- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's take a look at whose stock is up and whose stock is down in the AFC East.
1. Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills coach: The jury was still out on Gailey entering this season. He didn't have much talent to work with his first two years in Buffalo, and his 10-22 record reflected that. However this season was the litmus test for Gailey. The Bills went out and patched a lot of holes in the draft and free agency, which included the $100 million acquisition of defensive end Mario Williams. But Gailey is still making the same head-scratching moves he's made in the past and it's costing Buffalo games. Gailey's erratic play-calling and not giving the ball to tailback C.J. Spiller cost Buffalo a 15-12 loss to the St. Louis Rams. I can think of at least two (maybe three) games Buffalo could have won this year if Gailey coached better in the second half and fourth quarter. Most Bills fans want Gailey gone ASAP. But Buffalo will probably wait until after the season.
2. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins quarterback: Miami's defense played well enough on the road to potentially upset the 49ers. But Miami got little from Tannehill, who mustered just 150 yards on the road. Tannehill has hit a wall in the second half of the season and is struggling to get out of his slump. He couldn't get it done again in the fourth quarter last week, which is becoming a disturbing trend for the rookie. Tannehill needs to have a strong three games to instill confidence in himself and the Dolphins heading into the offseason.
3. Dolphins special teams: The Dolphins looked like they forgot to practice special teams leading up to last week’s game against San Francisco. Miami made two boneheaded mistakes that led to its fifth loss in six games. Dolphins returner Marcus Thigpen muffed a punt deep inside Miami territory that led to the 49ers’ first touchdown. Reserve linebacker Jonathan Freeny also had a brain cramp when he stopped the ball inside the 5-yard line but continued to trot inside the end zone for a touchback.
1. New England Patriots: Just when you thought New England's stock couldn't get much higher, the Patriots showed another couple gears in a 42-14 thrashing of the Houston Texans. The Patriots made a statement that they are the Super Bowl favorites. They have the NFL's most dynamic and highest-scoring offense, in addition to a rapidly improving defense. It's scary to think that this team is playing without its best pass-catcher and red-zone threat: Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. When "Gronk" returns in a few weeks, the Patriots will be even more dangerous.
2. Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback: Brady provided more evidence in his case for MVP. He threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns in another outstanding performance against the Texans on "Monday Night Football." This was supposedly the best opponent New England would face all season and Brady shredded Houston. Many MVP voters are probably on the fence between Brady and quarterback Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. But performances like this in big games sets Brady apart. Brady also owns a head-to-head win over Manning this year.
3. New York Jets: I must admit that I wrote off the Jets after their embarrassing Thanksgiving loss to New England. New York was 4-7 at the time and didn't look like a team capable of suddenly running the table. But the Jets have won two straight games, albeit against lousy opposition (Arizona and Jacksonville). Thanks to a lot of outside assistance, the Jets are just one game out of the final wild-card spot with three weeks to go. The playoffs start now for New York.