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Seven-step drop: Jets and Bills done?

11/21/2011

Here are seven notes and observations from Week 11 in the AFC East:

  • New York's inconsistent offensive line is mediocre again. Its pass protection has been horrid of late. The Jets have allowed eight sacks of quarterback Mark Sanchez in the past two games. The third-year quarterback is on pace to be sacked more any season of his career. Sanchez was sacked 26 and 27 times his first two seasons. But he's already been sacked 25 times in 10 games. Sanchez is getting a lion's share of the blame in New York, but his offensive line isn't helping.

  • Barring a 5-1 finish, I don't see any way the Jets (5-5) get into the playoffs. They are behind in most tiebreakers, including head-to-head and conference record. New York lost to the Denver Broncos (5-5), Oakland Raiders (6-4) and Baltimore Ravens (7-3) this season. Those teams would get in before New York even with the same record. But conference record is the second tiebreaker and New York is just 4-5. The Jets have three remaining games against AFC teams and need to win all of them to have a chance.

  • While the Jets have a small chance, I think the Buffalo Bills are finished. It's not just their three-game losing streak, it's the way Buffalo is losing by an average margin of 27.7 points per game in that span. The Bills are in the same boat as New York. Buffalo must go 5-1 and hope for some help. But that would be an unbelievable turnaround with the way Buffalo is currently playing. I think doubt also is starting to creep in about whether this team is as good as it thinks. Even if the Bills find a way to pull the upset Sunday against the Jets, I doubt Buffalo is consistent or healthy enough to run off a string of wins.

  • Buffalo's coaching staff made a big tactical error in moving Andy Levitre to center in place of the injured Eric Wood. Levitre is Buffalo's best guard, his natural position. He's also solid at tackle. But Levitre had his worst game of the year at center in Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins. Buffalo runs a lot of shotgun and Levitre had multiple issues with the snap. The rain in Miami certainly didn't help. Bills head coach Chan Gailey was apologetic after the game when talking about Levitre. The coaches know they didn't put their best remaining offensive lineman in a position to succeed.

  • So what do you make of the hot Dolphins, winners of three straight? Each week they are becoming harder to figure out. There are two ways to look at this: Either the team improved dramatically the past three weeks, or the Dolphins underachieved the previous seven games. I think it was the latter, and Miami is finally playing up to its talent level.

  • Miami's defense was lights out on third down. The Dolphins held Buffalo to 0-for-12 on third-down conversions, which I think is one of the most important stats in football. This week there was no particular standout for Miami. Everyone played solid and knew their assignments. The Dolphins have a chance to spoil a lot of teams’ playoff hopes playing defense at this level.

  • The New England Patriots should win Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. But looking ahead to next week, New England’s Week 12 game on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles doesn’t look so easy. Backup quarterback Vince Young led the Eagles to a 17-10 win over the New York Giants, a team the Patriots couldn’t beat a couple of weeks ago. The Eagles game is probably the most dangerous game left on New England’s schedule.