AFC East: Roddy White

Tom Brady and Matt RyanGetty ImagesTom Brady and Matt Ryan have both come in for heaping praise ahead of Sunday's meeting.

ATLANTA -- There are $100 million reasons why Matt Ryan should be talked about among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. One thing the Atlanta Falcons quarterback doesn’t have that his Sunday-night counterpart possesses is a Super Bowl ring.

Ryan's showdown with New England Patriots star Tom Brady is sure to be a hot topic throughout Week 4. He already lost one such head-to-head matchup, when Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints got the better of Ryan and the Falcons in the season opener (23-17).

So how will Ryan fare against the Pats? He’ll need help from all phases, something he didn’t receive in last week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins.

ESPN.com Falcons team reporter Vaughn McClure and Patriots reporter Mike Reiss break it down:

McClure: The Falcons were touted as a Super Bowl contender -- and possibly a favorite -- going into the season. But now, at 1-2, they find themselves in almost a must-win situation at home. How will the Patriots respond to the hostile environment they’ll enter Sunday night at the Georgia Dome?

Reiss: With 13 rookies on the 53-man roster -- including receivers Aaron Dobson (second round) and Kenbrell Thompkins (undrafted), who are playing key roles -- there is an element of unknown for the Patriots when projecting how the team will respond. Some of these players simply haven’t experienced this environment and prime-time stage. It’s rare for a Patriots team to be relying on such a large number of rookies for significant contributions, and that is one of the interesting storylines from a New England perspective this week. Other storylines are if this might be tight end Rob Gronkowski's season debut, if receiver Danny Amendola will also return after missing two games with a groin injury and if the defense -- which has been solid against lesser competition (Jets, Bills, Buccaneers) -- can limit an explosive passing game that is easily the best the unit has seen to this point in the season. Give us a feel for how things are going for the Falcons on offense.

McClure: Not too well, at the moment. Head coach Mike Smith’s biggest complaint is how inefficient his team has been in the red zone. During the Week 3 loss to the Dolphins, the Falcons were 2-of-5 in red zone opportunities. For the season, they are 6-of-12 (50 percent) in terms of touchdowns in the red zone, but offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter wants that number to be a bit higher. Having bruising running back Steven Jackson in the lineup would no doubt help in goal-line situations, but Jackson will miss Sunday’s game while nursing a hamstring injury. Receiver Roddy White is also a solid red zone target, but White is not 100 percent healthy coming off a high-ankle sprain. Ryan still has Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez as primary scoring weapons. How do you think the Patriots will keep up with the speedy receiver and ageless tight end?

Reiss: I think it starts with how they decide to match up against the Falcons’ “11 personnel” (one back, one tight end), because that looks like the most explosive package -- receivers Jones, White and Harry Douglas, with Gonzalez at tight end and either Jacquizz Rodgers or Jason Snelling at running back. Last Sunday against the Buccaneers’ “11 personnel,” the Patriots stayed in their base defense but played with three cornerbacks in the secondary -- their way of staying sturdy against the run but adding a coverage element to the secondary. I’d be surprised if we see that this week because the Falcons are much more potent in the passing game. So I could envision the Patriots turning to a coverage-heavy dime defense (six defensive backs), specifically with Jones and Gonzalez in mind, with the thought that a lighter box might be enough to limit the running game. For the Falcons, how are things shaping up on defense?

McClure: The defense has had its issues. Take the Miami game, for example. The Falcons held a 23-20 lead with just less than five minutes remaining in regulation. The defense needed to close, needed to put pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, needed to lock down the receivers. Instead, the Falcons played soft coverage after the Dolphins reached midfield and couldn’t disrupt Tannehill’s rhythm. In the end, Tannehill engineered a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with his game-winning touchdown pass to Dion Sims. Not playing tight coverage and not wrapping up on tackles cost the Falcons in that game, and it could cost them the rest of the season if they don’t find a way to correct those problems immediately. They could use their defensive leader, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who was placed on injured reserve (foot) with a designation to return in Week 11. One other aspect noticeable in Miami was how the Dolphins tight ends won their one-on-one matchups against the Falcons on that final drive. That being said, will Atlanta have to contend with one of the best tight ends in the league, Gronkowski?

