AFC East: Steve Weatherford

AFC East links: Bills, Jets sign top picks

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
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Buffalo Bills

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 10th overall pick in April's draft, is in the fold, the Buffalo News reported, after signing a four-year contract. Second-rounder Cordy Glenn and third-rounder T.J. Graham are now the only members of Buffalo's draft class yet to come to terms.

FoxSports.com's Adam Schein sizes up quarterback Vince Young, who could be getting his last shot in the NFL with the Bills. Schein: "There was a point where Young seemingly ruled the world. Today he is competing with Tyler Thigpen for the right to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo. What a sad, strange and wasted trip."

Miami Dolphins

Sixth-round pick B.J. Cunningham, a wide receiver from Michigan State, became the first draftee to sign with the Dolphins, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

The Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly compares the Dolphins' outgoing players with those brought in to replace them.

New England Patriots

Alfonzo Dennard, the Nebraska cornerback who fell to the Patriots in the seventh round of the draft after being arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, has agreed to a four-year contract, a league source tells Mike Reiss.

The team also signed Jeremy Ebert, a seventh-round wide receiver out of Northwestern.

ESPNBoston.com has a Q&A with fullback Spencer Larsen.

New York Jets

Quinton Coples, the North Carolina defensive star whom the Jets selected 16th overall, has signed with the team, the Jets' official site reports. The deal, sources told the New York Daily News, is for four years, with a team option for a fifth year; the contract is expected to be a little shy of the $9.3 million ($5.2 million guaranteed) 15th pick Bruce Irvin got from Seattle.

Safety Antonio Allen, a seventh-round pick from South Carolina, also signed with the team.

Defensive lineman Kenrick Ellis won't likely be deported to his native Jamaica but might have to serve additional jail time, Manish Mehta reports.

Former Jets punter Steve Weatherford lit into quarterback Mark Sanchez over a perceived lack of development during an NFL.com podcast: "As the years go on, I think you're expected to mature, skill-wise, and also mature as a leader, and to be honest with you, as much as I like the guy, I just haven't seen that."
Here are the most interesting stories Friday morning in the AFC East:
  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says he's sorry for his comment on how bad Buffalo hotels are.
Morning take: That doesn't mean Brady doesn't believe it. He said he wished he didn't rip an NFL city, because he knows he has to return. He will go to Buffalo again next season.
Morning take: This is better suited to Dareus' strengths. He was good at nose tackle in a 3-4. But in my opinion Dareus has the potential to be a Pro Bowler in a 4-3.
Morning take: Flynn knows the system and his ceiling is higher. Next question.
Morning take: The Jets can’t get a pass right now. Everyone has something to say about them, and nearly all of it is bad.

AFC East links: Sanchez to make a leap?

September, 9, 2011
9/09/11
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Buffalo Bills

At age 28, Ryan Fitzpatrick is finally getting his shot as a season-opening starting quarterback. “It’s taken me seven years to get this opportunity, and I can’t look back now,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m excited about it. This is what I’ve worked for, this shot right here.”

Donald Jones doesn't have the flashiest résumé, but he won the competition to fill the starting receiver spot vacated by Lee Evans and he's out to prove he belongs there.

The Starpress.com's Doug Zaleski has the story on Robert Eddins, an undrafted rookie linebacker who made the final roster. Coach Chan Gailey on Eddins: "Completely surprising. I had no idea really who he was. The scouting staff said, 'Hey we need to look at this guy, he's got something to him.' And they were right. The guy has really done a great job."

Miami Dolphins

The team decided to bring Larry Johnson back after rookie running back Daniel Thomas suffered a hamstring injury.

Quarterback Chad Henne is eager to unveil the Dolphins' new offense under coordinator Brian Daboll. Henne: "Overall we are excited to see what we can do with our playmakers out there and show this offense off." The AP looks at the pressure Henne is under heading into the season.

New England Patriots

Shaun Ellis, a college roommate of Albert Haynesworth's, said the "the Albert [he] saw back in college" has re-emerged with the Patriots.

ESPNBoston.com's Jeremy Lundblad examines whether a Randy Moss-Tom Brady reunion would work for the team.

