Win or go home: If you're looking for a game with a playoff-type feel, look no further than Sunday's AFC East showdown between the Buffalo Bills (5-5) and New York Jets (5-5). If the season ended today, neither team would be in the playoffs. That means neither club can afford to lose. New York won the first meeting 27-11 in Week 9 and is trying to sweep Buffalo for the third time in four seasons.
The Jets need Mark Sanchez to step up his game as they make a run for the postseason.
Sanchez can't be a liability: The time to step up is now for Jets third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez. New York is in must-win mode, and he no longer can be a liability as the team's franchise quarterback. Sanchez isn't all to blame for the Jets' inconsistencies, but he is an important piece of the puzzle. In New York's five wins, Sanchez has an 89.6 passer rating. But in New York's five losses, he has just a 71.6 passer rating. Sanchez has proved to be clutch late in the season and in the playoffs before. He needs to do so again if the Jets hope to make the postseason.
Spiller draws tough assignment: C.J. Spiller will make his first start of the season at running back against New York's physical defense. Starting tailback Fred Jackson (leg) is out for the year, so the Bills will rely on their 2010 first-round draft pick for the remainder of the season. This will be a good showcase for Spiller. Some Bills fans have labeled him a bust, but Spiller hasn't had many opportunities to show what he can do. New York's run defense hasn't been as good as in previous years, but the Jets still have a lot of talented players in their front seven.
Patriots' defense vs. Eagles' offense: Have the New England Patriots finally turned the corner on defense? We will find out this weekend when New England travels to play the Philadelphia Eagles. New England has been ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in total defense all season. Yet, the Patriots put together their best two-game stretch of the year defensively against the Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. Both teams have struggled on offense. Philadelphia has not. The Eagles are ranked third in total offense. They have a dynamic group of skill players that could give New England's defense issues, regardless of whether the injured Michael Vick (ribs) or Vince Young starts at quarterback.
Spoiler role continues: The Miami Dolphins lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but they still have an opportunity to spoil the seasons of a lot of other teams down the stretch. Miami’s remaining schedule is against five teams currently in the playoff hunt. It starts next week against the AFC West-leading Oakland Raiders (6-4). Miami will have 10 days to prepare for that home game at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins also play the Eagles (4-6), Bills (5-5), Patriots (7-3) and Jets (5-5).