Reiss: We might not know the answer for sure until 90 minutes before kickoff, but things have been pointing in that direction. The one area the Patriots could use Gronkowski most, at least initially, is in the red zone. One season after ranking first in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage (which we acknowledge isn't a foolproof stat), the Patriots rank last (4-of-13). It’s going to be hard to win a game like this settling for field goals. Speaking of which, let’s not overlook special teams. The Patriots are getting good contributions in that third phase of the game, with a 53-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski a highlight in Sunday’s victory over the Buccaneers. How about the Falcons?

McClure: Yet another area in which the Falcons could use much improvement. Against the Dolphins, returner Douglas fumbled a punt he admitted he shouldn’t have fielded in the first place. It translated into a Dolphins touchdown three plays later. The usually reliable Matt Bryant missed a 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. And the Falcons had three penalties on special teams: two holds and an illegal block above the waist. Through three games, the Falcons are ranked 26th in punt return average and 30th in kickoff return average, although they’ve returned just one kickoff. Those special-teams issues are enough to cause special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong to blow a gasket. Speaking of that, is Brady still yelling at his receivers?

Reiss: Could you hear him down there in Atlanta? That was probably the most talked about storyline after New England's 13-10 win over the Jets on Sept. 12, whether Brady’s on-field frustrations were making things tougher on the young receivers than they needed to be. But it was mostly yelling at himself this past Sunday. He was upset with an end zone interception he said he shouldn’t have thrown. And he missed some open receivers, too. So while Brady’s stats were better last week, his performance wasn’t up to his own high standard, and it was actually more about him than the young pass-catchers, who turned in their best performance of the season. What is Ryan saying about this matchup?

McClure: Ryan said plenty about the Patriots when he addressed the media in the locker room Wednesday. He said he expects to see a lot of man-to-man coverage and complimented the Patriots for being very sound with their technique. He believes the front seven does a great job of creating pressure in both the run game and against the pass. Of course, Ryan gave much credit to Brady for being one of the top quarterbacks in the league for such a long time. In fact, Ryan joked that he hoped to be around as long as Brady. And Ryan singled out Vince Wilfork for not only being a disruptive force up front, but for being a 325-pound guy who plays a lot of snaps. So what’s the word from Bill Belichick?

Reiss: Belichick complimented Ryan, saying among other things that Ryan has very few bad plays. He shared his belief that consistency is the mark of any great player and Ryan is “pretty consistent -- every play, every game, every series.” And, according to Brady, Belichick said the following to players this week: “If you love football, then Sunday night at 8:30 in Atlanta will be the place to be.” Hard to imagine many would disagree about that. This is going to be fun.

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Ryan Tannehill and Julio JonesUSA TODAY SportsRyan Tannehill and the undefeated Dolphins will try to upset Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons.
The Miami Dolphins are basking in the light of a 2-0 start while the Atlanta Falcons are just trying to find some healthy bodies.

The two teams play each other Sunday in a game that has big implications in the AFC East and NFC South races.

ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker and ESPN Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas examine this matchup:

Yasinskas: James, like many, I thought the Dolphins would be an improved team. But it's looking like they might be even better than I thought. They've gone out and started their season with two big wins on the road. What's going right for the Dolphins and, more importantly, how good are they?

Walker: It's early, Pat, but Miami is already exceeding my expectations. I pegged the Dolphins to be an 8-8 team this year. That still could happen if the team loses focus, but Miami is on pace to do better. I credit two things: improved playmaking ability and the growth of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami committed more than $200 million in free-agent contracts to players like receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Brent Grimes and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. All of those players came up big in last Sunday's win over the Indianapolis Colts. When you add in the fact Tannehill has improved in his second year, it's easy to see why the Dolphins are also taking the next step. Atlanta is a team many believe is a Super Bowl contender, but the group is banged up. Pat, how much will injuries impact the Falcons in this game?

Yasinskas: Atlanta has some major injury problems. The Falcons had to put defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing on injured reserve this week and there are reports that running back Steven Jackson will miss a few weeks. The loss of Biermann means the Falcons will have to play rookies Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow at linebacker and second-year pro Jonathan Massaquoi at defensive end. If Jackson is out, the Falcons will have to go with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling as their running backs, and that's a sharp drop-off. That probably means the Falcons will pass even more than usual and rely on Roddy White and Julio Jones. Is Miami's secondary ready for that tandem?

