Friday, November 18, 2011
Final Word: AFC East
By James Walker
Here are five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:
Prime-time Patriots: The New England Patriots will play their second prime-time game in a row and third this season. That's good news, because New England has stepped up this season when the spotlight is at its brightest. The Patriots are 2-0 in prime-time games and both were won in impressive fashion. New England outscored the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins in night games by a combined score of 75-40. The Patriots also will be heavy favorites at home against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.
Tom Brady and the Patriots are looking to go 3-0 in prime time with a win against the Chiefs.
Pressuring Palko: Look for New England to do some heavy blitzing this week. Kansas City will start little-known backup quarterback Tyler Palko because of a hand injury to Matt Cassel. Palko has thrown just 13 career passes. The Patriots are ranked last in the NFL in total defense, but played a great game last week against the Jets. New England registered a season-high five sacks against New York. Starting defensive end Andre Carter had 4.5 of those sacks. The Chiefs were 27th in passing when Cassel was healthy. Don't expect it to get much better with Palko.
Gut check for Buffalo: The Buffalo Bills are falling out of the playoff race and running out of time. Buffalo is fortunate for its fast start. The Bills remain in the AFC East and wild-card race despite being 2-4 in their past six games. But Buffalo cannot afford to continue its slide and has a huge gut-check game Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. If the Bills (5-4) can't beat the 2-7 Dolphins, they're clearly not a playoff team this season.
Dolphins getting defensive: Last year's sixth-ranked defense finally showed up to play in the 2011 season. Miami’s defense has been lights out the past two weeks, allowing just six points per game in that span. Miami hasn't allowed a touchdown since Oct. 30. The Dolphins’ defense has gradually climbed up the rankings and is now at No. 20 in yards allowed. Miami also gets to face a Buffalo offense that has struggled as of late.
Wild-card watch: The Bills and Jets will be watching several teams of interest this weekend. The biggest game involves the AFC North battle between the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) and Cincinnati Bengals (6-3). If the season ended today, those teams would be the two wild cards in the AFC. Baltimore owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over New York. The Bengals own the head-to-head advantage over the Bills. Also in the mix are the Tennessee Titans (5-4), who play on the road against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday.