Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 12:
After losing to the Indianapolis Colts, the New England Patriots need to beat the New Orleans Saints for peace of mind. As Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com pointed out, the Patriots don't have a signature victory this year. They need one to demonstrate they are an elite team. Monday night in the Superdome will be their last chance before the playoffs. They also haven't won a true road game. As I mentioned in this week's AFC East power rankings breakdown, the best team the Patriots have beaten is the No. 15 Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. That's not a convincing resume for the postseason.
Ricky Williams should record his third straight 100-yard rushing game. The Buffalo Bills put forth an admirable effort in holding Maurice Jones-Drew to 2.6 yards a run in Perry Fewell's debut as interim coach. But the Bills rank 31st in run defense and are tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the worst per-carry average at 4.9 yards against. The Dolphins are a running team, and the 32-year-old Williams showed he can be a workhorse in Ronnie Brown's absence -- at least for the time being -- by rushing for 221 yards in a five-day span. Williams is averaging 5.3 yards a carry, fifth among backs with at least 100 attempts.
The New York Jets are one or two early bad plays away from imploding. The Jets are in all sorts of chaos. They've lost six of their past seven games. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez doesn't know what end is up. Rookie head coach Rex Ryan is getting more involved with the offense. Safety Kerry Rhodes, one of the key players expected to make Ryan's defense click, has been demoted. If the 4-6 Carolina Panthers come into the Meadowlands and jump on the Jets early, the whole team may fall apart before our eyes.
Bills receiver Terrell Owens might have fun against the Miami Dolphins' rookie cornerbacks. Buffalo's offense opened up last week in Fewell's first game. They managed to score only 15 points in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they took shots downfield. Owens finished with nine receptions for 197 yards, including a franchise-record 98-yard touchdown. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's willingness to throw deep will put pressure on rookies Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Owens can make young corners look silly. But if he beats them, then he has to catch the ball.
New England's secondary has gone from preseason question mark to one of the team's stronger units. The Patriots rank sixth in pass defense, and their secondary has been coming up with big plays lately. They're going to have plenty of opportunities in the Superdome because Saints quarterback Drew Brees will test them. The Patriots have recorded six interceptions in the past two weeks, pilfering Peyton Manning twice and Sanchez four times.