Walker: I had a good conversation with Miami's top cornerback, Grimes, on Tuesday. He was complimentary of both White and Jones -- and Grimes would know. The former Falcon watched both receivers grow in Atlanta and practiced against them. It will be fun to see who has the advantage between Grimes and White/Jones, depending on the play. Grimes told me they all know each other so well that it's probably a push. The bigger concern for Miami's secondary is the other cornerback spot. Veteran starter Dimitri Patterson didn't play in Week 2 due to a groin injury. He's working his way back and could play Sunday. Rookie corners Will Davis and Jamar Taylor also returned to practice this week, which could provide depth. Similar to the game against Indianapolis, Miami must do a lot of things schematically to cover up its issues opposite Grimes. That includes using the safeties over the top and getting a good pass rush. Speaking of pass rush, the Dolphins have nine sacks in the first two games. Can they exploit the Falcons in this area?

Yasinskas: Miami's pass rush has to be a major concern for the Falcons. Atlanta revamped its offensive line in the offseason and it's taking some time to come together. The right side of the line is of particular concern with guard Garrett Reynolds and Lamar Holmes as the starters. Reynolds is average at best and Holmes, a second-year pro, was thrown into the starting lineup when Mike Johnson went down with an injury in the preseason. Holmes is very much a work in progress, so the Falcons will have to try to give him some help by getting their tight ends and running backs involved as pass-blockers. Still, Atlanta should be able to move the ball through the air because it has Matt Ryan, Jones, White and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Has Tannehill developed enough to win a shootout?

Walker: That's an interesting question, Pat. I'm not sure anyone -- even Miami's coaching staff -- has the answer. I did notice the Dolphins' game plan in Week 1 against Cleveland was fairly conservative compared to Week 2 against Indianapolis. Those are two different teams, and perhaps the Dolphins realized they needed to be more aggressive throwing and take more vertical shots deep to match Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. This is a similar type of challenge, because Atlanta's offense is built around scoring points in the passing game. Tannehill is getting better at taking over parts of a game in Year 2. His play in the second half the past two weeks has been terrific. The Dolphins are outscoring opponents 24-6 in the third and fourth quarters, in part because Tannehill is moving the chains, putting points on the board and keeping Miami's defense fresh. I don't expect this game to be all on Tannehill's shoulders. The defense remains the strength of the Dolphins. Keeping Atlanta's scoring around 23 points or fewer, as opposed to having Tannehill throw for 400 yards, is probably Miami's best shot to win.

AFC East's best: No. 12 Brandon Marshall

July, 7, 2011
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The countdown of my top 25 AFC East players continues, one weekday at a time ...

About the choice: Marshall has been a frustrating acquisition for the Miami Dolphins. His off-field issues remain a serious concern. He was prone to silliness. He didn't seem capable of generating that coveted chemistry with quarterback Chad Henne. So production plummeted. Even so, Marshall is one of the NFL's most dangerous receivers. He didn't reach triple-digit receptions for the first time since 2006, but he still tied for sixth in the league despite missing two games. He finished with 86 catches for 1,014 yards and three touchdowns.

Key fact: ESPN Stats & Information charted 139 targets for Marshall, seventh in the NFL. Had he played all 16 games with that pace, he would have finished fourth behind only Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Roddy White.

Hint about No. 11: Aside from Tom Brady, no other player remaining on the list was drafted later.

Previous picks:

O-linemen fight for Power Rankings respect

May, 31, 2011
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Next up in ESPN.com's Power Rankings series were the best offensive players who aren't quarterbacks.

I was surprised to see only three offensive linemen appear on the ballots of our eight panelists: Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas and New York Jets center Nick Mangold.

Only four voters, including me, mentioned more than one lineman. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky and NFC South blogger Pat Yaskinkas must have been assembling fantasy teams because they didn't name a single grunt.

My ballot:
  1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings running back
  2. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals receiver
  3. Andre Johnson, Texans receiver
  4. Chris Johnson, Titans running back
  5. Calvin Johnson, Lions receiver
  6. Jake Long, Dolphins left tackle
  7. Antonio Gates, Chargers tight end
  8. Nick Mangold, Jets center
  9. Roddy White, Falcons receiver
  10. Jason Witten, Cowboys tight end

Nobody can argue against how crucial offensive linemen are to a team's success. And since we removed quarterbacks from the equation, they make even more sense to appear on this list. If a team has an established quarterback, then the next thing to do is protect him.

