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Wednesday, November 2, 2011
AFC East Week 9 X factors

By James Walker

The bye weeks are complete in the AFC East. All four teams will be in action this weekend.

Here are four X factors to keep an eye on:

Buffalo Bills (5-2)

X factor: WR David Nelson

Analysis: Jets Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis could be matched up a lot this week with Bills No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson. That means other receivers, like Nelson, have to step up for Buffalo to be successful. Neslon could see a lot of Kyle Wilson in the slot. Both are among the most improved players in the AFC East this year. Nelson's battles in the slot will be crucial on third down. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick often looks over the middle to Nelson and tight end Scott Chandler to move the chains.

New York Jets (4-3)

X factor: C Nick Mangold

Analysis: The Jets are back to their ground-and-pound ways and at the center of it is Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold. It's no secret New York will try to control the line of scrimmage against the inconsistent Buffalo defense. But the Bills are coming off their best game of the season -- a 23-0 shutout against the Washington Redskins. Mangold has a tough assignment against Buffalo No. 3 overall pick Marcell Dareus, who recorded 2.5 sacks last week.

New England Patriots (5-2)

X factor: CB Devin McCourty

Analysis: It's time to McCourty to step up. New England's No. 1 corner hasn't made any significant plays this year. He has zero interceptions and only three pass defenses. McCourty is suffering from a major sophomore slump. He recorded eight interceptions as a rookie in 2010. The New York Giants had a solid passing game but No. 1 receiver Hakeem Nicks is ailing with a hamstring injury. McCourty has to win his matchup with Giants receivers for New England's pass defense to be successful.

Miami Dolphins (0-7)

X factor: RB Reggie Bush

Analysis: Bush produced his first 100-yard rushing game of the season against the Giants. He rushed for 103 yards on 15 carries. It helped Miami control the game for three quarters. The Dolphins will need control the clock with their running game again to have a chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have the NFL's 22nd-ranked run defense. Miami, despite its many struggles, actually has an underrated running game. The Dolphins are 12th in the league in rushing.