AFC East: NFC West

Injuries are a tricky thing in the NFL. There is no rhyme or reason to it. You never know when they're coming, and they can happen in bunches or not much at all.

For the most part, the AFC East was fortunate with injuries in 2012. For example, no starting quarterback in the division missed a start due to injury. New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was benched for poor performance, and Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a quad and knee injury in Week 8 but started the following week against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Dallas Morning News kept an injury database for the entire season. It turns out the AFC East was the second-healthiest division in the NFL, with players missing 152 combined games. The NFC West was the healthiest division, with players missing 97 games.

Here is the breakdown of games missed for the AFC East:
  • Dolphins: 23
  • Patriots: 27
  • Jets: 47
  • Bills: 55

Every team but the Bills was in the top half of the league with the fewest games missed. Buffalo ranked 22nd.

However, good health did not translate into victories. The AFC East had just one team -- the Patriots (12-4) -- with a winning record. The division record overall was a meager 31-33.

It's clear that 2012 was not a health issue with the Bills (6-10), Jets (6-10) and Dolphins (7-9). It's more a talent issue with these teams. All three need to work harder in the offseason to add difference-makers who can win games.
The Buffalo Bills slashed ticket prices for their annual regular season game in Toronto, the team announced. Buffalo will "host" the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 16 at the Rogers Center.

Tickets have been reduced by at least 51 percent across the board. There are obvious reasons the Bills want more butts in the seats in Toronto. But I think the underlying reason Buffalo is attacking this game so aggressively is it could be huge for the team's potential playoff push.

The Bills are being picked by many to make the postseason in 2012. December is a crucial month, and Buffalo is giving away a home date at Ralph Wilson Stadium to play in Toronto.

I went to Buffalo's game in Toronto last year against the Washington Redskins, and the turnout wasn't overwhelming. The Rogers Center definitely was not full, and I can recall some grumblings that week from Bills players, who know the value of playing at home.

Fortunately for Buffalo, the Bills have just one true road game in December and another traveling game in Toronto. If the Bills can move more tickets to make Toronto feel closer to Ralph Wilson Stadium in December, it could turn out to be meaningful.
The 2011 season was the "Year of the Quarterback." Apparently, there is momentum to label 2012 the “Year of the Tight End.”

NFC West blogger Mike Sando did a nice job pointing out how much the impact at the position has grown. In 2010, for example, there were 198 touchdown receptions by tight ends. That number rose dramatically to an amazing 578 touchdowns in 2011. This type of rise in production impacts the outcome of games.

Leading the charge with tight ends is the New England Patriots. They rode the wave of dual tight end threats Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to a Super Bowl appearance, where the Patriots came up just short. The AFC East touchdown output by tight ends alone went up from 41 to 85 in large part due to Gronkowski and Hernandez's development.

Several teams have a dynamic tight end. The New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers are some that come to mind. But no one has the double threat at the position to match the Patriots.

If this turns out to be the year of the tight end, New England was ahead of the curve. The production is skyrocketing at the position, and the Patriots are a primary reason why.

Jeff Fisher will face Dolphins in 2012

January, 14, 2012
1/14/12
12:00
PM ET
Jeff Fisher is coming to Miami!

But it's not what you think, Dolphin fans.

Fisher didn't suddenly have a change of heart and will coach the Dolphins next season. But Fisher will be on the sidelines in Sun Life Stadium in 2012 for one game when the Rams visit Miami. The AFC East will play the NFC West next season, and this adds some intrigue to an otherwise bland matchup.

The new Rams head coach went from a potential hero to not well liked in Miami on Friday after holding both teams hostage for more than a week, then picking St. Louis. It was a drawn-out process that left the Dolphins without a coach and looking into Plan B.

But Miami will get a chance for revenge against Fisher on the field next season. The NFL will announce its 2012 schedule in the spring.

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