AFC East: Andre Carter

Lining up Patriots 2014 free agents

February, 27, 2014
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With various top free agent lists starting to surface, let's narrow things down to the Patriots with a snapshot look at the team's free agents:

1. CB Aqib Talib -- Difference-maker when healthy and added a different dynamic to the cornerbacks room since November of 2012. A top priority for the team.

2. WR Julian Edelman -- Deserves everything coming to him after a terrific 2013 season. Patriots would obviously like him back, but if another team ups the bidding, he's probably gone.

3. RB LeGarrette Blount -- Mutual interest in his return. A player who seemingly has more value to the Patriots than most others, which makes us think it's a greater likelihood he's back.

4. LB Brandon Spikes -- The way 2013 ended makes it unlikely he returns.

5. C Ryan Wendell -- A scrappy heady performer, Wendell maximizes his talents. I don't evision the Patriots extending their budget to ensure his return, but if a market doesn't develop for him, he'd surely be welcome back in a situation where there might be top competition for the No. 1 job.

6. TE Michael Hoomanawanui-- Played his role well in 2013. Would think he's back unless another team unexpectedly ups the ante.

7. LB Dane Fletcher -- One of the Patriots' best special teams players. Would think there is a competitive bid to retain him.

8. DE Andre Carter -- They don't get much better from a locker-room perspective, but we'd be surprised if the team makes his return a priority at this point.

9. TE Matthew Mulligan -- More of a blocking presence, he filled his role well in 2013. Although the Patriots will probably look to add to the position, it wouldn't be a surprise if Mulligan competes for a roster spot again.

10. WR Austin Collie -- Veteran was dependable and should warrant serious consideration to re-sign.

11-. OT Will Svitek -- Smart, versatile veteran probably will see his spot go to a youngster, unless Sebastian Vollmer's recovery doesn't look promising.

Closer look at Andre Carter's contract

October, 24, 2013
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On Wednesday, the New England Patriots officially announced the signing of veteran defensive end Andre Carter, who also played for the team in 2011.

Carter
Later Wednesday afternoon, Carter revealed that if the Patriots had not signed him, he would have opted for retirement over playing for a different team.

Here's a look at the one-year contract signed by Carter to rejoin his old club.

Terms: One year, $940,000

Notes: The contract doesn't include any guaranteed money or a signing bonus, though that isn't uncommon for a veteran player signed in the middle of the season. It does, however, include a minimum salary benefit, which means that while Carter's salary is $940,000, his cap hit is a much reduced rate (roughly $630,000). The minimum salary benefit was implemented in the collective bargaining agreement as a mechanism for veteran players making the minimum base salary for a player of their tenure to have equal leverage to players who are in just their first or second season. While teams have to pay these players more money in terms of salary, the cap charge doesn't adversely affect their salary cap more than a first or second-year player would.
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday morning in the AFC East:
  • New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has kept a very low profile since last season's collapse.
Morning take: This is good for Sanchez. Even his Twitter account has seen little action. Sanchez just needs to continue working hard and come back a better player. There will be plenty of media waiting for him in New York.
  • Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick shaved his head as a special tribute after the team re-signed leading receiver Steve Johnson.
Morning take: This is pretty cool gesture by Fitzpatrick. Both players get along well and came up together. They will be two important building blocks in Buffalo for the next few years.
  • Here is good news for Miami: Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn is officially available.
Morning take: The Dolphins have to be happy the Packers didn't use the franchise tag on Flynn. He will be Miami's fallback option if things don't work out when Peyton Manning is expected to be released later this week.
Morning take: Carter played for Gregg Williams with the Washington Redskins. Smart move by Carter to steer clear of this one.

Ranking team needs: Patriots

February, 29, 2012
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The AFC East blog continues its series this week on ranking team needs in the division.

On Wednesday, we take a look at the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots, who finished 13-3 last season.

No. 1 need: Cornerback

Analysis: If you watched the Patriots all season, this shouldn't come as a surprise. New England's 31st-ranked pass defense was horrific last year. Even casual observers who only watched the Patriots in the Super Bowl saw New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning carve up New England and earn MVP honors. New England starting cornerback Devin McCourty took a big step back last season. Kyle Arrington had a lot of interceptions but also gave up plenty of big plays. McCourty is young and can still improve, but I don't think his ceiling is high enough to become a Darrelle Revis-type corner, who can shut down one side of the field. If New England feels it can get that caliber of corner free agency or the draft, the team should jump on it.

