AFC East: AFC South


Sunday's Jacksonville Jaguars-Miami Dolphins matchup at EverBank Field features two teams coming off big victories and searching for something neither has had in a while: a winning streak.

The Jaguars haven't won back-to-back games since Weeks 12-14 of the 2013 season, and the Dolphins haven't accomplished that since Weeks 13-15 of last season. Even worse for the Jaguars: They haven't won back-to-back home games since the 2011 season.

ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco break down the matchup.

Michael DiRocco: Everyone in Jacksonville is convinced Blake Bortles is the franchise quarterback the team has needed. What's the feeling in Miami on Ryan Tannehill?

James Walker: Just like Tannehill's play, the mood has been up and down on Miami's starting quarterback. There was a lot of optimism entering this season that Tannehill would carry Miami's offense. The Dolphins hired a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, who helped quickly develop Nick Foles last season in Philadelphia. So many Dolphins fans, perhaps prematurely, expected quick results from Tannehill, as well. But it's been a slow progression in his third season. He was average for the first three games. Then, Tannehill started to put together better performances against the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Last week was really the first time in 38 starts that I felt Tannehill was the best player on the field. He started with 14 straight completions, which Tannehill told me he's never done at any level to start a game. He appears to be turning the corner and clicking in this new offense. But the bottom line is Tannehill is still 18-20 as a starter. Gaining consistency over these next 10 games will be key.

I'm not sure if the Jaguars getting their first win makes them more or less dangerous to upset the Dolphins. What are your thoughts?

DiRocco: If you had asked me this question on Sunday night, I would have said more dangerous. The defense just played its best game, and the offense took advantage of some Cleveland turnovers and scored a season-high 24 points despite Bortles playing his worst game. Things had been starting to come together for the Jaguars in the previous two weeks, and they finally put a complete game together, eliminated mistakes and made big plays. But the loss of middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (torn pectoral muscle) for the rest of the season and defensive end Andre Branch (groin) for at least six weeks is a huge blow. It's almost as if this team is snakebitten. They get some good news (a victory) but can't enjoy it because of the injuries. That will definitely impact the team's psyche because there are so many young players (29 first- or second-year players) who haven't been through a situation like this before.

How does the return of Dion Jordan impact the defense? Will that help Cameron Wake?

Walker: I don't expect a huge impact from Jordan right away. Six weeks is a long time to be away from football, especially during a suspension when you can't communicate with coaches or have a playbook. Jordan practiced with the team for the first time since Aug. 28 on Tuesday and a lot has changed. Backups such as Derrick Shelby, Chris McCain and Terrence Fede have stepped forward and developed. Miami's defense also added a few wrinkles since the summer. Jordan has a lot of catching up to do. The practice week is still ongoing, and how he responds physically and mentally will be key. If Jordan sees action Sunday in Jacksonville, his biggest contribution would most likely be on special teams until he gets his legs under him.

How much will the loss of Posluszny impact Jacksonville's defense?

DiRocco: As mentioned before, it's huge, and it goes beyond what he does on the field. Posluszny has his limitations in pass coverage, but he's a fantastic two-down linebacker. He's a tackling machine, one of the team's leaders, one of the team's smartest players, is responsible for calling the defensive plays and is the Jaguars' best defensive player. There's no way the Jaguars will be able to replace his production or leadership, especially since they're going to be relying on players who have mainly contributed on special teams (J.T. Thomas and LaRoy Reynolds). Though the Jaguars' defensive line has played pretty well, not having Posluszny makes the run defense considerably weaker -- not good since the Dolphins are fourth in the NFL in rushing.

The Dolphins had a big win in Chicago last week. Was that an aberration or are they legitimate contenders for a playoff spot?

Walker: I won't put the Dolphins into the "contender" category until they can at least win two games in a row -- a feat they have yet to do this season. The Dolphins are in that middle of the pack with about 12-15 other teams about which you're not sure what to expect week to week. There have been times -- such as wins against the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots -- when the Dolphins have looked like contenders. There is certainly enough talent, especially when the quarterback is playing well, but Miami hasn't developed enough consistency to this point to inspire confidence this is a 10-win team. We will learn a lot about the Dolphins with how they respond Sunday in Jacksonville.

