AFC East Week 14 X factors

December, 10, 2011
12/10/11
9:30
AM ET
New England Patriots (9-3)

Opponent: Washington Redskins (4-8)

X factor: LB Jerod Mayo

Analysis: Although most points came in the fourth quarter, the Patriots had no business giving up 24 to quarterback Dan Orlovsky and the winless Indianapolis Colts. New England's defense needs to finish and will have a bit stiffer test against Washington. The Redskins will try to run the football. That has been a staple under coach Mike Shanahan. Mayo is one of the defensive leaders and needs to set the tone in the middle for New England. He had seven tackles and an interception last week against Indianapolis.

New York Jets (7-5)

Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs (5-7)

X factor: QB Mark Sanchez

Analysis: It is rare that I list a quarterback for an X factor. But Sanchez has been hard to figure out lately and is really important in this game. The Jets are in a must-win mode and Sanchez has struggled early in back-to-back games. The good news is he's come through in the fourth quarter. But the Jets can't rely on late heroics every week. Sanchez and the Jets' offense need to start fast against a team they should beat in Kansas City. If the offense can't move the ball or score early, things could get tense for New York.

Buffalo Bills (5-7)

Opponent: San Diego Chargers (5-7)

X factor: WR Steve Johnson

Analysis: The Bills aren't stopping anyone lately on defense. That trend is likely to continue Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, who scored 38 points last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills' best chance is to win this game in a shootout. For that to happen, Johnson, Buffalo's No. 1 receiver, needs to have a big game. Johnson hasn't had a 100-yard receiving game all season. Now would be a good time for the talented Johnson if Buffalo wants to end its five-game losing streak.

Miami Dolphins (4-8)

Opponent: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (4-8)

X factor: RB Daniel Thomas

Analysis: The Eagles have issues stopping the run, and that happens to be one of Miami's strengths. Miami had 209 rushing yards against the Oakland Raiders. Dolphins starter Reggie Bush will get his opportunities, but so will Thomas. The rookie second-round pick is coming off a solid, 73-yard performance against Oakland. Thomas is more of the inside runner for the Dolphins.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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