No. 2 need: Safety

Analysis: Many would argue safety is New England's biggest need, and it's certainly a valid debate. However, the reason I put cornerback over safety is because corner is more valuable in today's NFL. In my opinion, cornerback is the second-hardest position to play behind quarterback. You take the corner over the elite safety every time. But there's no avoiding New England's need at safety. Patrick Chung is a good, young player who needs someone next to him to take the pressure off on the back end. This is a great year for safeties in free agency. Therefore, New England could have this need filled before the draft.

No. 3 need: Pass-rusher

Analysis: This need could be helped if New England retains free-agent defensive end Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, or both. The Patriots' two best pass-rushers are set to hit the open market. Anderson most likely will generate more interest due to Carter’s season-ending quad injury. He had a great year with the Patriots and registered 10 sacks. But even if New England keeps Anderson, the team needs another threat on defense to get to the quarterback.

That is our list for the Patriots. Using our SportsNation poll, let us know if you agree or disagree on team needs for New England.

Previewing AFC East salary cap

January, 20, 2012
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Free agency begins in less than two months. Teams around the league are planning their strategies and figuring out which big names to pursue.

But where teams stand with the $120-million salary cap next season will be an indicator of which will be aggressive and which won't.

Let's take an early look at the projected 2012 cap numbers in the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills (6-10)

Projected cap: $105.5 million

Key free agents: WR Steve Johnson, TE Scott Chandler, K Rian Lindell

Analysis: The Bills are looking pretty good entering free agency. General manager Buddy Nix says the team will spend to the cap this year. The first order of business is deciding on Johnson's future. The two sides are still a ways apart and I think it's a 50-50 proposition. With or without Johnson, Buffalo has the space to acquire impact players. We mentioned Houston Texans defensive end/linebacker and unrestricted free agent Mario Williams as a possibility to help the Bills' pass rush. But getting Williams -- or any top free agent -- to come to Buffalo will be a tough sell.

Miami Dolphins (6-10)

Projected cap: $114.3 million

Key free agents: DT Paul Soliai, G Vernon Carey, QB Chad Henne

Analysis: The Dolphins are in decent (but not great) shape with the cap. There will be an interesting dynamic in Miami to keep an eye on this offseason. Usually when a new coach comes in, there is huge turnover in the coach's first season. But that probably won't happen with general manager Jeff Ireland still in charge of the 53-man roster. Ireland is not going to cut many of the players he helped bring to Miami. But the Dolphins would have to do something if they want to make enough room to make a splash for a big free agent. Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn is a good example.

New England Patriots (13-3)

Projected cap: $99.9 million

Key free agents: WR Wes Welker, DE Andre Carter, WR Deion Branch

Analysis: It's amazing that the best team in the AFC East also is in the best shape with the cap. The Patriots have done a masterful job and have plenty of money to spend in free agency if they choose. A big chunk of it will go to Welker, who is due for a nice payday. New England won't let Welker slip away. The Patriots also have the tools to acquire defensive help in free agency, as well as sign their two first-round picks and two second-round picks in the draft. The Patriots are in position to be a major force again next season.

New York Jets (8-8)

Projected cap: $125 million

Key free agents: WR Plaxico Burress, DT Sione Pouha, S Jim Leonhard

Analysis: The Jets are the only AFC East team projected to be over the cap. This was a team built to win now and it didn't work out; now New York has to make some trimmings on the roster if it wants to do anything in free agency. There's a good chance Burress and Leonhard won't return. Pouha is a good player and could come back at the right price. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson also is a free agent. But his role was drastically reduced this past season and it's unlikely he will return. Tomlinson is contemplating retirement.

2011 All-AFC East Team

January, 5, 2012
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Darrelle Revis/Rob Gronkowski/Brandon MarshallGetty ImagesDarrelle Revis, left, Rob Gronkowski, middle, and Brandon Marshall shined in 2011.
The 2011 season was an interesting one filled with ups and mostly downs for the AFC East. Only one team finished with a winning record.

But that doesn't mean the AFC East lacked great individual performances. For example, the division produced an MVP candidate at quarterback who threw for more than 5,000 yards and another stellar season from the best cornerback in football.

Here is our All-AFC East Team for 2011:

Quarterback: Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Analysis: There is no question about this one. Brady set a new career-high with 5,235 passing yards, which surpassed Dan Marino's old record. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (5,476) finished with more yards and has the new record. Brady is the single biggest reason the Patriots are 13-3 and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. His performance carried New England through injuries and inconsistencies in other areas. Brady will be chasing his fourth Super Bowl title in the playoffs.