Without offensive linemen, there's not enough time for the star receivers to get open or lanes for running backs to bolt through.

The importance of left tackles was underscored when the Dolphins selected Long first overall in 2008. Long has lived up to the expectations at a critical position by making the Pro Bowl each of this three seasons. He was voted All-Pro last year.

Mangold is the best center in the game. While centers aren't necessarily viewed as prominent enough to draft early, Mangold's dominance is indisputable. He has been an All-Pro the past two seasons and a Pro Bowler three straight. That's why he made my list.

Video: NFL lockout crawls onward

May, 9, 2011
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ESPN analyst Herm Edwards and reporter Adam Schefter discuss the latest developments with the NFL lockout, which is nearing the two-month mark. One of the key issues deals with reported against-the-rules contact between teams and undrafted rookies.

Marshall, Welker not among my top 10 WRs

March, 8, 2011
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I'm pretty sure I have some explaining to do.

ESPN.com's blog network began its series of positional power rankings Tuesday with wide receivers. I included only one AFC East target on my ballot, omitting some big names readers will disagree with.

Although Brandon Marshall earned enough votes to crack the top 10, he didn't appear on my list. Neither did Wes Welker, Steve Johnson or Braylon Edwards.

My ballot:
  1. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
  2. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
  3. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
  4. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
  5. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers
  6. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
  7. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
  8. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
  9. Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos
  10. Santonio Holmes, New York Jets

Nine of my 10 nominees comprised the consensus top 10. The lone discrepancy was the last slot.

I almost didn't vote for Holmes. I originally had Pittsburgh Steelers burner Mike Wallace on the list, but I couldn't deny the direct impact Holmes had in closing out colossal victories for the Jets.

Holmes' stats weren't staggering, but he started the season with a four-game suspension that kept him out of the lineup and off the practice field. Once the NFL activated Holmes, it took him a couple weeks to get back into the offense. Then he was sensational. He had eight touchdowns in his last 11 games, including two out of three postseason games.

I couldn't bring myself to include Marshall. He had a nice reception total, but he scored only three touchdowns (one by December) and averaged the fewest yards per catch of any wide receiver with at least 850 yards. The Miami Dolphins had one of the NFL's weakest red-zone offenses, and a top 10 receiver should be able to help in that regard.

Welker didn't make the cut because he had a terrible season when it came to drops. ESPN Stats & Information charted a league-leading 11 drops. Welker averaged fewer yards than Marshall despite nearly half of his total (848 yards) coming after the catch (410 yards). That's a lot of long handoffs.

Revis defends Ryan's Super Bowl guarantee

March, 4, 2011
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New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has no problem with head coach Rex Ryan declaring them the next Super Bowl champs -- again.

Revis stopped by the "First Take" set at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Fla., and was asked about the title guarantee Ryan made last week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

"It's always motivational," Revis said. "Rex, man, if you really know him, he's a very passionate guy and a player's coach. We like the energy. We like what he talks about.

"What he said, winning the Super Bowl, that's why we play this game. You play this game to get a ring. If you're not playing for that, then you shouldn't be in the NFL."

Revis talked about lobbying the Jets to acquire receiver Chad Ochocinco and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

"You're always trying to better your team and trying to get over that hump," Revis said. "We lost the last two AFC championship games. We need to get over that hump."

Revis also discussed Bart Scott's foray into professional wrestling, Hines Ward on "Dancing With the Stars" and the NFL's toughest three receivers to cover.

NFL alumni pick Rivers over Brady

February, 7, 2011
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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a unanimous selection for The Associated Press 2010 Most Valuable Player Award and for the All-Pro squad. He also won the AP's 2010 Offensive Player of the Year.

Fans, players and coaches voted him the AFC's starter for the Pro Bowl.

But the NFL Alumni Association didn't view Brady as the NFL's best quarterback in 2010.

Alumni membership voted San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to their annual all-star team.

Allrighty.

I can't argue with the credentials of the voters, at least.

The all-stars were selected by simple majority of NFL Alumni. Miami Dolphins consultant Bill Parcells compiled the list of nominees, three at each general position.

The AFC East sent two teams to the playoffs, but couldn't get anybody honored by the NFL alumni. Provincial nominees were Brady, New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller, Dolphins offensive lineman Jake Long and outside linebacker Cameron Wake and Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams.