New York Jets

Special-teams coach Mike Westhoff slammed former punter Steve Weatherford, who signed with Giants this offseason, saying he "was disappointed in some of the poor performances that [Weatherford] had at the end of the year."

Linebacker Bart Scott is asking fans attending Jets games to step it up and show their support. "We have to challenge the people that's in the stadium now to get off their iPads and tweets and represent the stadium and get loud and make it a home-field advantage for us."

The Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin expects to see a much-improved Mark Sanchez this season.

Jets back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
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» NFC: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Jets' coaching staff and much of the roster will remain intact, which reduces the learning curve. But the Jets won't have training-camp bonding time at SUNY Cortland, an enhancement Rex Ryan and his players prized the past two seasons. They already pulled the plug on their upstate training camp and will convene at team headquarters in Florham Park, N.J.

Biggest challenge: All their free agents. The Jets have some biggies, most notably at wide receiver. They must keep young quarterback Mark Sanchez's support staff stocked with weapons, and receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith are about to hit the market. So are cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safeties Brodney Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo.

What a rush: The Jets quietly tied for eighth in the NFL in sacks last season but didn't have a fearsome presence in an overall defense designed to create mayhem. Of the 40 sacks they recorded last season, more than a quarter of them belonged to defensive backs and almost half were rung up by players who aren't under contract. The Jets released outside linebacker Jason Taylor (5 sacks). Defensive end Shaun Ellis (4.5 sacks) also has an expired contract.

Key players without contracts for 2011: In addition to the above, fullback Tony Richardson, cornerback Drew Coleman, top special-teams tackler Lance Laury, kicker Nick Folk, punter Steve Weatherford.

Look at free agency under proposed CBA

June, 21, 2011
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ESPN's reports from Chicago indicate the latest labor proposal would allow players to become unrestricted free agents after four seasons.

That would clarify the market whenever it opens. Rules for the uncapped 2010 campaign didn't allow for unfettered free agency unless a player had been in the league six seasons. Any player with an expired contract and fewer than six years of experience was a restricted free agent, allowing teams to place qualifying tenders on them and receive compensation if another club tried to sign them.

Now it looks like players will be up for grabs -- with former teams receiving no compensation -- after four seasons.

Here are the AFC East players who would've been restricted with the six-year threshold but unrestricted at four years:

Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

Mankins' situation remains uncertain because we don't know if franchise-tag rules will remain in place under the next CBA. They probably will, meaning Mankins should be back with the Patriots in 2011.

AFC East links: Edwards wants to be a Jet

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
10:32
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Buffalo Bills

Tom Modrak's firing wasn't a surprise given the structure of the Bills' scouting operation under GM Buddy Nix -- in fact, the surprise for many was that Modrak lasted as long as he did in Buffalo, writes Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News.

Former Bills defensive lineman Phil Hansen, who ranks No. 3 in team history in sacks, will be added to the team's Wall of Fame.

Da'Norris Searcy and Justin Rogers made Mel Kiper's list of early impact players Insider who were taken on the third day of this year's draft.

Miami Dolphins

The Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly put together a post-draft defensive depth chart.

Count Michael Lombardi of NFL.com among those who really liked Miami's decision to move up to draft Daniel Thomas.

New England Patriots

NFL.com's Vic Carucci looks at the different approaches the Pats and Colts have taken to finding eventual successors at quarterback.

Pats Pulpit has five key factors that could keep the Patriots from making a Super Bowl run in 2011.

New York Jets

Braylon Edwards indicated he'd accept less money to remain with the Jets.

Steve Weatherford and Nick Folk are among the punters and kickers who have worked out with John Carney during the "summit of specialists" in Southern California this offseason.

Your 2010 All-AFC East team revealed

January, 26, 2011
1/26/11
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Vince Wilfork and Kyle WilliamsGetty Images, US PresswireThere was enough room on the All-AFC East team for nose tackles Vince Wilfork and Kyle Williams.
Reader input didn't make compiling the 2010 All-AFC East team a simple process.

Despite your tremendous response to help me assemble the quintessential roster, I had to make an executive decision, break a deadlock, defend one of my no-brainer selections and throw out some ballots because of shenanigans.

In the end, we have an All-AFC East squad everybody should be satisfied with.