Running back: Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills

Analysis: This might be a controversial pick, because two other running backs -- Reggie Bush and Shonn Greene -- had 1,000-yard seasons. But Jackson was the best running back I watched this season. He simply had some bad luck, suffering a season-ending leg injury. He was on his way to making his first Pro Bowl. Jackson rushed for 934 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games. He had an additional 442 yards receiving. His numbers would be off the charts if he'd played the final six games.

Fullback: Charles Clay, Dolphins

Analysis: Clay was one of the surprise rookies from Miami's draft class. He was a good blocker for Bush, has great hands and knows what to do with the football. Clay caught 16 passes for 233 yards. He averaged 14.6 yards per reception, which is astounding for a fullback. John Conner of the Jets is the best blocking fullback. But Conner is not a receiving threat.

Receivers: Wes Welker, Patriots; Brandon Marshall, Dolphins

Analysis: The best receivers in the AFC East this season are a pair of Pro Bowlers. Welker had an unbelievable year. He set a new career high with 1,569 yards. He also caught 122 passes and was one of the league's most sure-handed receivers. Marshall, in contrast, wasn't sure-handed. He had plenty of big drops, but still had a good season. Marshall caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns. What's even more impressive is that Marshall put up big numbers despite Miami's in-season quarterback switch from Chad Henne to Matt Moore.

Tight end: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

Analysis: Gronkowski showed flashes as a rookie. But no one knew he would explode the way he did in his second season. "Gronk" set an NFL record for tight ends with 17 touchdowns. He averaged more than one per game, despite many teams' focus on stopping him late in the season. Gronkowski finished with 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and made his first Pro Bowl. Considering he's only 22, it will most likely be the first of many Pro Bowls.

Center: Nick Mangold, Jets

Analysis: Jets head coach Rex Ryan says a lot of things. But we believe him when he says Mangold is the best center in the NFL. Mangold fought through an ankle injury but had another solid season. He was named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl. The Jets' offensive line was up and down but completely fell apart when Mangold missed two games. New York's entire running game and blocking scheme is built around its center -- and for good reason.

Guards: Logan Mankins, Patriots; Andy Levitre, Bills

Analysis: Mankins, who made his fourth Pro Bowl, stayed healthy right up until the end and played 15 of 16 games. He should be ready for the playoffs. Levitre was one of my favorite players to watch because of his versatility. He's a very good guard, a solid offensive tackle and struggled at center. Levitre was forced to play all three positions in Buffalo this season because of injuries.

Offensive tackles: Jake Long, Dolphins; Matt Light, Patriots

Analysis: Long played through injuries all season. His back bothered him, and he ended up on injured reserve after tearing his biceps. But Long at 80 percent is still better than most left tackles, and he was good enough to make his fourth Pro Bowl in four years. Light gets our last tackle spot over New York's D’Brickashaw Ferguson. The Pro Bowl nod went to Ferguson. But Ferguson struggled at times this season and didn't play up to his usual standards. I think Ferguson got in on reputation and name recognition.

Defensive ends: Andre Carter, Patriots; Mark Anderson, Patriots

Analysis: No one flinched when the Patriots quietly signed a pair of veteran defensive ends in free agency to bolster their pass rush. Most of the focus was on big-name acquisitions such as receiver Chad Ochocinco and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. But two of New England's best signings were Carter and Anderson. Each finished with 10 sacks, and Carter made the Pro Bowl despite a late, season-ending quad injury. For all of New England's issues on defense, arguably its biggest strength was rushing the passer. The Patriots registered 40 sacks, and Carter and Anderson combined for half of that total.

Defensive tackles: Vince Wilfork, Patriots; Sione Pouha, Jets

Analysis: Wilfork, 30, continues to improve with age. He combines strength and smarts to play defensive tackle/nose tackle. Wilfork finished with 52 tackles and 3.5 sacks. But it was his two interceptions this season that were most memorable. Wilfork rumbled for 28 and 19 yards, respectively, on his two picks. The second defensive tackle was one of the most difficult selections. But we went with Pouha over Miami's Paul Soliai. Pouha's numbers were more impressive for a nose tackle. He recorded 58 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. Soliai played well for Miami but registered only 27 tackles.

