For the Week 12 edition of AFC East Audibles, I spoke with ESPN analyst Floyd Reese to preview a marquee matchup between the surging Jets and undefeated Tennessee Titans. Reese correctly predicted the Jets would handle them.
"If the Jets could ever play the way they played against the Titans, they could run the table," Reese said Friday afternoon. "The defense stopped the run. They put pressure on the quarterback. They created turnovers. Brett Favre managed the game. And they ran the ball very well.
"The Jets are just so fickle right now."
After winning in Nashville, rather than run away with the division as many predicted, the Jets have lost two straight and slipped into a three-way tie for first place. They control their destiny, but so do the Dolphins. The Patriots won't go away, either.
To ratchet the pressure, their 8-5 records don't portend well for wild-card berths. The AFC East champ probably will be the only team that makes the playoffs.
Thankfully for Jets fans, the listing Bills are next.
The Bills haven't generated a touchdown in 22 offensive possessions. Their defense or special teams hasn't scored either, and their kicker has gotten into a habit of clanking an upright.
"Sometimes you can accidentally score," Reese said with a laugh.
The Bills' best hope is to throw on the Jets, who rank 31st against the pass. But usual backup quarterback J.P. Losman will start in place of the injured Trent Edwards. Losman has been exasperatingly bad.
If the Jets can't beat the Bills, then some folks in Florham Park, N.J., should start updating their resumes.
For all their problems this year, the 49ers are working on a decent season. They've won three of their past four games, including two straight against AFC East opponents, holding the Bills and Jets to a combined 17 points.
Miami is wary that San Francisco isn't the laughingstock it was in October.
The Dolphins stumbled earlier in the year against the Houston Texans, then a winless team they should've beaten. The Dolphins also struggled at home to beat the cross-country traveling Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders. There are lessons to be applied with the 49ers coming to Dolphin Stadium.
"We've been down this road a little bit before, and I hope my players learned from this," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "We sat there and we talked about Houston, and we said Houston's not a zero-win team at the time .... Then we played Oakland and we said, 'This team is better than [its record].'
"In this situation, you're playing against a team that they can really identify, 'Hey, this is a pretty good football team.' This team very easily could be in the same spot right now that we're in."
New England Patriots (8-5) vs. Oakland Raiders (3-10) 4:15 p.m. ET
The Patriots are tattered, but if they can hold their roster together a few more weeks they might be able to pull off a postseason berth. Whereas the Jets and Dolphins control their destinies, the defending AFC champs must hope for help.
Problem is, the Patriots have won consecutive games only twice all year and not since October. They haven't won three in a row yet and, including last week, need to finish with four straight victories to give themselves the best opportunity to advance.
"The only thing we can do anything about is the Oakland game," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "So we are just going to put all of our energy and effort into this game and try to be as competitive as we can on Sunday against the Raiders.
"We will worry about next week next week, and whatever is in the past is in the past. That's already in the books. So whatever it is, it is. We just have to try to control what we can do this week, and that's all we are thinking about."
That sounds simple, but it isn't. The Patriots will have to deal with the loss of another defensive leader. Tedy Bruschi is out with a knee injury, forcing them to use Junior Seau more than they'd like. Quarterback Matt Cassel is coping with the death of his father this week.
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