Friday, November 26, 2010
Final Word: AFC East
By Tim Graham
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 12:
Miami's Cameron Wake will have a chance to add to his 9.5 sacks against Oakland's weak protection.
Cameron Wake is hitting a key stop on the Pro Bowl campaign trail. The Dolphins' playoff hopes virtually have been extinguished, and their offense remains a mess with only six games to play. But outside linebacker Cameron Wake's breakout season will continue against a team that surrenders a lot of sacks. The Raiders rank second in sacks per pass play. They've given up 32. Wake ranks second with 9.5 sacks and should have plenty of opportunities to add to his total.
The Jets and Patriots won, setting up the year's biggest regular-season game. With victories on Thanksgiving, the AFC East leaders each won a third game in 11 days, improving their records to 9-2 for their Monday night showdown in Week 13. Pardon me if I'm already looking past this weekend's games and fixating on the Jets' visit to Foxborough. The Jets are the NFL's last unbeaten team on the road. Tom Brady has won 25 straight home games and needs one more to break Brett Favre's record. No matter how the game unfolds, it probably will decide the division championship.
Bills fans officially can get excited about the offense if it does well Sunday. The Bills' offense has generated some fun since Ryan Fitzpatrick took over at quarterback in Week 3. They scored 30 points against the Patriots, 34 against the Ravens and erupted for 49 points last week against the Bengals. Fitzpatrick is on pace to have a season that compares with the best in club history. Wide receiver Steve Johnson is approaching the season record for touchdown receptions. They'll face a Steelers defense that ranks fifth in total defense going into Week 12, first in run defense, second in sacks and fifth in third-down efficiency. The Steelers do rank 22nd in pass defense, but sixth in yards allowed per attempt.
This could be the weekend the Dolphins' run game finds some traction. I emphasize the word "could" because their Week 11 game seemed tailor-made for pounding the ball, yet the Dolphins refused. The Dolphins went into that Thursday night game against the Bears with their third-string quarterback, just four days to get him prepared and Brandon Marshall out for most of the second half with a hamstring injury. But Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams ran just six times for 11 yards. The Dolphins might be without Marshall against the Raiders, who happen to rank 25th in run defense and 27th in yards allowed per attempt. We'll see whether the Dolphins try to exploit that.
New England's defense is getting turnovers but still yielding too much yardage. The Patriots have epitomized the bend-but-don't-break philosophy. They've collected five interceptions over the past two weeks. Those stops have made a huge difference in mitigating the real estate they're allowing. The Patriots went into Thanksgiving ranked 30th in total defense. The Lions were ranked 19th in total offense but amassed 406 yards, 69 yards above their average.