Parcells did not list Brady among his three candidates for Player of the Year, meaning the star quarterback couldn't be elected for that award. Parcells also didn't include Bill Belichick among his top coach candidates. Parcells' former defensive coordinator was the landslide winner of the AP's 2010 Coach of the Year Award.

The NFL Alumni awards for 2010:
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a unanimous selection for The Associated Press 2010 Most Valuable Player Award and for the All-Pro squad. He also won the AP's 2010 Offensive Player of the Year.

Fans, players and coaches voted him the AFC's starter for the Pro Bowl.

But the NFL Alumni Association didn't view Brady as the NFL's best quarterback in 2010.

Alumni membership voted San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to their annual all-star team.

Allrighty.

I can't argue with the credentials of the voters, at least.

The all-stars were selected by simple majority of NFL Alumni. Miami Dolphins consultant Bill Parcells compiled the list of nominees, three at each general position.

The AFC East sent two teams to the playoffs, but couldn't get anybody honored by the NFL Alumni. Provincial nominees were Brady, New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller, Dolphins offensive lineman Jake Long and outside linebacker Cameron Wake and Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams.

Parcells did not list Brady among his three candidates for Player of the Year, meaning the star quarterback couldn't be elected for that award. Parcells also didn't include Bill Belichick among his top coach candidates. Parcells' former defensive coordinator was the landslide winner of the AP's 2010 Coach of the Year Award.

The NFL Alumni awards for 2010:

* Quarterback: Philip Rivers, Chargers
* Running back: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
* Wide receiver: Roddy White, Falcons
* Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys
* Offensive line: Josh Sitton, Packers
* Defensive lineman: Ndamukong Suh, Lions
* Linebacker: Patrick Willis, 49ers
* Defensive back: Aqib Talib, Buccaneers
* Special teams: Devin Hester, Bears
* Spirit Award: Felix Jones, Cowboys
* Coach of the Year: Todd Haley, Chiefs
* Player of the Year: Troy Polamalu, Steelers

No kidding: Tom Brady named top O player

February, 1, 2011
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A drumroll was unnecessary.

As expected Tuesday night, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was named The Associated Press 2010 Offensive Player of the Year.

Brady produced one of the greatest quarterbacking seasons of his generation.

Brady had a dominant campaign despite a transitory cast. The Patriots traded Randy Moss after two games. Wes Welker was coming back from reconstructive knee surgery. Brady's tight ends were rookies. The running backs were undrafted players who'd been waived in the past. All-Pro guard Logan Mankins missed the first seven games. Right guard Stephen Neal missed the last nine games. Last year's right tackle, Nick Kaczur, missed the entire season.

Oh, and Brady played the final two months with a broken foot.

Yet he completed 66 percent of his throws for 3,900 yards and a league-best 36 touchdowns. He had an NFL-low four interceptions and broke a 19-year-old record for consecutive attempts without an interception. Brady's 111.0 passer rating ranks fifth all-time.

Such a prolific season made Tuesday night's announcement a formality. Earlier in the day I tried to stimulate a little OPOY discussion by trying to determine who should be second.

Brady received 21 of the AP panel's 50 votes. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was second with 11 votes followed by Houston Texans running back Arian Foster with seven, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers with five and Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson two apiece.

The over on the national anthem is not the safest football bet you can make on Super Sunday. It's that Brady also will be named MVP. There was an interesting debate developing between Brady and Vick with a few weeks left in the season, but Vick sputtered in December while Brady finished the season with 14 wins.

Tom Brady aside, who merits OPOY love?

February, 1, 2011
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The Associated Press will announce its 2010 offensive player of the year on Tuesday.

Some might assume it's a foregone conclusion New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will win the award because he's virtually guaranteed to be named MVP on Sunday and, well, he plays offense.

Frequently, though, the MVP and the offensive player of the year do not match. The reason is that MVP is a more transcendent honor that goes beyond stats and includes team success, while the offensive player of the year award generally is based on prolific production.

Brady
Since the AP began naming a top offensive and defensive player in 1972, the OPOY and MVP have differed 16 times. They've differed 13 times since 1986 and six times since 1999.