We began the process a week ago, when I chose 10 players I believed were automatic. The other 17 positions were for you to vote upon. You didn't disappoint.

There were some great races, most notably at left tackle and nose tackle.

As with any voting process on the AFC East blog, I always can be convinced to move from a stance. My instructions were to vote for one nose tackle for a 3-4 scheme with emphasis that New England Patriots keystone Vince Wilfork and Buffalo Bills standout Kyle Williams must be considered nose tackles because that's how each team identifies him.

But enough readers made the case that Wilfork and Williams played elsewhere along the line so frequently that they should be eligible for some quasi position. I do appreciate the point.

The Patriots' official game-by-game player participation record says Wilfork started eight games at defensive end. Williams started every game at nose tackle (12) or defensive tackle (four).

I decided to add Wilfork and Williams as "defensive tackles" on a defensive front with New York Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis, who received an avalanche of votes. But I didn't want to slight the No. 2 defensive end, Kendall Langford of the Miami Dolphins. Langford received a healthy number of votes. Too many to dismiss.

That left me with a dilemma: How can I honor four defensive linemen and still maintain a 3-4 alignment? I took the easy way out. I added a 12th defender. I'm not thrilled with my final decision, but it's an appropriate way to give proper credit where it's due.

On the other side of scrimmage, Dolphins left tackle Jake Long and Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson finished in a tie, forcing me to make the call. Each was selected to be a Pro Bowl starter. Long was voted All-Pro.

I chose Long. He played hurt for much of the season. He slipped on plays here or there, but he mostly remained dominant.

A few readers took me to task for my coronation of Dolphins punter Brandon Fields without allowing a vote because Jets punter Steve Weatherford had a great season. Weatherford tied an NFL record with 42 punts inside the 20-yard line. He was impressive.

But I found Fields more remarkable this year. He ranked fourth with a 46.2-yard average (3.6 yards longer than Weatherford). Fields' net average of 37.8 yards was only 0.3 yards shorter than Weatherford's, but the Dolphins were atrocious on special-teams protection and coverage. They fired their special-teams coordinator after Week 4. Fields had two punts blocked and one returned for a touchdown.

The Jets have venerable special-teams coach Mike Westhoff and sensational coverage men, as illustrated by four Jets receiving at least two votes for the special-teams position on the All-AFC East team.

And it's not often a punter is MVP of a game, but Fields certainly was against the Jets in Week 14.

There were some surprises in the balloting.

Bills receiver Steve Johnson ran away with one of the two available spots, but I didn't expect Santonio Holmes to take the other one so handily over teammate Braylon Edwards or Patriots star Wes Welker.

I assumed Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski would win, but in a close race, especially with the possibility of splitting votes with teammate Aaron Hernandez. Gronkowski crushed everyone else. He had four times as many votes as his closest competition, Dustin Keller of the Jets.

Bills linebacker Arthur Moats finished a distant second to Calvin Pace. But I found it amusing that almost every time a vote came in for him, the reader stipulated it was because Moats injured Brett Favre.

Patriots rookie Devin McCourty had six times as many votes as Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis for the position opposite Jets star Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie wasn't remotely in the race.

The most balanced voting happened at the safety positions. Patriots strong safety Brandon Meriweather edged out Jim Leonhard of the Jets, with Donte Whitner of the Bills closely behind in third.

Bills free safety Jairus Byrd, a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2009, accumulated just 14 more votes than Patrick Chung of the Patriots.

The special-teams race was fun to track. Thirteen players received at least one vote, with Jets hitter Eric Smith barely beating teammate James Ihedigbo and Bills fullback Corey McIntyre.

Conditions critical: Kickers in the spotlight

January, 20, 2011
1/20/11
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In the AFC playoffs last weekend, two of the NFL's great rivalries completed in-season trilogies.

What emerged is a matchup that looks nothing like a storied rivalry.

The New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers have met only once in the postseason. The Steelers beat them 20-17 in overtime six years ago.

That game also took place on Heinz Field's notoriously treacherous kicking surface, and two missed field goals in the final 120 seconds proved deadly. Jets kicker Doug Brien struck the crossbar on a 46-yard attempt at the two-minute warning and was wide left on a 43-yard attempt as the fourth quarter expired.