Outside linebackers: Cameron Wake, Dolphins; Calvin Pace, Jets

Analysis: It was a down year for outside linebackers in the AFC East. Wake and Pace were the best of a thin crop. Wake's sack numbers dipped from 14 to 8.5 this season. Teams put more focus on Wake, and he faced more double teams. Pace stayed healthy this season but recorded his lowest sack total (4.5) since 2006. Pace's backup, Aaron Maybin, led the Jets with six sacks.

Inside linebackers: David Harris, Jets; Karlos Dansby, Dolphins

Analysis: Harris continues to be one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Harris was the Jets' most consistent defensive player outside of Darrelle Revis. He was always around the football and recorded 86 tackles, five sacks and four interceptions. The second inside linebacker was another tough call. But we think Dansby had a slightly better season than New England's Jerod Mayo. A tailback getting 100 yards against the Dolphins' defense was rare, in large part due to Dansby. He established a physical presence in the middle for Miami and recorded 103 tackles and two sacks.

Cornerbacks: Darrelle Revis, Jets; Kyle Arrington, Patriots

Analysis: What more can you say about Revis? He had another great season for the Jets. He led New York with 21 passes defended, and tied for the team lead with four interceptions. One pick was returned 100 yards for a touchdown. Teams opted to attack Revis more this season, which allowed more chances for him to make big plays. Arrington was this year's version of Devin McCourty. New England gave up a lot of passing yards, but Arrington made the most of his interception opportunities. He led the Patriots with seven picks and had 88 tackles.

Safeties: Yeremiah Bell, Dolphins; George Wilson, Bills

Analysis: The safeties struggled in the AFC East this season. But Bell was probably the most consistent in the division. He led Miami with 107 tackles. He also had two sacks and one interception. Wilson played lights out at times, particularly early in the season. He set a career high with 106 tackles and tied a career mark with four interceptions. Wilson did all of this despite missing three games with injuries.

Punter: Brandon Fields, Dolphins

Analysis: Fields was spectacular this season. He averaged 48.8 yards per punt and had 32 punts inside the 20. Fields was the only Dolphins player exciting to watch during Miami's ugly 0-7 start. Fields had a Pro Bowl season. But Oakland Raiders punter and Pro Bowler Shane Lechler is probably the best punter in the NFL.

Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots

Analysis: Fantasy football players fell in love with Gostkowski this season. New England's high-scoring offense constantly put Gostkowski in position to rack up points, and he usually came through. Gostkowski led New England in scoring with 143 points. He made 28 of 33 field goals and all 59 extra points. The pressure of the playoffs always is different for kickers. But Gostkowski has shown no signs that he will be bothered by it.

Return specialist: Joe McKnight, Jets

Analysis: McKnight was a must-see because something exciting could happen every time he touched the ball. McKnight was fun to watch in the open field. He averaged 31.6 yards per kick return and is a Pro Bowl alternate on special teams. His longest of the season was a 107-yard touchdown return. The next step for McKnight is to develop as a running back. With LaDainian Tomlinson a free agent, McKnight could get a chance to backup Greene next season.

AFC East update: Sanchez practices

December, 20, 2011
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Here are the latest happenings Tuesday in the AFC East:
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday morning in the AFC East:
  • New England Patriots defensive end Andre Carter is excited to play his former team: the Washington Redskins.
Morning take: Carter gets a return trip to Washington and will be excited for this game. He’s quietly been one of the best free-agent additions for New England in a class that included flops Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco.
  • Why were the Buffalo Bills reportedly interested in Green Bay Packers backup Graham Harrell?
Morning take: I'm not sure about this one. Buffalo probably was just looking for depth behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and took a look at Green Bay's practice squad. But it's interesting nonetheless.
Morning take: This is not a good sign for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. The Jets have not performed well offensively and wants to have another experienced voice involved.
Morning take: With names like Kyle Orton, David Garrard and Carson Palmer being mentioned, who would have thought the best quarterback for the Dolphins this year was the No. 2 guy already on the roster? It's a great story, but will it continue in Miami beyond this season?

Final Word: AFC East

November, 18, 2011
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

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.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesTom 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.

Carter wins defensive player of the week

November, 16, 2011
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New England Patriots defensive end Andre Carter was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week, the NFL announced Wednesday.

Carter recorded a Patriots-record 4.5 sacks in Sunday's win over the New York Jets. He leads New England with nine sacks, which is fourth in the NFL.

The Patriots signed Carter in free agency last summer.

