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Saturday, November 12, 2011
AFC East Week 10 X factors

By James Walker

We have a three-way tie in the AFC East. That makes Week 10 a crucial week for the division.

Here are some under-the-radar players who could have an impact in Sunday's games:

New England Patriots (5-3)

Opponent: at Jets

X factor: TE Rob Gronkowski

Analysis: The Jets are very talented in the secondary. But Gronkowski's size advantage could present problems for New York. Gronkowski is most dangerous in the red zone. According to ESPN's Stats & Information, Gronkowski leads the NFL with 14 red zone touchdowns since the beginning of the 2010 season. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks for Gronkowski a lot in the clutch. Gronkowski has 44 receptions for 596 yards and six touchdowns this season. Thirty-four of his 44 catches are for first downs.

New York Jets (5-3)

Opponent: Patriots

X factor: WR Santonio Holmes

Analysis: New England's pass defense is awful. It's been that way all season. That will provide plenty of opportunities for Holmes to make plays. Fellow receiver Plaxico Burress has an ailing back. Burress is expected to play but he won't be 100 percent. This is a big game and Holmes is a big-game player. Look for Holmes to step up and take advantage of New England's leaky pass defense.

Buffalo Bills (5-3)

Opponent: at Dallas Cowboys

X factor: WR Donald Jones

Analysis: Jones looked rusty in his first game back from a high-ankle sprain. He caught one pass for 6 yards in a loss to the Jets. But Jones is Buffalo's best deep threat. He could get opportunities for big plays Sunday against the Cowboys' aggressive defense. Buffalo's offense hasn't made many big plays since Jones went down Oct. 9.

Miami Dolphins (1-7)

Opponent: Washington Redskins

X factor: LB Kevin Burnett

Analysis: Burnett, Miami's major free-agent signing, is coming off his best game as a Dolphin against the Kansas City Chiefs. Burnett recorded 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks in Miami's first win of the season. Burnett has a chance to carry that momentum against Washington. The Redskins are struggling on offense and scored just 11 points the past two games. Washington's offense line is hurting. That should open things up for Dolphins defenders like Burnett to make plays against the run and get to Redskins quarterback John Beck.