Have the Jaguars finally found a spot for Denard Robinson at running back?

DiRocco: It appears so, although I don't think you're going to see him get the kind of workload he did against Cleveland (22 carries) on a consistent basis. Though he's the most explosive of the Jaguars' backs, he's not used to carrying the ball that many times. Carrying the ball as a running back is different than carrying it as a quarterback, the way he did during his career at Michigan. And, he's not used to taking the kind of pounding he did on Sunday. When Toby Gerhart returns from a foot injury (which should be Sunday), Robinson's carries will decrease, though he should still be the No. 1 back. I'd also like to see him used more on the edge and in the passing game, where he can use his open-field abilities a little more.

Double Coverage: Bills at Jaguars

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
10:00
AM ET
Johnson/HenneUSA TODAY SportsStevie Johnson's Bills and Chad Henne's Jaguars are both 4-9, but the teams appear headed in opposite directions.
It has been a different second half for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills.

Both teams are 4-9 but they’re on opposite wavelengths. The Jaguars have won four of their past five games and are currently riding a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2010. The Bills have lost four of their past five and are coming off an abysmal performance in Tampa Bay.

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley is talking about making sure his players treat prosperity the same way they treated the adversity they faced in the first half of the season. Bills coach Doug Marrone is talking about scaling back the offense to help rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.

The teams meet Sunday at EverBank Field. ESPN.com Bills reporter Mike Rodak and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco break down the matchup:

DiRocco: Manuel is pretty familiar to fans in Jacksonville from his time at Florida State. He has had an up-and-down season, but what have you seen from him that leads you to believe the Bills made the correct choice in deciding to build the franchise around him?

Rodak: I think the jury is still out on whether the Bills made the correct choice in Manuel. In Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers, Manuel posted a 3.8 QBR, which ranks 415 out of 426 single-game performances in the NFL this season. It's dangerous to give too much weight to what's most recent, but in this case, Sunday had to be alarming for the Bills. Manuel has the leadership and character traits that any NFL team wants in its quarterback, but his on-field performance has left a lot to be desired. These last three games will be critically important to determining which direction Manuel is heading.

The Jaguars have gone on a surprising run lately, winning four of their past five games. Have they been doing anything different than early in the season? Or are things just simply starting to come together for Gus Bradley and his players?

DiRocco: Schematically, no, other than just paring down the defensive game plan a bit and focusing more on the coverages and blitzes they do well. But three things stand out: better run defense, a better turnover ratio and better success in the red zone. In the first eight games -- all losses by double digits -- the Jaguars were allowing 161.8 yards per game rushing, were minus-7 in turnover ratio, and scored TDs on only 25 percent of red-zone possessions. The numbers in the past five games: 70.8 yards per game allowed, plus-5, and 66.7 percent. The offensive line has been much more consistent, quarterback Chad Henne is making few mistakes, and the defensive line has held up at the point of attack much better.

Kiko Alonso is one of the candidates for defensive rookie of the year and is second in the NFL in tackles. Obviously a second-round pick is expected to produce, but has the kind of impact he has made on the defense been a surprise?

Rodak: I think so. When I spoke to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine last month about Alonso, he indicated that the Bills inserted him into the starting lineup in the spring, but it was a wait-and-see deal. If it didn’t work out, they were going to turn somewhere else, but Alonso has certainly fit well within this defense. He has drawn a lot of praise from coaches and veterans on this team for his work ethic and ability to pick up the scheme quickly. However, I do think that Alonso’s play has tailed off slightly over the past several weeks after he had a hot start this season. He had four interceptions, one sack, and one forced fumble in the first month of the season. Since then, he has had one sack, no interceptions and no forced fumbles. Is that overly concerning for the Bills, though? Most likely not. I think Alonso will be a fixture in this defense for the foreseeable future.

What’s the latest on Maurice Jones-Drew? I remember hearing some trade talk around him a few months ago, but once the deadline passed, he hasn’t been on the radar as much. Does he have a future in Jacksonville?