Morning take: Jets not blaming Sanchez

November, 16, 2011
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Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday morning in the AFC East:
  • New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said the team is not blaming quarterback Mark Sanchez for the Jets' struggles.
Morning take: Playing quarterback in New York is always tough. Sanchez is not making all the strides the Jets expected this season. But other areas of the teams are struggling as well.
Morning take: New England made some big-name acquisitions such as Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. But it's been the under-the-radar additions like Waters and Andre Carter that are paying off.
Morning take: The good news is Buffalo is 5-4 and still in the playoff hunt. But the Bills are on a two-game losing streak and need to get their act together before it's too late.
Morning take: Fasano isn't the focal point of Miami's offense. But he has three touchdowns in his last three games. That's the kind of production Miami needs.

AFC East Stock Watch

November, 15, 2011
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

[+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThe Bills need quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to help pull them out of their recent slump.
1. Buffalo Bills: The Bills are now 2-4 in their past six games. Mathematically, Buffalo is still in the thick of the AFC East and postseason races. But nothing about the Bills' performance the past few weeks suggests this young team is ready to take the next step. The good news is Buffalo (5-4) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the first-place New England Patriots (6-3). That could make things interesting if the Bills win enough games to make their Week 17 rematch meaningful. But there is plenty of football left and the Bills have to turn their season around quickly to have a chance. The Bills play their next two games on the road against the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, games that will define their season.

2. Jets' offense: It's hard to pinpoint one area. New York's offense as a whole failed to produce against the NFL's worst-rated defense in a 37-16 loss to New England. The Jets went away from the running game, which averaged 4.4 yards per carry. That's on the coaches. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was sacked five times. That's on the offensive line. And Sanchez made a pair of costly interceptions, including a pick-six in the fourth quarter. That's on the quarterback. But New York doesn't have time to wallow. The Jets have their next game Thursday night against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.

3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills quarterback: Fitzpatrick is having a career year. But he has a reputation of being very streaky and is playing his worst football of the season. The Bills are trying to make a playoff push, and Fitzpatrick has thrown for just 337 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions in his past two games. Yes, Buffalo has other issues. But Fitzpatrick now is the face of the franchise and can expect to get a majority of the blame. It comes with the territory. It's up to the Fitzpatrick to lead the Bills out of this funk with his play. Buffalo has what I think is a must-win game next week against the Miami Dolphins.

RISING

1. New England Patriots: I was shocked to see so many in our community claim last week the Patriots were done. I thought most AFC East fans knew better after watching New England dominate the division the past 10 years. It led me to write this column, which wasn't very popular but was the truth. New England continued its trend of dominating the AFC East by sweeping the Jets in convincing fashion. The Patriots have an easy schedule and look poised to cruise the rest of the season.

2. Andre Carter, Patriots defensive end: New England's defense needed a jolt and got it from Carter. The veteran registered a career-high 4.5 sacks against the Jets and stayed in the face of Sanchez the entire night. Carter’s sacks have come in bunches. He already has three multi-sack games for New England this season. Carter is fourth in the NFL with nine sacks. He needs just two more sacks to match his career high of 11.

3. Miami Dolphins: Miami won two in a row for the first time this season. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano deserves a lot of credit for keeping the team motivated during a tough time when his job status is up in the air. I’ve been saying all season that Miami has talent. The Dolphins are finally starting to show it and can be a dangerous spoiler to watch in the second half of the season. They get a chance to put a huge dent in the Bills' playoff hopes this week at Sun Life Stadium.

Poll: AFC East Player of the Week

November, 14, 2011
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We had a lot of great individual performances for Week 10 in the AFC East. Using our SportsNation poll, we want to know which player stood out the most.

The New England Patriots dominated the New York Jets for a 37-16 victory. New England's two stars were quarterback Tom Brady on offense (329 yards, three touchdowns) and defensive end Andre Carter (4.5 sacks) on defense. Is Brady or Carter deserving?

Linebacker Karlos Dansby led the Miami Dolphins to their second win in a row with a great performance. Dansby had 10 tackles, one sack and one interception. Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (114 rushing yards), and Jets receiver Santonio Holmes (93 receiving yards) also did well in losing efforts.

Cast your vote on the AFC East Player of the Week. You can also share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Seven-step drop: Andre Carter on a tear

November, 14, 2011
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Here are seven notes and observations from Week 10 in the AFC East:
    [+] EnlargeAndre Carter
    William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PresswirePatriots defensive end Andre Carter had 4.5 sacks against Mark Sanchez and the Jets on Sunday.

