Friday, November 12, 2010
Final Word: AFC East
By Tim Graham
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10.
Coach Tony Sparano turned to Chad Pennington this week in hopes of jump-starting a sputtering pass game.
Sunday couldn't be any more critical for the Dolphins. They went into the season with Super Bowl aspirations. At the halfway point they're still looking for their first home victory. They're in third place in the AFC East. They benched their supposed franchise quarterback this week in hopes of finding a spark, replacing Chad Henne with Chad Pennington. That's the sign of a desperate team, a move that likely will define the season for head coach Tony Sparano. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, on the same June day he predicted his team would play in the Super Bowl, professed that Henne -- his fellow Michigan alum -- would be go down as the best quarterback in Dolphins history. Pennington will be playing for the first time since suffering a separated throwing shoulder 14 months ago. If the Dolphins lose -- or, worse yet, if Pennington has a bad game -- the Dolphins will hit crisis territory. And Bill Parcells' office has been empty for weeks ...
This would be an embarrassing week for Jets receiver Braylon Edwards to have a relapse. Edwards is notorious for dropping catchable passes. But through the first half of the season, Edwards has only one drop. The second half of his season will begin in Cleveland, the battleground for what he calls his "personal war" after four-plus miserable seasons with the Browns. "I remember the writers. I remember the fans. I remember the coaches. I remember the people in the organization," Edwards said. "I remember everything and everybody there that had something to say when 17 exited the doors. ... For the people that don't like me, I share the same feeling. I don't like them as well. I could give you a B.S. answer, but the short and skinny of it is that I'm going back there to handle business."
Tom Brady's injured foot better be healthy enough to run away from James Harrison. Brady didn't practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday with a foot problem. He was spotted in the Patriots locker room Friday and told reporters he was ready for the Steelers. They are tied for fifth in the NFL with 24 sacks. Harrison has seven of them. Brady was sacked just once the past two weeks, but in the three games before that he was dumped 10 times.
The Bills will record their first victory Sunday. The Bills are playing in Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time in five weeks and are facing opponents almost as hapless as they are. The Lions are 2-6 and have lost quarterback Matthew Stafford again. The Bills have performed very well the past three weeks, losing to the Ravens and Chiefs in overtime and then succumbing to the Bears despite a late lead. This is the week I think the Bills put it all together and erase the zero from their win column. Ticker-tape parade in Niagara Square!
New England's defense will face its toughest test of the year Sunday. The Patriots are coming off an embarrassing loss in which the Browns trampled them. Based on the highlights, you'd think Peyton Hillis broke some of Jim Brown's records. The Patriots surrendered four rushing touchdowns. They'll meet another strong running team Sunday, but what will make defending the Steelers particularly challenging is a formidable passing game. Ben Roethlisberger is getting better every week. He and his receiving corps are a tad better than Colt McCoy and the Browns' targets. If the Patriots somehow can rebound and win Sunday, then you'll see them return to the top of ESPN.com's Power Rankings.