Heinz Field hasn't gotten any more luxurious since then.

Jets coach Rex Ryan said Thursday he expects Sunday's game to be decided by a late field goal.

"That's what's going to happen," Ryan said. "This is going to be one of those games. I don't see a team blowing the other team out. This is going to be hard-fought all the way to the end."

In Wednesday's edition of the "Big Question," we examined Nick Folk's inconsistencies this season. He has made all four of his career kicks at Heinz Field, including from 25 and 34 yards in a Week 15 victory over the Steelers.

Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, who was the Jets' kicker last year, recently handicapped the venues, kickers and punters in Sunday's conference championship games for ESPN.

"You have bad footing, cold weather, which you can't kick the ball as far, and you add the wind," Feely said of Pittsburgh and Chicago. "Heinz Field is historically the toughest place in the NFL footing-wise, kicking-wise. It'll impact the distance of your kicks and punts."

The Jets didn't re-sign the reliable Feely after last season because letting him go allowed them to sign outside linebacker Jason Taylor under weird free-agency rules for the uncapped season. The Jets signed Folk to replace Feely.

"There's a part of me that watches them and says 'Man, I wish I was still playing,' " Feely said. "I wish my team had been better and we had gotten into the playoffs because you want to be in those games. You want to play in those championship games. That's what players play for and live for.

"I'm OK as long as they don't win the Super Bowl because that'll crush me."

Big Question: Nick Folk

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
5:30
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With the game on the line at Heinz Field, can the Jets trust Nick Folk?

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- On the sideline, several New York Jets could not bear to watch.

[+] EnlargeNick Folk
AP Photo/Kathy WillensNew York's season may come down to a Nick Folk field goal.
They averted their eyes from the field and definitely from the goal posts. They waited for the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd to tell them whether they had won or lost.

Silence, and the Jets had beaten the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs. A roar, and the Jets go home.

Nick Folk lined up for what should have been a gimme field goal, 32 yards on artificial turf in a dome.

Yet there was doubt. Folk has been far from automatic throughout his career.

Folk, of course, made that kick as time expired. The Jets eliminated the Colts, sent fans quietly filing into the cold Indianapolis night. They advanced to the next round of the playoffs -- where Folk missed a potentially dear 30-yard field goal against the New England Patriots.

And in an AFC Championship Game likely to be dictated by two of the league's elite defenses, it's foreseeable Folk might be called upon to make another clutch kick that could send the Jets to the Super Bowl or end their season.

The Jets will play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, a treacherous pitch on which to kick.

"He's just looking forward to the next kick," Jets holder and punter Steve Weatherford said Wednesday at the team's training facility. "It could have come down to a field goal in that game we were in [referring to New England].

"He's been here before. He's missed a kick before. He knows how to bounce back. ... If this game were to come down to a game winner, even on that crappy field, I feel confident he would do it."

Folk's inconsistencies are infamous. He had a disastrous 2009 campaign with the Dallas Cowboys, who waived him two games before the playoffs. He missed a kick in each of his final six games with Dallas, the last being a 24-yard attempt against the New Orleans Saints.

Folk's 64.3 percent success rate was third lowest of anybody who attempted a kick that year.

The Jets made Folk their reclamation project. He replaced the reliable Jay Feely as a roster move that allowed them to sign outside linebacker Jason Taylor under the NFL's rules for an uncapped season.

Folk was efficient at first. Through Week 9, he converted 16 of his 19 kicks. He kicked a 48-yarder on opening night and surpassed that as his longest kick three more times by Week 6, topping out at 56 yards.

Then came trouble. Folk missed three field goals in an overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 10. He missed at least one field goal in four straight games.

The Jets, concerned Folk could cost them, brought in veteran free agent Kris Brown for a tryout in early December.

"You just have to be confident and go out there," Folk said last week. "You have to embrace the pressure that comes with the job. I've done it my whole life. I've enjoyed these situations."

Rapid Reaction: Jets 17, Colts 16

January, 8, 2011
1/08/11
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Jets defeated the Indianapolis Colts 17-16 in Lucas Oil Stadium.

