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Friday, January 1, 2010
Final Word: AFC East

By Tim Graham

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

Mark Sanchez
The Jets don't want to rely on Mark Sanchez's arm to win against Cincinnati.
The more invisible Mark Sanchez is, the better he will be Sunday night. With a victory over the Bengals, the Jets are in the playoffs. The more Jets head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can limit Sanchez's impact, the better. The Jets must run well because if Sanchez needs to throw to keep them in the game or come from behind, then they're going to be in trouble. The Sunday night forecast for East Rutherford, N.J., is for temperatures in the low 20s with 15 mph winds. Those are less-than-ideal conditions, especially for an erratic, interception-prone rookie from Southern California.

The Jets can send their fans home intoxicated with a victory. As wrong as it was for the NFL to schedule the Jets at home for the Giants Stadium finale, at least the game will be meaningful. Because of the do-or-die implications for the Jets, the game was flexed to 8:20 p.m. for NBC's "Sunday Night Football." The combination of a late start and the significance of the farewell event have led the Jets to turn off the taps. No alcohol will be served inside the stadium to prevent fans from tearing the place apart in hopes of walking out with a souvenir.

The Patriots can afford to hang loose Sunday. The Patriots won 11 games last year and couldn't qualify for the playoffs. This year, they can sit on 10 wins if they choose and not worry one bit about what else happens around the league. The Patriots clinched the AFC East last week and have very little to play for Sunday against the Texans. The Patriots cannot earn a first-round postseason bye and know they'll play host a wild-card team in Gillette Stadium next weekend. Tom Brady has declared he prefers to play the whole game, but there's a chance he and some others might not even make the trip to Houston. They might remain at the facility and get an early jump on preparations for a playoff game that could take place Jan. 9.

It would take a monster day, but Bills running back Fred Jackson could reach 1,000 yards. Jackson's journey from Division III afterthought to NFL feature back is a remarkable one regardless of his final stat line. But a milestone season would be a nice finishing touch for one of the game's most underrated players. Jackson needs to rush for 150 yards against the Colts to hit quadruple digits. That's doable. Jackson rushed for a career-high 163 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2, and the Colts, who likely will be resting some key players, rank 21st in rushing defense.

Dolphins fullback Lousaka Polite didn't get snubbed for the Pro Bowl. Maybe it's appropriate Jimmy Buffett is involved with the front office because Dolfans have turned into Parrotheads, involuntarily chirping Polite's name for the Pro Bowl. Polite had a fine season, but to say he got robbed is silly. Dolfans and some local media members are the only ones complaining. Polite has been waived or cut five times in six NFL seasons. He'll need to do more than have one good season for his peers to consider him. Meanwhile, Jets fullback Tony Richardson was part of the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense and blocked for his eighth 1,000-yard rusher since 2001. Richardson didn't make it either, and I don't hear anybody screeching over that.