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AFC East Week 16 X factors

12/23/2011

New York Jets (8-6)

Opponent: New York Giants

X factor: WR Santonio Holmes

Analysis: Holmes had his worst game as a Jet in last week's loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. He caught four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. But it was his fumble that led to a defensive touchdown, a drop that led to an Eagles interception and an excessive celebration penalty that cost New York 15 yards. Those things added up to a frustrating day for Holmes. But he has a chance to make up for it with a big game against the cross-town rival Giants. Holmes is at his best in big games, and I expect him to step up. Holmes said this week that big plays can be had against the Giants.

New England Patriots (11-3)

Opponent: Miami Dolphins

X factor: RB Danny Woodhead

Analysis: The Dolphins haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 2. But the Patriots need to have some semblance of balance on Saturday, and running back Danny Woodhead might be the answer. Woodhead is part of New England's three-headed rushing attack, and lately he's making the most of his opportunities. Woodhead is averaging 5.4 yards per rush in his past two games. Woodhead also led New England in rushing with 69 yards in the Patriots' 38-24 win over the Dolphins in Week 1. Similar production against Miami would be effective.

Miami Dolphins (5-9)

Opponent: Patriots

X factor: WR Brandon Marshall

Analysis: It's no secret New England's secondary is the weakest link on the team. For the Dolphins to have a chance at the upset, they need a big game from their big players. Marshall is the type of receiver who gives the Patriots trouble. He had seven receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting against New England. Marshall has 70 receptions for 1,021 yards and five touchdowns this season. Those are pretty good numbers. But he can't afford some of the drops and inconsistencies he's had this year in order to beat the Patriots. Marshall has missed practice time this week. Miami needs him to play this weekend and play big.

Buffalo Bills (5-9)

Opponent: Denver Broncos

X factor: NT Marcell Dareus

Analysis: The Denver Broncos and quarterback Tim Tebow are going to run the football. Everyone knows it. Denver is the NFL's top rushing team, averaging a league-high 163.1 yards per game. That means Dareus will get a major test clogging up the middle. Buffalo's first-round pick has been one of the few bright spots defensively. The Bills are having trouble stopping opponents. But Dareus has 38 tackles and leads the team with 5.5 sacks, despite many double-teams. Expect Dareus to have some extra motivation for this game. The Broncos passed on him with the No. 2 overall pick to select linebacker Von Miller.