AFC East: 2013 Week 12 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 12

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
11:30
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A review of four hot issues following the New England Patriots' 34-31 win over the Denver Broncos:

Ridley's fumbles and his future: It is often said that when a player carries the football, he carries the fate of the entire team in his hands. In that case, what do the Patriots do with lead running back Stevan Ridley? Ridley lost his third fumble in as many games and was benched after playing just five snaps. When asked whether the Pats had reached a breaking point with Ridley, Bill Belichick didn't directly address the question, but did say the team's ball security as a whole needs to improve (six fumbles, three of which were lost on Sunday night).

[+] EnlargeKnowshon Moreno
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesWith Knowshon Moreno producing, the Broncos were more than just a pass-happy offense.
Run defense: The Patriots played Sunday night's game almost exclusively in their 4-2-5 nickel, which had them lighter in the box against the run. The results weren't pretty, as the Broncos gained 280 yards on 48 carries (5.8 average). Part of that is matchup-based and there is also a personnel element to it as well, as the Patriots obviously miss perennial Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork. As the Patriots look at areas for improvement, run defense when playing in the nickel is near the top of the list.

Injuries pile up: Linebacker Dont'a Hightower came out of the game at the end of the second quarter and was one of three defenders not to play a snap in the second half, joining defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Each player's status will be monitored closely as the Patriots' defense is already short-handed. On offense, fill-in starting right tackle Marcus Cannon left in the second quarter with an ankle injury and didn't return. If Cannon is out for any length of time, it might require a roster move to add depth at tackle (practice squad tackle Jordan Devey is the top in-house option).

Avoiding the letdown: After such an exciting, emotional win, the Patriots now travel to Houston to face a Texans team that has lost nine straight games. This reminds us of last year's trip to Jacksonville late in December. This week will be as much about the mental challenge as the physical one for the Patriots.

Upon Further Review: Dolphins Week 12

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
8:00
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A review of four hot issues from the Miami Dolphins' 20-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday:

Can't finish: The Dolphins proved once again that they lack the killer instinct it takes to be a consistent winner in the NFL. Miami fell to 5-6 and blew its second double-digit lead in the second half in the past month. The Dolphins led the Panthers 16-6 at intermission and had Carolina (8-3) reeling. But Miami failed to put the Panthers away and let them score 14 unanswered points to close out the game. The Dolphins also blew a 17-3 halftime lead to the Patriots in late October. Miami will regret both losses.

Wallace
Wallace
Big-play Wallace: Dolphins fans have been waiting for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and speedy receiver Mike Wallace to make big plays. Tannehill finally connected on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Wallace and another 57-yard catch in the first half that gave Miami some early momentum. Wallace finished with five catches for a season-high 127 yards and a touchdown. However, Wallace and Tannehill did miss on two additional connections that could have made a difference in the outcome of the game.

Investigation pending: The Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga continues this week. NFL lead investigator Ted Wells spent a week in Miami talking to every Dolphins player, coach and key executives. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Wells will take his findings back to Martin for a second interview. Both sides got a chance to tell their story as the NFL is starting to get to the bottom of the situation.

Jets week: Next up for the Dolphins: a huge game against the New York Jets (5-6). Both AFC East rivals are fighting for the final wild-card spot with several other teams such as the Baltimore Ravens (5-6), Tennessee Titans (5-6) and Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6). Miami will play road games at the Jets and at the Steelers. These are essentially elimination games for the Dolphins.

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 12

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
8:00
AM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the New York Jets' 19-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens:

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyWill coach Rex Ryan stick by and start struggling QB Geno Smith in the Jets' Week 13 game?
Potential division in the locker room: Understandably, the defense is frustrated by the lack of production on offense. You could tell by the clenched jaws and short answers in the postgame locker room. Can you blame the defense for feeling that way? The Jets produced a season-low 220 total yards, almost taking an oh-fer on third down (1-for-12) and playing as if the field were 200 yards long. The defense was far from perfect, but it played well enough to win. In fact, the Ravens accounted for 126 of their 312 yards on two plays. The Jets have reached a vulnerable stage. If the locker room fractures, it would really hurt Rex Ryan's chances of keeping his job. So far, Ryan has done a nice job of building team chemistry, but those bonds will be tested if the offense continues to sputter.

The quarterback decision: Rookie Geno Smith stunk up the joint again, committing three turnovers and completing only 9 of 22 passes for 127 yards. Afterward, Ryan was noncommittal, declining to say if Smith will remain his starter. That's hardly a vote of confidence, but I don't think it means he has decided to bench Smith in favor of Matt Simms. Ryan didn't want to discuss individuals after the game -- the company line -- saying he wanted to watch the tape first. The coach is in a precarious position. Ryan has to weigh several factors before making a decision, including accountability and locker-room impact. Turning to the unproven Simms would be a Hail Mary, but would he lose the locker room if he sticks with the mistake-prone Smith? Frankly, I'd be surprised if Ryan makes the switch now.

Biggest bust -- the secondary: Looks like the defensive backs need more of those "Buddy Ryan drills," as Ryan called them. The coaches placed a huge emphasis on defending the deep ball, but the Jets still allowed 60- and 66-yard completions. The latter came against rookie cornerback Dee Milliner (yes, him again), who was torched by Jacoby Jones. Safety Ed Reed appeared to be late with deep help, but he was exonerated by Ryan. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, continuing his disappointing year, allowed a 60-yard completion and left the game with a hip injury -- one that bears watching. The Jets have provided plenty of fodder for those who believe they should've kept Darrelle Revis.

Playoffs: Going, going ...: The Jets, who began Sunday as the second wild-card team in the AFC, didn't destroy their playoff hopes. But now they're one of six teams at 5-6, all vying for the second wild card. In one day, they went from the No. 6 position to No. 10. The main problem for the Jets is they're 2-6 in the conference, having lost to three of those 5-6 teams: the Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans. In other words, they're in tiebreaker hell. The playoff chatter started after their Week 9 upset of the New Orleans Saints, but they've lost two straight for the first time, having been outscored 56-17. Playoff team? Gimme a break. At this rate, they're lucky if they make it to 8-8.

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