AFC East Stock Watch

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
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FALLING

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski
Geoff Burke/US PresswireRob Gronkowski set a single-season record for touchdown receptions by a tight end after grabbing his 15th against Washington.
1. Miami Dolphins' offensive line: There is a reason one starting quarterback (Chad Henne) is on injured reserve and the other (Matt Moore) could miss this week's game with concussion-like symptoms. Miami's offensive line is solid at run blocking but horrible sometimes at pass protection. The Dolphins allowed nine sacks in Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Miami lost Moore in the game and finished with backup quarterback J.P. Losman. If Moore can't return, Losman would start against his former team, the Buffalo Bills, on Sunday.

2. New England Patriots' pass defense: The Patriots gave up 293 passing yards against Washington. There have been weeks when New England has allowed more yards, but considering the competition, this was one of the worst performances I've seen from the Patriots' secondary this season. Washington quarterback Rex Grossman looked like Joe Montana at times. Redskins receivers were running free all game. It's a combination of poor coverage and poor discipline -- a season-long issue. I'm not sure New England can fix this before the playoffs.

3. Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: Buffalo's franchise quarterback is in a tough spot. His team is playing poorly, and Fitzpatrick has a lot of pressure because of his $59 million contract extension. The Bills have lost six in a row, and Fitzpatrick has been very streaky. He threw for 176 yards and two interceptions in a 37-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Critics are questioning whether Fitzpatrick is the long-term solution. He can silence them with a string of good games to end the season.

RISING

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots tight end: I don't know whether Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL. But Gronkowski has been playing the best football of any tight end the past few weeks. "Gronk" recorded six receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns against Washington. He set a new scoring record for tight ends with 15 touchdowns this year. The scary part is that he's only 22 and in his second season.

2. Shonn Greene, New York Jets running back: Greene has made a habit of saving his best for last. New York's bruising running back is again playing his best football late in the season and has four rushing touchdowns the last two weeks. Greene recorded a season-high 129 rushing yards and a touchdown in New York's 37-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He also led the Jets with 58 receiving yards. It's no coincidence New York (8-5) has won three in a row and has become one of the hottest teams in the AFC.

3. Todd Bowles, Miami Dolphins interim coach: Bowles has a golden opportunity. He was promoted to interim head coach after the firing of Tony Sparano this week. Bowles is a long shot to be Miami's head coach in 2012, but these final three games are a showcase for him. Unlike many interim coaches, Bowles takes over a Miami team that is playing good football lately. The Dolphins are 4-2 in their last six games.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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