Friday, December 25, 2009
Final Word: AFC East
By Tim Graham
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:
Maybe it was watching the Cowboys beat the Saints last week, but I can picture the Jets knocking off the Colts. We'll find out quickly how important an undefeated season is to the Colts. The Jets might see more Curtis Painter than Peyton Manning, which wouldn't hurt their cause. But the Jets could beat the Colts straight up. They do own the NFL's top scoring defense and run offense. The Colts are average against the run. As always, the difference will how well rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez performs against the No. 20 pass defense.
The Patriots will need Ty Warren if they hope to contain Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Patriots can't afford to scratch Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren this week. The resourceful Patriots found a way to stop Bills running backs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch despite the absences of two substantial defensive linemen. They'll need Wilfork and Warren to keep Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew in check. Jones-Drew is tough to tackle. ProFootballFocus.com says he leads the NFL with 831 yards after contact, almost 250 more than the next most persistent runner.
The Dolphins' pass rush will be pivotal to defeating the Texans. The Dolphins' sense of urgency should manifest itself in the pressure it puts on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Through the air is the only way the Texans should be able to win. Their rushing offense is tied for last in the NFL. Miami's rookie cornerbacks will need all the help they can get from Jason Taylor, Joey Porter, Cameron Wake and Randy Starks in trying to contain premier receiver Andre Johnson. In games when Schaub gets sacked at least twice, the Texans are 3-6.
Bills fans should expect anything they see from Brian Brohm to be a bonus. Brohm likely will make his first NFL start Sunday at Atlanta. He joined the Bills from the Green Bay Packers' practice squad barely a month ago, and until this week, has been running the scout squad. So Bills fans should not a) expect too much; b) project his performance as any significant indicator for the future. Brohm was a 2008 second-round draft pick who was never higher than third on the Packers' depth chart.
No matter what, the Patriots have ensured they will finish with the division's best record for the ninth straight season. The Miami Dolphins still can win the AFC East if they win their last two games and the Patriots lose their last two. But one of the more remarkable accomplishments of the Bill Belichick era is that no division rival has finished with a better record since his first year as Patriots head coach.