For instance, quarterback Peyton Manning was voted MVP the past two seasons for guiding the Indianapolis Colts to dominant regular seasons. But Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (record 2,509 yards from scrimmage) was OPOY for last season. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (15 yards short of Dan Marino's passing yardage record) was OPOY for 2008.

The last player to match? Brady in 2007.

There's a good chance he'll win both again for 2010 because he posted amazing personal stats while quarterbacking the Patriots to a league-high 14 victories. Brady led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes and a 111.0 passer rating (fifth all-time) while throwing a league-low four interceptions. He broke the record for most attempts without an interception.

The AP panel made Brady a unanimous selection at quarterback, but he'll probably lose some votes for OPOY. Top candidates to snag some include Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (led NFL in rushing yards and TDs), Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (6.4 yards per carry) and Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White (led NFL in receptions and second in yards).

Since nobody else in the AFC East deserves a look for OPOY, let's narrow the focus to the division only and set Brady aside for the sake of discussion.

Who had the second-best offensive year in the AFC East?

That's a tough call.

Patriots back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the only 1,000-yard rusher, albeit barely, and scored 13 touchdowns.

Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall tied Patriots receiver Wes Welker for the division lead with 86 receptions and gained 1,014 yards but scored only three touchdowns. Welker had 848 yards and seven touchdowns.

Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson had a fabulous season with 82 receptions, 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The New York Jets spread the ball around so much, nobody recorded staggering numbers, but receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards each had great campaigns.

Who do you think had the best season among those not named Brady?

Marshall on Henne: 'We have to evaluate'

December, 30, 2010
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The blockbuster acquisition of star receiver Brandon Marshall failed to make the Miami Dolphins better.

In fact, they got worse. The Dolphins won the AFC East two years ago. They went 7-9 last season but still had playoff hopes entering their finale.

Marshall

Marshall


The best they can do this year is 8-8. They were eliminated from playoff contention two weeks ago.

At his weekly news conference, Marshall was asked for his thoughts on the team's direction. He didn't hesitate to endorse head coach Tony Sparano's return for next year, but withheld any praise for quarterback Chad Henne or offensive coordinator Dan Henning.

Marshall said he came to Miami with aspirations he and Henne would achieve greatness.

"I'm not sure," Marshall said. "We had some opportunities this year to do that, and we didn't get it done. I guess we have to evaluate what we've done this year and see if we can improve and see if can become good before we become great."

Marshall joined the Dolphins with three straight 100-reception campaigns and 10 touchdowns last year.

With one game left, he has 81 catches and three touchdowns.

Marshall advised Henne to chuck the ball around more often and trust him to make the catch. In talking about Marshall's previous quarterbacks, he said "Jay Cutler was my guy. He threw it up."

"Just got to let it go, you know?" Marshall said in a story by South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Mike Berardino. "Don't worry about the consequences. Just throw it up and see what happens. Throw a pick or whatever. Let's live and die by it.

"We want to play smart football, and we want to be consistent, but at the same time if you look at what teams do with Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, that's something I'm used to in the past, just guys believing in me.

"You make plays like that, you build confidence in each other. You get a little snowball effect. We didn't get that this year, and it's disappointing."

Trent Dilfer delivers NFL's 10 best

December, 7, 2010
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ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer assembled his list of the NFL's 10 best players through Week 13, emphasizing "game-plan changers and game-plan breakers."

After watching him skewer the Jets on Monday night, there was no doubt who Dilfer would place atop the list:

1. Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback

2. Philip Rivers, Chargers quarterback

3. Clay Matthews, Packers outside linebacker

4. James Harrison, Steelers outside linebacker

5. Michael Vick, Eagles quarterback

6. Aaron Rodgers, Packers quarterback

7. Roddy White, Falcons receiver

8. Drew Brees, Saints quarterback

9. Peyton Manning, Colts quarterback

10. Julius Peppers, Bears defensive end

Sanchez can't get any MVP Watch love

November, 24, 2010
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Mark Sanchez -- or any other New York Jet -- cannot crack Mike Sando's MVP Watch.

Sando and I had an e-conversation about his weekly top 10 poll, which projects the most deserving MVP candidates. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady remained atop the latest rankings. Can't argue with that.

Last week, I agreed no Jets deserved to be on the list yet. This week, I believe it's warranted.

As Sando explained in his story, he couldn't bring himself to put the NFL's 22nd-rated quarterback on the chart.

