“Warming the Bench” blog: AFC East shows improvement in 2015

New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) scrambles away from New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (54) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Photo credit: Associated Press

The AFC East might just be the best division in football right now. Which is a far cry from how this division has operated the past decade. As great as the New England Patriots have played since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick got together, the rest of the division has been mostly subpar. This division, however, made a huge overall jump in 2015.

Many analysts expected the AFC East to be competitive this year, so I’m not exactly being a clairvoyant for saying I believe this division is the best. However, after the slow start Miami made, the defensive turnover in New England and the quarterback situations in Buffalo and New York, some doubted how good these teams could be.

Yet after a slow start for Miami, a coaching change has started them on some sort of juggernaut bludgeoning campaign, the Patriots are still playing like the best team in football and quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor are exceeding expectations.

The real surprise for me, however, has been the Jets. Everyone knew their defense would be one of the better this year, but the Fitzpatrick led offense has been quite effective.

The showdown between the Patriots and Jets proved to me that this team is for real. The Jets always play the Patriots hard, so some people may consider this a fluke, and they did lose the game, but they also showed grit by staying in the game till the very end.

Todd Bowles is figuring out a way to get the most out of Fitzpatrick, that much is not a fluke. The Jets also have one of the more impressive running games with Chris Ivory, which helps a shaky QB. Then Brandon Marshall and Erick Decker seem to be the perfect complements of each other to make this offense go.

But any Jets doubters probably aren’t bearish on them because of their roster. Most probably don’t think Fitzpatrick can take them very far. All they need to do though is truly watch Fitzpatrick play. Some fans automatically dismiss a QB if they’re not in the elite club, but you can win in today’s NFL with a strong defense, run game and a good game manager.

Fitzpatrick is putting the ball on target to his playmakers and not allowing opposing defenses to stack the box against the run. He has thrown too many interceptions, but his 7 interceptions to 11 TDs for a passer rating of 86.1 is hardly the worst in the league. The moment and stage also doesn’t seem to be too big for him, and that is a necessary quality for a winning QB.

Fitzpatrick is keeping his cool and doing his best to keep his team in the game. If he continues to play like this, I wont be surprised at all if New England and the New York Jets are representing the AFC East in the playoffs. That isn’t something most expected after the past couple years in New York.

This Jets team is for real and should give all of us who are fans of teams without a top QB hope because they’re proving that you can win in this league without Aaron Rogers or Tom Brady at the helm.