Tuesday, November 15, 2011
AFC East Stock Watch
By James Walker
The Bills need quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to help pull them out of their recent slump.
1. Buffalo Bills: The Bills are now 2-4 in their past six games. Mathematically, Buffalo is still in the thick of the AFC East and postseason race. But nothing about the Bills' performance the past few weeks suggest this young team is ready to take the next step. The good news is Buffalo (5-4) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the first-place New England Patriots (6-3). That could make things interesting if the Bills win enough games to make their Week 17 rematch meaningful. But there is plenty of football left and the Bills have to turn their season around quickly to have a chance. The Bills play their next two games on the road against the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, games that will define their season.
2. Jets' offense: It's hard to pinpoint one area. New York's offense as a whole failed to produce against the NFL's worst-rated defense in a 37-16 loss to New England. The Jets went away from the running game, which averaged 4.4 yards per carry. That's on the coaches. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was sacked five times. That's on the offensive line. And Sanchez made a pair of costly interceptions, including a pick-six in the fourth quarter. That's on the quarterback. But New York doesn't have time to wallow. The Jets have their next game Thursday night against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills quarterback: Fitzpatrick is having a career year. But he has a reputation of being very streaky and is playing his worst football of the season. The Bills are trying to make a playoff push and Fitzpatrick has thrown for just 337 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions in his past two games. Yes, Buffalo has other issues. But Fitzpatrick now is the face of the franchise and can expect to get a majority of the blame. It comes with the territory. It's up to the Fitzpatrick to lead the Bills out of this funk with his play. Buffalo has what I think is a must-win game next week against the Miami Dolphins.
1. New England Patriots: I was shocked to see so many in our community last week claim the Patriots were done. I thought most AFC East fans knew better after watching New England dominate the division the past 10 years. It led me to write this column, which wasn't very popular but was the truth. New England continued its trend of dominating the AFC East by sweeping the Jets in convincing fashion. The Patriots have an easy schedule and look poised to cruise the rest of the season.
2. Andre Carter, Patriots defensive end: New England's defense needed a jolt and got it from Carter. The veteran registered a career-high 4.5 sacks against the Jets and stayed in the face of Sanchez the entire night. Carter’s sacks have come in bunches. He already has three multi-sack games for New England this season. Carter is fourth in the NFL with nine sacks. He needs just two more sacks to match his career high of 11.
3. Miami Dolphins: Miami won two in a row for the first time this season. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano deserves a lot of credit for keeping the team motivated during a tough time when his job status is up in the air. I’ve been saying all season that Miami has talent. The Dolphins are finally starting to show it, and can be a dangerous spoiler to watch in the second half of the season. They get a chance to put a huge dent in the Bills' playoff hopes this week at Sun Life Stadium.