DiRocco: He does if he’s willing to be realistic about a contract. No team is going to pay big money for a 29-year-old running back that has battled injuries the past two seasons, which is what he’ll find out if he decides to test the free-agent market when his contract expires after this season. The Jaguars are interested in re-signing him and likely will offer him an incentive-filled two-year contract worth $6-10 million. Jones-Drew, who would like to finish his career in Jacksonville, is making $4.95 million this season so that would be a pay cut. If he’s OK with that, then I’d be surprised if he’s not around.

What do you think of the job Doug Marrone has done in his first season? And what do you think of his long-term future in Buffalo?

Rodak: I think it has been a trying season for Marrone. It's not that there were high hopes for the team in his first season -- nobody realistically expected them to make the playoffs -- but I don't think everything fell into place as well as he would have liked. His hire of Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator has generally paid off well, but ultimately what's going to define Marrone's tenure in Buffalo will be the quarterback position. Coaches don't often get more than one chance to get it right at quarterback, so if Manuel doesn't work out in Buffalo, it may not work out for Marrone, either. That's just today's NFL. It's a brutal league.

What about for the Jaguars? Their roster was about as bare bones as it gets this past offseason -- in much worse shape than the Bills' entering this season -- and they've managed to put on a nice little run here. What's the next step that general manager David Caldwell needs to take?

DiRocco: His No. 1 priority is to find a franchise quarterback. At the beginning of the season I would have told you the Jaguars would draft Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 1 overall selection, but since it now appears the Jaguars will be picking in the Nos. 5-7 range it seems unlikely Bridgewater will be around. Caldwell is going to have to figure out whether there’s somebody else he likes just as much or if he’s going to be willing to gamble that he can get a good QB a little later in the draft, whether it’s A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray or somebody else.

Double Coverage: Dolphins at Colts

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
12:01
PM ET
Luck-Tannehill Getty ImagesSecond-year quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill face off in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts are two undefeated teams trying to establish themselves in the AFC. Both have young quarterbacks with promise and solid second-year head coaches.

Indianapolis beat Miami last year, 23-20, in an exciting matchup in which quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill both played well.

But who will win this season’s matchup? ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and ESPN.com Dolphins reporter James Walker weigh in.

Wells: Sunday will come down to which quarterback from the Class of 2012 -- Luck or Tannehill -- can limit his mistakes. And I’m sure we’ll talk about them before we end this conversation, but before that, James, we have to address the Mike Wallace situation. It seems like Wallace was being selfish by making Sunday’s win over Cleveland all about him because he only had one catch. For a Dolphins team that’s had only one winning season since 2006, Sunday should have been about getting a nice road victory to open the season. Not about Wallace. I know Wallace cleared up his comments Monday, but it shouldn’t have gotten to that point. Is that a sign of things to come out of Wallace, the $60-million man?

Walker: The situation was not ideal, but I thought the Dolphins did a masterful job putting the Wallace issue to bed during the week. Miami’s coaches supported Wallace’s competitiveness and desire to make an impact. Wallace also clarified that he was more upset at himself, and I expect he will be extra motivated to have a big game. Speed kills in domes, and I don’t think there will be a faster player in Sunday’s game than Wallace. Look for Miami to find more creative ways to get him the football in the event the Colts consistently double Wallace, which was Cleveland’s strategy. Speaking of strategy, I was surprised to see how much Indianapolis struggled last week with the Oakland Raiders. The Colts trailed Oakland at home with less than 6 minutes left in the game. Was this first-game jitters and what needs to be fixed?

Wells: You weren’t the only one surprised. I think most people were, especially when you look back at the Colts’ first two offensive series. They scored with ease and all indications pointed to Luck having a special day after he started 11-of-11 with two touchdowns. But you have to give credit to Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He did an excellent job creating with his feet. He kept the Colts off balance and his team in the game until Luck became the hero. Tannehill is a more traditional quarterback. Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson are the quarterbacks everybody talks about from 2012 -- and they should be talked about after they led their teams to the playoffs -- but do you get a sense down there in South Florida that Tannehill has the tools and work ethic to close gap on the three QBs I just mentioned?

