- James Walker, ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter
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1. New York Jets' playoff chances: It was just one week ago that the talented but inconsistent Jets controlled their own playoff fate. It was a simple formula: Win the final two games and they're in. But the Jets laid their second egg in a row, to the cross-town rival New York Giants. Now, the Jets need to beat the Dolphins and get a ton of help. Three teams need to lose next week or the Jets will be watching the playoffs from home. This team had Super Bowl expectations entering the season. The Jets have no one to blame but themselves if they don't get into the postseason.
2. Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: The Jets have the NFL's 27th-ranked offense. Although there's plenty of blame to go around, the offensive coordinator will probably get the brunt of it. Schottenheimer has underachieved with talented weapons such as tight end Dustin Keller, receivers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress and running backs Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight and LaDainian Tomlinson. There are already rumblings in New York that Schottenheimer's job may be in jeopardy. I think, at the very least, Jets head coach Rex Ryan and the front office will take a hard look at ways to improve the offense and its coaching staff in the offseason.
3. Miami Dolphins' draft stock: The Dolphins are 5-10 and currently own the No. 8 overall pick in April’s NFL draft. Sounds good, right? Well, not so much. Miami is searching for a top quarterback and may be on the outside looking in this offseason. Three very good quarterback prospects were expected to be available: Stanford's Andrew Luck, Baylor's Robert Griffin III and USC's Matt Barkley. Luck will be gone with the first pick, Griffin is projected to go before No. 8 and Barkley opted to return for his senior season. The Dolphins could roll the dice with Oklahoma's Landry Jones, but he's considered a drop-off from the other three college quarterbacks. It's looking more and more like Miami could stay with Matt Moore in 2012 or see whether there are any intriguing veterans available in free agency.
1. Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots linebacker: New England needs someone to step up defensively down the stretch. Mayo is the most likely candidate to do it. He is coming off his best game of the season in a key win over Miami. Mayo recorded 13 tackles and a season-high two sacks. Mayo is one of the few consistent players on New England's inconsistent defense. Keep an eye on Mayo in the playoffs.
2. Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo Bills cornerback: Buffalo fans expected more from McKelvin when the team drafted him in the first round in 2008. The Bills were counting on McKelvin to develop into a shutdown corner. That hasn't been the case. But one area where McKelvin has been as good as advertised is his ability to return kicks, which came in handy during Buffalo's win over the Denver Broncos. McKelvin set a team record with 136 punt return yards, including an 80-yard touchdown in the second quarter that was Buffalo's final lead change.
3. Wes Welker, Patriots receiver: What more can you say about Welker? He continues to produce and had another big game against Miami. Welker recorded 12 receptions for 138 yards. Teams are focusing on Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski more, which should open up opportunities for Welker. Welker was targeted 19 times last week by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Welker has 116 receptions for 1,518 yards in what will surely be another Pro Bowl season.
FALLING1. New York Jets' playoff chances: It was just one week ago that the talented but inconsistent Jets controlled their own playoff fate. It was a simple formula: Win the final two games and they're in.