  • The New England Patriots received a lot of press for making big-name acquisitions like Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. But New England's best offseason addition turned out to be an under-the-radar free agent. Veteran defensive end Andre Carter signed with the Patriots in August and didn't create many headlines. He was one of several defensive linemen added to the team for depth, which included Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis. But Carter is on a tear with the Patriots this season. He had 4.5 sacks in Sunday's important win against the New York Jets and is tied for fourth in the NFL with nine sacks. Carter is on pace to shatter his career-best total of 11 sacks from 2009.
  • The Patriots have depth issues at several positions, but offensive tackle is not one of them. New England flexed its muscle at tackle against the Jets and didn't allow any sacks on quarterback Tom Brady. Left tackle Matt Light and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer got the start and played great, while rookie first-round pick Nate Solder was used as a sub in heavy packages and temporarily when Vollmer was hurt. Both Vollmer and Solder were questionable heading into the game. The Patriots also have a young offensive tackle on their practice squad in Matt Kopa who has potential. The second-year player from Stanford could be additional insurance if New England has any major injuries at the position.
  • The Jets (5-4) are essentially two games back in the AFC East and could run into issues in the wild-card race. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head meetings, and the Jets lost to a pair of wild-card contenders in the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) and Oakland Raiders (5-4). New York has to hope the Ravens and Raiders win their divisions. The Jets also have to worry about the Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) and maybe the struggling Buffalo Bills (5-4). The Jets and Bills could have an elimination game in two weeks at the Meadowlands.
  • Speaking of Buffalo, a lot of pressure now is on Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He was paid $59 million to be the long-term solution and face of the franchise. Fitzpatrick is no longer a cute, surprising story. With the $10 million per year price tag comes high expectations for Fitzpatrick to consistently produce. It's poor timing for Fitzpatrick to play his worst football of the season. He's thrown for 337 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions the past two weeks. As a result, Buffalo has been outscored 71-18 in that span against the Jets and Dallas Cowboys. The bar has been raised and Fitzpatrick will get a lion's share of the blame when things don't go well. That's par for the course for other franchise quarterbacks around the league.
  • Buffalo has a lot of issues defensively. But the biggest issue haunting the Bills is their lack of pass rush. Buffalo thought it fixed its pass-rush issues in Toronto after registering 10 sacks against the Washington Redskins. It was the second-most sacks in Bills history. But that proved to be a fluke. Buffalo has just one sack in its past two games, and quarterbacks are taking advantage. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was very comfortable in the pocket. He was 23 of 26 for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Is winning the best thing for the Miami Dolphins? Miami fans have to be torn about the Dolphins' two-game winning streak. The Dolphins are finally playing well. But it comes after the team has no pressure and no shot at the postseason. On the flip side, it's a virtual certainty Miami played itself out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The Indianapolis Colts (0-10) cannot win three of their final six games. Miami (2-7) also would have to lose its final seven games. That doesn't appear likely, either.
  • Next week's game between Buffalo and Miami will be more interesting than expected. The AFC East blog will be covering that contest next week at Sun Life Stadium. I think this is a must-win game for Buffalo. The Bills are in the middle of their three-game road trip, and this is the most winnable one on their schedule. Miami, meanwhile, will have a lot of say in who wins the AFC East. The Dolphins have four division games remaining and seem to be relishing their "spoiler" role. Miami can put a huge dent in Buffalo's season next week.

Patriots-Jets halftime notes

November, 13, 2011
11/13/11
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New England Patriots lead the New York Jets 13-9 at intermission.

Here are several notes from the first half:
  • Receiver Chad Ochocinco already is having his best game as a Patriot. With Jets Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis spending a lot of time on Wes Welker, Ochocinco found early success against New York's secondary. Ochocinco has two receptions for 65 yards, including a big 53-yard catch against the blitz to set up a first-quarter field goal.
  • New England's pass rush is playing well. The defensive line is getting off the line quickly and getting to Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. New England defensive end Andre Carter has 2.5 sacks. Sanchez has been sacked three times total.
  • The play of New England quarterback Tom Brady has been up and down. He's missed a few throws he normally makes — and also held the ball too long and was sacked for a safety. But Brady also has led the Patriots to three scoring drives -- including one just before the half that ended with a touchdown to tight end Rob Gronkowski. Brady has thrown for 194 yards and one touchdown.
  • Jets kicker Nick Folk missed a chip shot of 24 yards to start the game. Folk started the year making 10 consecutive attempts. But he's missed one in each of the past two games. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski nailed two field goals in the first quarter.
  • On the injury front, Patriots starting cornerback Devin McCourty suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter. His return in questionable.

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