Patriots, Jets or Bills - who's it going to be? That's the question that analysts and fans are left asking following a Sunday that saw the top three teams in the AFC East end the day with a 5-3 record, all tied atop the division.
So, with that being the case, which team has a hand up on the other?
First, we'll assess the New England Patriots (for obvious reason). New England is coming off of its second straight loss (it's not often that anyone has to put 'second-straight' in front of 'Patriots' loss') after falling to Eli Manning and the New York Giants, 24-20, in a rematch of that Super Bowl they lost in 2007 (doesn't ring a bell for me, either).
The loss, due in part to a late game-winning drive by Manning and also the two interceptions tossed by Pats quarterback Tom Brady, dropped New England to 2-1 in the division and was Brady's first regular season home loss since 2006.
On to Sexy Rexy (a.k.a. Rex Ryan) and the New York Jets, who posted a convincing 27-11 victory over the division rival Buffalo Bills on Sunday, thanks to Mark Sanchez who completed 20-of-28 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown.
Buffalo only managed to scored 11 points in the loss, but wasn't terribly outgained by the Jets (348-287). Ryan Fitzpatrick was inconsistent, only completing 15-of-31 passes for 191 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The Bills are 1-1 in division play, having played one less divisional game than the Pats and Jets.
With that all being the case, who is really the best team in the division right now?
All three teams certainly make a good or interesting case. New England has the No. 1 passing offense in football, thanks to Tom Terrific, averaging 325.6 yards through the air. But, they may have the most glaring flaw of any of these three teams on defense. The Pats allow an NFL-worst 314 opposing passing yards per game thanks to a weak and incapable secondary. Their rushing defense is top ten in the league, with the Pats allowing 102.3 yards on the ground per game, but they are a mediocre bunch on the other end, rushing for 111.6 yards per game (17th in the league).
New England also boasts a division-best 4-2 mark against AFC opponents and is 2-2 on the road. In addition, the Patriots are second in the division in net point, having scored 38 more points than they have allowed this season (222 points for, 184 points allowed).
As for the Jets, their passing attack isn't as pristine as New England's with a still young and developing weapon in Sanchez - ranking 22nd in the league in passing yards with 209.5 passing yards per game - but they excel where New England doesn't - on defense (specifically in passing defense). New York gives up 196 yards through the air per game, which ranks seventh in the NFL. However, the Jets are in the back end when it comes to rushing defense, averaging 123 yards on the ground per contest. New York has 36 net points after scoring 199 points and allowing 163.
Up in Buffalo, the Bills are generally a more evenly spread team on offense. They aren't the best in the league when it comes to passing with 233.5 yards in the air per game (15th in NFL) and they aren't bad running the ball, either, with 135 ground yards per tilt (7th in the NFL). The defense is their problem, though, with Buffalo giving up an average of 260.4 passing yards (25th in NFL) and 120.8 rushing yards (21st in NFL). Buffalo has a division-best 48 net points this season with 222 points for and 174 points allowed.
At the moment, there isn't a huge gap between these three teams, and with another eight games to play, it's not entirely possible to fully gauge these teams. But there has been enough of a sampling size to see the areas where each team struggles and where they excel.
Currently, I would give the nod to the Jets as the best team in the division, simply because they have been the hottest through the midway point of the season having won their last three games. New England and Buffalo both started strong but have since cooled off, with the Pats dropping two in a row and Buffalo losing three of its last five.
But there's still plenty of football left to be played, and you can almost guarantee that the order of supremacy within the division will change a few more times before the playoffs roll around.