What it means: Even though Mark Sanchez had a lackluster night, the Jets found a way to knock off Peyton Manning with a thrilling victory. Rex Ryan's Jets improved their road playoff record to 3-1 and avenged last season's loss to the Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

Hero: Nick Folk kicked a 32-yard field goal as time expired to pull off the upset and send Colts fans silently filing toward the exits.

Near Hero: Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri almost won the game on a 50-yard field goal with less than a minute to play. The kick was his longest of the season.

Hero II: Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson looked like he did when he was an early season MVP candidate. He had his biggest game in three months. Tomlinson ran 16 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with about 10 minutes to play.

All is forgiven: The Jets trailed 7-0 at halftime but should have had at least a field goal right before the break. The Jets made it to the Colts' 19-yard line. On a third-and-10 play, Sanchez had too much time to think and forced a ball to Dustin Keller near the goal line. Colts defensive back Justin Tyron intercepted.

Costly play: One play after Jets receiver Santonio Holmes had a costly third-down drop, Colts special-teams ace Taj Smith was flagged for running into punter Steve Weatherford on fourth-and-5 with 3:02 to play. First down, Jets. Colts had to start calling their timeouts on the next set of downs.

If on third you don't succeed: The Jets were phenomenal on third downs almost all night, limiting the Colts to three-and-out series on their first three possessions. But the Colts converted a third-and-7 and a third-and-8 on their first field-goal drive of the fourth quarter.

What's next: The Jets advanced to the divisional round and will play the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium. The Jets defeated the Patriots 28-14 at the Meadowlands in Week 2, but the Patriots administered a 45-3 beating five weeks ago in Foxborough.

AFC East Week 15 decisive moment

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
1:00
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» NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

The AFC East game with the most on the line took place at Heinz Field between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The New England Patriots already had clinched a playoff berth and met a nonconference opponent Sunday night. The Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins game was a formality.

The Jets, though, were in a bind.

"It was damn near a must win for us," Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis told me.

The Jets executed several pivotal plays to beat the Steelers 22-17.

Brad Smith returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to relieve a strangulating pressure. On fourth down late in the third quarter, Mark Sanchez tied the score on a 7-yard bootleg run for the offense's first touchdown in 12 quarters. The Jets' defense stopped Ben Roethlisberger twice from the 10-yard line in the final seconds.

The most decisive moment, however, occurred when Jets outside linebacker Jason Taylor threw Steelers running back Mewelde Moore for a safety with 2:45 to play.

The Steelers still had a chance to win the game, but Taylor's safety was essential in doing two things:
  • It increased the Jets' lead to five points and forced the Steelers to score a touchdown.
  • It afforded the Steelers just one opportunity to do so because the Jets received the ensuing free kick and made the Steelers burn timeouts.

The Steelers forced a three-and-out, but Jets punter Steve Weatherford pinned the Steelers at the 8-yard line. Roethlisberger needed to go 92 yards against the Jets' prevent defense but traveled only 82.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
9:17
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» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Jets secondary: Tom Brady had a rougher go against the Jets in Week 2 with Randy Moss on his team and star cornerback Darrelle Revis out of the game. Brady didn't throw Revis' way Monday night, but the Patriots quarterback found plenty of holes to exploit. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie had a bad game covering and tackling. Safety Jim Leonhard already was done for the season, and safety James Ihedigbo was hurt Monday night.

2. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: He went into Monday night 3-0 against the AFC East with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. So Sanchez had his worst game of the season, completing barely half of his passes and throwing a season-high three interceptions. His 27.8 passer rating was the measliest since throwing five interceptions against the Bills in Week 6 last year.

3. Jets kicking game: Nick Folk has missed at least one field-goal attempt in four straight games and five of his past six games. Steve Weatherford must've been punting cinder blocks Monday. He averaged 30.7 yards, matching the worst game of his career.

[+] EnlargeNew England's James Sanders
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesNew England safety James Sanders collected one of the Patriots' three interceptions on Monday against the Jets.
RISING

1. Patriots pass defense: Their numbers are deplorable when it comes to yards and points through the air, but they were awesome Monday and keep coming up with interceptions at big times. They've collected eight interceptions the past three games. They picked off Sanchez three times, two weeks after doing the same to Peyton Manning. The Patriots are tied for second in the NFL with 18 interceptions. Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty has all six of his interceptions in the past seven games.

