By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Sunday was a bad afternoon for the Patriots defense, but it was also quite eventful elsewhere in the AFC. It turns out that the Pats may have some legit competition to worry about around the conference – perhaps even in their own division.
Yes, it’s still far, far too early to crown the Bills’ asses. We’ve seen this kind of start in Buffalo before. But you can’t help but be impressed with them so far this season, as they’ve now beaten the Broncos and Falcons in back-to-back weeks to take sole possession of first in the AFC East at 3-1. They earned it.
But perhaps the most striking development in the AFC on Sunday was the performance of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who showed that his breakout performance against the Patriots was actually just a warmup. He absolutely toasted what’s supposed to be a solid Titans defense with five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) as Houston ran up 50 points on offense.
Here’s a quick look around the rest of the AFC to see where the Patriots’ competition stands:
Time for the annual “Are The Bills For Real” questions. Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy weren’t spectacular, netting just 16 points on offense. It’s the Bills defense that should have you wondering if this team may actually be battling the Patriots for this division later in the season. Matt Ryan was held to a paltry 61.8 passer rating as the Bills forced three turnovers – one of which was run back for a difference-making touchdown.
Your first-place Buffalo Bills, ladies and gentlemen.
The Texans’ quarterback search might finally be over. Obviously, Deshaun Watson ran through a Patriots defense with all kinds of problems right now. But the rookie QB still passed the proverbial “eye test” in that game, and he proved he was not just a one-week wonder with an even better day against the Titans. His fourth passing TD of the day, which he executed with multiple pass rushers bearing down on his face, was as impressive as any.
If Watson is indeed For Real™, the Texans may well have the AFC’s most complete team.
Denver did Denver things and the Raiders lost Derek Carr. The Broncos defense made life tough for Carr and the vaunted Raiders offense for much of the game, but Oakland really lost it once Carr went down with a back injury. Backup E.J. Manuel was predictably poor as the Broncos carried the day on D while Trevor Siemian was just good enough (94.9 passer rating) to keep them ahead on the scoreboard all afternoon.
Carr reportedly suffered back spasms when he had to leave the game, so it appears that he avoided some kind of major long-term injury.
Le’Veon Bell decided to show up for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger (79.3 passer rating on Sunday) continues to look like a declining quarterback to start the season, so if he can’t turn things around as the season goes on, Pittsburgh will have to lean heavily on Bell and the running game. They certainly did on Sunday, as Bell ran buck-wild for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. The Ravens offense continued to be horrendous, as they mustered only three field goals and 288 total yards on their home field.
It’s hard to tell if either of these teams will turn out to be a legitimate threat, but you at least got to see what the Steelers can do when Bell is dominating with the ball in his hands.
Did the Jets already ruin their tanking plans? Many wondered whether the Jets would win two games all season. They are already 2-2, and because of inter-division tiebreakers currently hold second place in the AFC East over the Patriots. the Jets actually might have won pretty handily if they didn’t blow a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, but Chandler Catanzaro’s 41-yard field goal sealed the win for them in overtime.
Jets fans now wonder if the team’s chances at the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft are dead.
The Dolphins stunk it up for the second straight week, especially on offense. Remember when people thought THIS guy would actually make a difference that wasn’t terrible?
The Chiefs enter Monday night with a chance to establish themselves as (believe it or not) the best team in the NFL. Kansas City is now the only undefeated team left in the league at 3-0, and would really stake their claim as the undisputed leader in the clubhouse if they can get the job done against a solid Redskins team at home. Quarterback Alex Smith is off to the best start of his career with a 132.8 passer rating in three games so far, and even without Eric Berry the Chiefs defense is as deep and talented as any in the league.
Can you say MVP???
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.