Miami Dolphins

Bean: The AFC East is tanking

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Bean: The AFC East is tanking

Normally, you would accuse the team that just signed Jay Cutler of tanking. Not in the AFC East!

With Friday’s moves from the Bills -- they traded Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby in separate deals for a second-rounder, a third-rounder, Jordan Matthews and E.J. Gaines -- means they can now join the Jets as AFC East teams that are just completely mailing it in this season. 

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Really, it’s not an awful strategy. The Bills were not going to win the division or even push for a wild card spot, so they gave up on one of the most talented players in the league in Watkins. The fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft will now try to rescue Jared Goff in Los Angeles. Matthews is a good player who’s put up good numbers, but he isn’t the potential franchise player that Watkins is. 

After Friday’s trades, the Bills now have multiple picks in each of the first three rounds of the 2018 draft. Plus, trading away their good players to other teams ensures that the Patriots won’t poach them the way they have with Chris Hogan, Stephon Gillmore and Mike Gillislee of late.  

At least the Bills waited until the preseason began to throw in the towel on 2017. The Jets pretty much punted out of the gate, subtracting Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Nick Mangold, David Harris and Darrelle Revis from a 5-11 team. They didn’t solve their quarterback dilemma, but then again neither did the Bills. 

The AFC East has been a four-team division since 2002, but it’s largely been a one-team division given that the Pats have won it in 13 of the 14 seasons in which Tom Brady has been healthy (14 of 15 dating back to when the Colts were in the division). 

So the Pats and everyone else have been used to one team dominating. Yet the Jets and Bills have been able to give New England some actual games, with Buffalo beating the Pats in Week 4 of last season and the Jets beating them in overtime in Week 16 in 2015. Expect no such games this season. 

Instead, it’s up to a Dolphins team that made the playoffs without great quarterback play to provide perhaps the only watchable divisional games for the Patriots. Then again, the Pats blew that team out for a half with their backup quarterback, held on to win that game with their third-string quarterback making his NFL debut and then stomped them by 21 points in their other meeting last season. 

That team could very well have Jay Cutler, whom the Patriots destroy, under center when the teams meet this season. 

The Dolphins are at least trying, so give them credit there. Then again, you might as well give the Jets and Bills credit while you’re at it. The whole thing isn’t too different from the Celtics opting not to cash in all their assets for veteran stars right now. The Celtics are waiting out the end of Cleveland’s run in the East. The teams in New York are seemingly waiting to build their teams to be ready for the end of the Brady era.

For now, however, they’re basically giving the Pats the division. Then again, that’s nothing new. 

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How the Jay Cutler signing affects the Patriots' annual upset scare in Miami

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How the Jay Cutler signing affects the Patriots' annual upset scare in Miami

It should come as very little surprise that Jay Cutler has stunk against the Patriots in his career. In three games against the Pats, he’s thrown five picks, posted a QB rating of 70.5 and lost by a combined 91 points. He’s thrown for multiple touchdowns in just one of those games. 

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What should come as a surprise is that anyone could possibly think this effects the Patriots at all. 

The obvious response to the news of the Dolphins signing is to laugh off their choice to sign a mediocre quarterback with terrible numbers against the only team that matters in their division. Then it’s to wonder what kind of shape Cutler -- who has carried a reputation for not caring throughout his career -- could possibly be in this late in the summer when he didn’t intend to play football this season. 

Adding Cutler ultimately doesn’t move the needle much for the Dolphins and it shouldn’t change the Patriots’ view of them. Big-picture, the Dolphins are probably a fringe Wild Card team like they were last season. For Patriots fans, they should still be considered the inferior opponent capable of stealing a game in Miami. 

The Patriots are 1-3 in Miami since the start of the 2013 season, but Miami’s quarterback play has not been the primary factor in those games. Rather, those games were more about Tom Brady being un-Brady-like, so if there’s any way the Dolphins are going to be perhaps the only team to defeat the Pats this season (they won’t be), it probably won’t be because Cutler’s going to torch them for 350 yards and four touchdowns. Hell, the Pats don’t even play in Miami until Week 12, so maybe the Dolphins’ quarterback situation has changed once again by then. 

What likely won’t change is that Brady will be under center, and that’s how the Dolphins have gotten those wins. 

- In Week 15 of the 2013 season, Brady didn’t find the end zone until the there was 4:14 left in the game. He ended up with a gaudy-looking 364 passing yards in that game, but he had just 169 over the course of the first three quarters. The other 195 came in a fourth-quarter comeback attempt that ended with an interception in the game’s final seconds. 

- The Dolphins sacked Brady four times in Week 1 of the 2014 season. Brady’s 69.7 passer rating was his third-lowest of the season. 

- In Week 17 of 2015, the Pats’ attempt to clinch the No. 1 seed in Miami failed as Brady threw for just 134 yards (due largely to the act that he attempted a season-low 21 passes) with no touchdowns.

So like most things involving the Patriots, any matchups with the Dolphins — especially the annual scare in Miami — will revolve around Tom Brady. You don’t need to concern yourself too much with Jay Cutler. He stinks, but you already knew that.