2. Cameron Wake, Dolphins outside linebacker: Wake padded his sack total with 1.5 against the Browns, putting him in the NFL lead with a dozen. He dropped Jake Delhomme on a second-and-2 play just inside the two-minute warning to help force a punt the Dolphins couldn't capitalize on.

3. Brandon Spikes, Patriots inside linebacker: The rookie snared his first NFL interception at a critical time. The Jets were marching on the opening second-half possession and about to cut into the Patriots' 24-3 lead. On second-and-8 from the Patriots' 9-yard line, Spikes didn't bite on a play-action pass and picked it off at the Patriots' 2-yard line.

Halftime thoughts from Jets at Pats

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
10:17
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some halftime thoughts from Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots lead the New York Jets 24-3:
  • My prevailing thought is the Jets are getting embarrassed on national television. My secondary thought is the Patriots' defense is playing way above its track record in almost every way.
  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored from 1 yard out to give the Patriots a 10-0 lead. It was his 10th touchdown, the first Patriots running back with that many since Corey Dillon in 2006.
  • Tom Brady's stat line: 10-of-16 for 152 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. But the Jets have sacked him three times.
  • Mark Sanchez's stat line: 8-of-18 for 77 yards and zero touchdowns with no interceptions.
  • ESPN Stats & Information credited the Patriots with 84 receiving yards after the catch.
  • The Patriots led 17-0 with 61 seconds still left in the first quarter. It was a total team effort to get into that hole: shoddy coaching (wasted challenge on the Jets' first possession, 53-yard field-goal attempt), shoddy offense (Sanchez's passes were scattershot), shoddy defense (poor tackling) and shoddy special teams (Nick Folk's miss and a 12-yard Steve Weatherford punt).
  • You have to wonder if Rex Ryan was a little too geared up at the start of the game. He was overly aggressive when unsuccessfully challenging a spot and then trying to kick the 53-yard field goal in cold and windy conditions. The Jets weren't effectively able to flip the field the rest of the half.
  • The Jets worked out Kris Brown last week, but opted to stick with Folk. Can't help but recall how reliable Jay Feely was in bad weather last year.
  • The Jets have gone eight straight first quarters without a touchdown.
  • The Jets surrendered 10 points and 163 yards to the Cincinnati Bengals in their previous game. In the first quarter against the Patriots, the Jets gave up 17 points and 105 yards.

AFC East Week 10 decisive moment

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
1:00
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» NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

You can argue the decisive moment happened with 1:35 left in sudden death, when Cleveland Browns safety Joe Haden declined to bat down Mark Sanchez's long third-down prayer and instead chose to intercept on the 3-yard line.

You certainly can argue the decisive moment happened with 16 seconds left in overtime, when Santonio Holmes took a quick slant 37 yards into the end zone to give the New York Jets a 26-20 victory.

I prefer to argue the decisive moment came in between.

The Jets might have pinned the Browns deep in their own territory anyway with a Steve Weatherford punt. And the Jets might have won the game anyway with a Nick Folk field goal (OK, maybe a stretch based on his three earlier misses, but play along with me here).

Browns coach Eric Mangini opened the door for the Jets to win because of the way he managed the end of the game. With 95 seconds and three timeouts, Mangini essentially sealed his fate by going for the win and not settling for the tie.

Browns fans couldn't be upset with his aggressiveness, but the decision turned a draw into a Jets victory.

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy threw an incomplete pass to tight end Benjamin Watson, taking only five seconds off the clock. Then the Browns chose to hand off to Peyton Hillis, who gained 2 yards and then paused before calling a timeout. On third down, Jason Taylor and Shaun Ellis teamed up to sack McCoy at the 2-yard line.

The Jets called their last timeout with 35 ticks remaining and forced Reggie Hodges to punt from the back of his end zone.

Cleveland failed to gain yardage or run out the clock.

The Jets, however, wound up with just enough time and space to notch another win.

Video: Jets at Lions predictions

November, 5, 2010
11/05/10
1:53
PM ET

ESPN analysts Herm Edwards and Mark Schlereth each predict the New York Jets will return to their winning ways Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

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