Chasing history:New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and starting quarterback Tom Brady can make NFL history Sunday. With a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brady and Belichick will set a record for the most regular-season wins for a quarterback-head coach duo in the Super Bowl era. The Patriots' pair is tied with former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and former coach Don Shula with 116 victories.
The Patriots have won eight straight games following a bye under coach Bill Belichick.
Bye-week blues: But don't book that win for New England yet. The Patriots and Buffalo Bills could be primed for upsets. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams coming off the bye are an abysmal 3-9 (.250 winning percentage) this season. That is a significant turnaround from the 20-12 (.625) mark in 2010. Although there is no clear explanation, the lengthy NFL lockout might have something to do with it. Practice reps are important, especially during the first half of the season. Most teams practice a little, then take several days off during the bye. That has led to some sloppy play for teams following the bye. But the good news for New England is that Belichick has won eight consecutive games after byes.
Fitz factor: It is no coincidence the Bills have lost two of their past three games at the same time starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has cooled off. Fitzpatrick threw for 841 yards and nine touchdowns during Buffalo's 3-0 start. He was an early MVP candidate. But Fitzpatrick has thrown for 636 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in his past three games. Fitzpatrick is known to be streaky. He's living up to that reputation so far this season. Buffalo needs Fitzpatrick to be consistently good the rest of the season to make the playoffs.
Miami's pass rush a fluke? Here is a key question for the Dolphins: Was Tim Tebow that bad, or is Miami's pass rush suddenly that good? Winless Miami had just eight sacks in its first five games. But the Dolphins exploded against Tebow and the Denver Broncos with six sacks last week. Tebow struggled mightily for 55 minutes until making a stunning comeback from 15 points down. Too often Tebow failed to recognize blitzes and held the ball too long in his first start of the season. Miami is a big underdog against the New York Giants. But if the Dolphins can get to Giants quarterback Eli Manning with the same proficiency, maybe they have a chance for the upset.
Get some rest: The next month for the New York Jets could be the biggest stretch of their season. New York plays three division games in that span, which includes a home game against the division-leading Patriots and two contests against the Bills. The two Buffalo games could have a lot of say in the AFC wild-card race. It's rare that three teams get in from the same division. So, New York and Buffalo have to treat these meetings in November as elimination games.