I understand Sando's logic there, but the Jets are tied for the league's best record at 8-2 and are the only undefeated road team.The Jets aren't grinding out these victories. They're throwing.

Asked to pick the Jets' MVP, I would have to select Sanchez. Stats be damned, he's conjuring up all sorts of magic.

Another quibble I lodged with my brother in blogging: How can two players from the same team (same offense) make the list ahead of a Jet? He ranked Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan sixth and Falcons receiver Roddy White ninth.

It would seem difficult to make a case for White when he apparently isn't considered the most valuable player in his own huddle and is so dependent on Ryan for those gaudy stats. But you can't ignore the fact White already has over 1,000 yards.

And that's why these polls are fun. There's always something to debate.

What has Santonio Holmes meant to Jets?

November, 24, 2010
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We can see plainly New York Jets receiver Santonio Holmes has made a substantial impact to the offense each week, particularly in crunch time.

But is it possible to quantify how much Holmes has improved the Jets on a game-to-game basis?

With thanks to Advanced NFL Stats numbers cruncher Brian Burke (and ESPN Stats & Information researcher Alok Pattani for pointing me in the right direction), we can examine the enhancement.

Burke calculates "win probability added" to show how plays in critical situations (for instance, an 11-yard reception on fourth-and-10 when trailing by four points with 1:30 to play) improve a teams chances of victory.

Among all receivers, Holmes ranks second only to Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons in accumulated WPA for the season. Holmes, though, missed the first four games of the season while serving a suspension.

On average, Holmes has improved the Jets' chances to win a game by 31 percent -- highest in the league.

Pattani pointed out over the Jets' past four victories, Holmes' game-changing plays have increased the Jets' chances by 146 percent, or nearly 1.5 wins.

In Week 6, he drew a pass interference call on fourth-and-6 from the Denver Broncos' 48-yard line with less than 90 seconds to play and the Jets down by three points.

In Week 9, Holmes made a 52-yard play in overtime to set up the winning field against the Detroit Lions.

In Week 10, he caught a quick pass from Mark Sanchez and turned into a 37-yard touchdown to beat the Cleveland Browns in overtime.

Last week, Sanchez threw to Holmes in the left corner of the end zone to beat the Houston Texans.

The Jets have gone 5-1 since Holmes returned. Burke claimed that without him on the field, based on the plays he has made, the Jets would be more like 3-3 in that span.

Is Darrelle Revis back? We'll find out

November, 17, 2010
11/17/10
7:07
PM ET
The Darrelle Revis Recovery Tour will resume Sunday against Houston Texans stud Andre Johnson.

Revis
Revis
Revis ended last season as maybe the brightest in the NFL's defensive galaxy. The New York Jets shutdown cornerback dominated elite receivers. He was considered the best player on a team that reached the AFC championship game and carried Super Bowl aspirations into 2010.

But the season didn't start well for Revis. First a contract standoff and then an injured hamstring knocked him down several pegs. He didn't always guard the other team's best receivers. Antonio Cromartie took on added responsibility to compensate.

Revis looks like he's returning to last year's form. He was masterful against Detroit Lions behemoth Calvin Johnson two weeks ago, keeping him to one catch for 13 yards.

Revis will face another challenge with Andre Johnson at the Meadowlands.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday that Revis either will be heads up on Andre Johnson or on the same side of the field, depending on the coverage scheme.

"They have one of the best receivers -- if not the best -- in the game," Ryan said of Andre Johnson. "How do you just sit back and say, 'Hey, we have one-on-one coverage over there [and not throw to him]?’

"Everything you're programmed to do says to throw it over there. Well, we've got the best corner. It ought to be a great match-up over there."

Last year, Revis allowed 2.9 receptions and 26.4 yards a game to a schedule that included Randy Moss twice, Terrell Owens twice, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Chad Ochocinco, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Steve Smith and Mike Sims-Walker.

Andre Johnson had four catches for 35 yards when they played on opening day last year.

"When you go out and play against anybody, you always want to get the best of them," Andre Johnson said. "Last year, when we played against each other, they executed the game plan, and they were very successful doing it. That's pretty much it. They took it to us.

"You definitely look forward to the challenge when you go against a player of Darrelle’s caliber. ... He's very technique-sound as a defensive back. He's very patient. He can mix it up with you. He can be physical at times. At times he doesn't have to be physical. He has the all-around game. He's great at what he does."

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