick-six on his first passing attempt. Going up against the best defense in the NFL accounts for some of Jackson’s poor performance, but the Ravens should be a bit worried in the big picture about how poorly he has played in important games in his career. He is 0-2 in two playoff starts, and his two worst games of the 2020 season have come against the best opponents they have faced.

Jackson is getting pressured more frequently this season, due to some offensive line personnel issues, and his accuracy and confidence is nowhere near what it was last year in his MVP season. He is still dynamic as a runner — although not as good as last season — but for the Ravens to jump past the Steelers or Kansas City Chiefs, Jackson has to take a large step forward as a passer.

Packers should trade for a receiver

We suggested last week the Seahawks should acquire a pass rusher, and they clearly took our advice. Ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline, there is another obvious move that needs to be made: The Green Bay Packers should acquire a veteran wide receiver.

Green Bay took a ton of criticism when they did not select a receiver with one of their first two picks in this year’s draft, given that NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah called the group the best class he has ever scouted. That criticism appears to have been justified in a surprising loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8.

Aaron Rodgers was able to overcompensate for those issues early in the season, but as well as Davante Adams played in Sunday’s loss, the lack of receiver talent on Green Bay was apparent. Rodgers looked visibly frustrated on two drops on perfectly-thrown passes to Equanimeous St. Brown and the second-most productive Packers receiver finished with just 26 yards (Malik Taylor), all of which came on one play. The Packers need to feature more weapons for Rodgers to compete with the top teams in the NFC and provide a legitimate complement to Adams, who is one of the best at his position in the league.

Marquez-Valdes Scantling has not scored a touchdown since Week 1, while Allen Lazard is injured and has not played since Week 3. Green Bay was rumoured to be sniffing around Houston Texans WR Will Fuller, and that is exactly the kind of player the Packers could use to put them back into contention in the NFC. It will be too much to ask of Rodgers, with a bad defence and key injuries at running back and left tackle, without adding more weapons in the passing game.

NFL trade rumors: Packers should target Texans WR Will Fuller.
Texans WR Will Fuller would be a great fit in Green Bay. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How do Chargers keep doing this?

It must be hard to be a fan of the Los Angeles Chargers. Even though this season can be considered house money now that they have found their next franchise quarterback (Justin Herbert is playing amazing), the losses they continue to suffer on a weekly basis are hard to fathom.

The Chargers were leading 24-3 in the third quarter on Sunday and were in total control, but even with a great game from Herbert they managed to lose on the final play of the game to the Denver Broncos. Teams when leading by 17 or more points in the second half are 52-4 this season, according to ESPN.

If this was a one-time blip, it would be understandable, but the Chargers have blown 16-point leads in four consecutive games and have only won one of those games. They are wasting historic rookie production from Herbert, and head coach Anthony Lynn’s job should be on the line as a result. They deserve better.

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