Walker: I really like Tannehill’s tools, Mike. He can make all the throws, has good mobility and feet as a former college wide receiver, and he doesn’t get rattled often. Those are all qualities you want in a quarterback. He looks the part, but I still need to see him win consistently. What was interesting about last week’s win over Cleveland is Tannehill took over the game in the third and fourth quarters. Last year Tannehill played not to lose games. Last week Tannehill went out and won the game. That’s probably the biggest thing that separates Tannehill from Luck and other members you mentioned from the 2012 quarterback draft class. Tannehill can certainly learn from Luck and his fourth-quarter comebacks. Mike, where is Luck in his development in Year 2?

Wells: Everybody talks about sophomore slumps with players. You should go ahead and look elsewhere because that won’t be the case with Luck. He refuses to settle. The only thing he wants to talk about is getting better. That’s what you like to hear from your franchise player. Luck likely won’t pass for as many as yards this season because the Colts are putting an emphasis on the running game with Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw. Those two players should take a significant load off Luck’s shoulders. But it won’t be easy for Luck this weekend. Miami’s defense looked pretty good last week against the Browns. Six sacks and three interceptions. What makes the defense so dangerous?

Walker: The Dolphins focused in the offseason and training camp on forcing turnovers and pressuring the quarterback. The work clearly paid off with the stats you mentioned. But perhaps the most impressive stat is Miami hit Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden 16 times, which included the six sacks. The Dolphins’ front seven is both fast and physical. They have a deep rotation on the defensive line. For example, No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan is a backup who only gets limited snaps. Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has done a good job and really likes the group he has. I think the best way for Miami to beat the Colts is the rattle Luck, force turnovers and try to make it a low-scoring game.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Rds. 4-7

April, 27, 2013
4/27/13
10:00
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for Rounds 4-7 of the 2013 NFL draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at noon ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Rds. 2-3

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
4:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2013 NFL draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 6 p.m. ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Round 1

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
5:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

We'll be analyzing every pick from 1 to 32. We'll get started an hour early at 7 p.m. ET, so submit your questions and comments and we'll see you there.

Live: ESPN.com #bloggermock draft

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
11:45
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they play general manager for their divisions and execute a 2013 first-round mock draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at noon ET. You can also participate via Twitter using the hashtag #bloggermock. See you there.

Countdown Live: Texans-Patriots

January, 13, 2013
1/13/13
1:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for the AFC playoff matchup between the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots.

Contribute your thoughts and questions at 4:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

NFL: Week 15 knee-jerk reactions

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
1:44
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you might even have heard it here. So, are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

Monday Night Live: Jets-Titans

December, 17, 2012
12/17/12
6:15
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down "Monday Night Football" between the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

NFL: Week 14 knee-jerk reactions

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
1:37
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you might even have heard it here. So, are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

Monday Night Live: Texans-Patriots

December, 10, 2012
12/10/12
6:11
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for the game of the week as the Houston Texans take on the New England Patriots on "Monday Night Football."

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

Tom Brady, Matt SchaubGetty Images, USA TODAY SportsNew England quarterback Tom Brady faces off with Houston's Matt Schaub in a fight for AFC dominance this Monday night.

Two of the NFL’s top teams will meet at Gillette Stadium when the New England Patriots host the Houston Texans on “Monday Night Football.”

SportsNation

Which team will win Monday night's game in New England? (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN)

  •  
    44%
  •  
    56%

Discuss (Total votes: 96,406)

This game has huge playoff implications for both teams. The Texans (11-1) and Patriots (9-3) currently hold the top two seeds in the AFC. But the Baltimore Ravens (9-3) and Denver Broncos (9-3) also are vying for the top two seeds, which includes a first-round bye.

There are great matchups all over the field in this game. Can Houston quarterback Matt Schaub out-duel Patriots quarterback Tom Brady? Will New England’s secondary shut down Houston Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson? Will Texans standout defensive end J.J. Watt be a disruptive force?

The winner of Monday’s Patriots-Texans game likely will be the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in February. ESPN.com AFC East blogger James Walker (@ESPN_AFCEast) and AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky (@ESPN_AFCSouth) discussed the various angles Wednesday on Twitter.

NFL: Week 13 knee-jerk reactions

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
1:42
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you might even have heard it here. So, are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

NFL: Week 12 knee-jerk reactions

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
1:30
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you might even have heard it here. So, are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

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