Saturday, December 24, 2011
Five things we learned about AFC East
By James Walker
Week 16 is in the books for the AFC East. Here are five things we learned about the division:
1. Jets are not a playoff team
For the second week in a row, the New York Jets controlled their own destiny. And for the second week in a row, they played awful football.
The Jets did a lot of trash-talking during the week and proved it was nothing but hot air. The Giants outplayed the Jets in the "Battle of New York" and won 29-14. The Jets lost their second game in a row and fell to 8-7.
The Jets have playoff-caliber talent, but they are too sloppy to be a contender. Sunday's game alone saw a bevy of errors. The defense gave up big plays, receivers dropped passes, quarterback Mark Sanchez took an awful safety late in the game, and the offensive line made crucial penalties and mistakes.
Simply put, the Jets do not deserve to be in the playoffs this season. They've had three losing streaks of two games or more this season. The Jets aren't even the best team in the New York City area -- and both clubs are mediocre.
There is still a small chance the Jets get into the postseason. They trail the Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) by one game and are tied with three other teams in the AFC. The Jets must win next week against the Miami Dolphins and get a lot of help. Chances are slim, and I think their luck ran out this weekend.
The Jets still have more questions than answers with quarterback Mark Sanchez.
2. Jets need major changes on offense
One of the biggest things the Jets must do this offseason is take a long, hard look at their offense. They must upgrade and improve depth at several positions, such as the offensive line and wide receiver. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer also must reconsider his game plans and strategies. The Jets' offense has become too predictable. Schottenheimer has been mentioned as a candidate for head-coach openings. But I think he's much more likely to return to the Jets.
Finally, the Jets still have more questions than answers with Sanchez. Is he the long-term solution? Is it a matter of giving Sanchez more support? Next season will be Sanchez's fourth season and the Jets cannot afford to keep waiting.
3. The Patriots will secure home-field advantage
The New England Patriots had a big scare Sunday, courtesy of the Dolphins. New England had an off day. But the Patriots did what title contenders should do and found a way to beat Miami 27-24.
The Dolphins led New England 17-0 at halftime. The Patriots were close to blowing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but quarterback Tom Brady wouldn't let that happen. Brady was masterful in the second half with three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) to lead the comeback.
All New England must do is beat the visiting Buffalo Bills next week to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Patriots should win that game, which will keep them at home until Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI. I predict New England will get there.
4. Dolphins are a team to watch ... in 2012
It's a shame the Dolphins started this season 0-7. I would be curious to see how far this group could go if it were competing for a playoff spot.
Miami has been good enough to compete with most teams in the second half of the season. The Dolphins are 5-3 in their past eight games, offering hope for the future with their new head coach.
5. Bills' Spiller is pretty good
Buffalo 2010 first-round pick C.J. Spiller is proving that he can be an every-down running back. He recorded his first 100-yard rushing game against a solid Denver Broncos defense. Buffalo won convincingly, 40-14.
Spiller rushed for a career-high 111 yards and a touchdown. The Bills have invested a lot of money in Spiller but also promised Fred Jackson that he would receive a contract extension.
Can Buffalo afford to give both running backs big money? Depth always is needed at the position. Buffalo could have a strong one-two punch if it decides to keep both.