AFC East: bye

Patriots may have late-game dilemma

December, 26, 2012
The New England Patriots, for the most part, will know what they are playing for by the time they take the field Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

New England (11-4) has the late, 4:25 p.m. ET game this week, while the Houston Texans (12-3) will face the Indianapolis Colts at 1 p.m. ET. The Patriots need to win and the Texans to lose in order to secure one of the top two seeds in the AFC, which includes a first-round bye.

"I'm sure we’ll all be aware of that, yeah. No question," Brady said candidly during his weekly press conference Wednesday. "But I don’t think that changes what our goal is for the weekend. I think we’re trying to win this game regardless. It could be different if some other teams win, but that’s really out of our control. We’re just going to go out and try to win."

But what if Houston wins? The Patriots cannot improve their seed unless the Denver Broncos (12-3) lose to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs (2-13), which is highly unlikely. Should New England shut it down and avoid risking injury to key players like quarterback Tom Brady? Or should the Patriots play to win regardless?

New England also will know the result of the Baltimore Ravens (10-5) and Cincinnati Bengals game at 1 p.m. ET. The Patriots could fall to the No. 4 seed if the Ravens win and New England loses. But the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds will host games in the wild-card round.

All of this presents a late-game dilemma the Patriots must consider. It will be a balance between winning and preserving good health heading into the playoffs.

Based on New England head coach Bill Belichick's comments Wednesday, it sounds like the Patriots will be full-go no matter what happens with other teams.

"I've been around this league long enough to know that you can’t predict how things are going to go on Sundays in the NFL," Belichick said. "We’ll control what we can control which is to get ready and play Miami."

The good news is the Colts are not laying down and will give the Texans their best shot. Expect a lot of Patriots fans to root for Indianapolis.

Morning take: Tomlinson to start

October, 21, 2011
Here are the most interesting stories Friday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: We suggested this move weeks ago, because Shonn Greene wasn't getting the job done. The Jets also want to feed off the emotion of Tomlinson playing against his former team.
  • Head coach Tony Sparano tries to offer hope for the winless Miami Dolphins (0-5).
Morning take: Sparano has it bad trying to coach a sinking ship. Miami has a chance to win this week. But, either way, Sparano and the Dolphins won’t win many games after that.
Morning take: Expectations were low for this group entering the season. But Buffalo's offensive line has done a great job with run and pass blocking. It also showed depth by surviving injuries.
Morning take: I've learned they have a dominant offense with the potential to get even better. Chad Ochocinco hasn't been contributing much to this group, for example. Once everyone is clicking, the Patriots could score even more points every week.

Bills at the bye: Three questions

October, 19, 2011
The upstart Buffalo Bills are 4-2 at the bye and in second place in the AFC East.

Here are three issues facing the team:

1. Can Buffalo's defense improve? The Bills have consistently allowed big plays on defense. Buffalo has given up 400 yards or more in five straight games. Most times, the Bills were able to get big turnovers to negate the high number of yards. But teams are studying film and catching onto that. The New York Giants were very careful protecting the football. New York didn't have any turnovers and registered 414 yards of offense. Buffalo's defense, which is ranked No. 31, needs to stop relying on the big turnover and work on beating the man in front of them.

2. Will the Bills get healthy? Buffalo has several key players ailing. Linebacker Shawne Merriman (Achilles), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (foot) and receiver Donald Jones (ankle) are among the starters the Bills hope to get back after the bye week. Williams and Merriman are two of the top playmakers on Buffalo's defense. Jones is the team's best deep threat on offense. Coming off the bye, the Bills will play the Washington Redskins in Toronto on Oct. 30. Buffalo is 1-1 against the NFC East and needs to be at full strength.

3. Is Fitzpatrick getting streaky? Buffalo Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't played poorly the past three weeks. But he hasn't been the same quarterback who put himself in the early MVP race, either. Buffalo has lost two of its past three games. Fitzpatrick threw three touchdowns and three interceptions in that span. In his first three games, Fitzpatrick threw nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Fitzpatrick made a couple mistakes that were costly in the loss to the Giants. He's been hot and cold in the past. The Bills need to keep Fitzpatrick consistent for 16 games.