- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's take a look at whose stock is rising and falling in the AFC East.
1. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets quarterback: After four seasons of up and down play, New York head coach Rex Ryan had enough. He finally benched Sanchez. Watching Sanchez hold a clipboard on the sidelines was a new low for the former first-round pick. His Jets career probably would be over next year if New York didn’t owe Sanchez $8.25 million in guaranteed money. But money matters in the NFL and Sanchez will get another chance to start Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
2. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins quarterback: Tannehill was steady and consistent in the first half of his rookie season. But teams have adjusted to his strengths and weaknesses. Now, Tannehill is more inconsistent. Miami’s first-round pick had another poor outing Sunday in a loss to the New England Patriots. Tannehill was 13-of-29 for 186 yards and left too many yards on the field. His two deep misses to an open Brian Hartline summed up his day. His inaccuracy took points off the board. Tannehill needs a strong final month of the season for Miami.
3. AFC East wild-card chances: Nothing went right for wild-card hopefuls in the division. All the teams ahead also won last-minute games and time is running out. The Indianapolis Colts (8-4) are now out of reach and loos like a lock for one of the wild-card spots. That leaves the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) and Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) in the best position for the other AFC wild card. The Jets, Dolphins and Buffalo Bills are all 5-7 and would need to win out to have a chance. On top of that, the Steelers and Bengals both need to collapse. This combination won’t happen.
1. Greg McElroy, Jets quarterback: The stats weren’t overly impressive, but the spark was. McElroy infused enough energy into New York’s moribund offense to escape with a 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals. McElroy completed 5 of 7 passes for 29 yards and a touchdown. He is making a push for the starting job against Sanchez and Tim Tebow but didn't get the nod this week.
2. Buffalo Bills running game: The Bills run a wide-open offense. But more and more they are evolving into a run-first team, which plays to their strengths. Buffalo has two quality running backs -- C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson -- and both were on display in its 34-18 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Spiller and Jackson combined for 186 rushing yards and one touchdown. If the Bills continue to pound the rock at this rate, they should finish strong to end the season.
3. Patriots’ playoff seeding: The Patriots didn’t play their best game over the weekend. But they did pick up the win to secure their 10th AFC East title in 12 years. New England also improved its seeding from No. 3 to No. 2, which is important because it comes with a first-round bye. The Patriots are in a three-way tie with the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos. But New England has the better conference record. All the Patriots need to do is keep winning in December.