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Tuesday, December 20, 2011
NFL Power Rankings: AFC East

By James Walker

The New England Patriots won their sixth straight game and continue to gradually climb up ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings.

Here is how Week 15 impacted the division:

New England Patriots (11-3)

Results: W, 41-23 against Denver

Power Ranking: No. 4 (up one spot)

Walker’s vote: No. 3 (up two spots)

Analysis: I think the Patriots got shafted a little this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens lost ahead of New England, but the Patriots only moved up one spot. The San Francisco 49ers jumped the Patriots after a big win over the Steelers on "Monday Night Football." Either way, the Patriots just need to win their final two home games against Miami and Buffalo to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC. New England will be hard to beat at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs if quarterback Tom Brady continues to play at an MVP level.

New York Jets (8-6)

Results: L, 45-19 against Philadelphia

Power Ranking: No. 12 (down two spots)

Walker’s vote: No. 14 (down four spots)

Analysis: The Jets continued their trend of not showing up on the road. They fell to 2-5 away from MetLife Stadium with an embarrassing 45-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets played their worst game all season and dropped two spots in ESPN.com's Power Rankings. I voted New York No. 14 and NFC West blogger Mike Sando vote the Jets the lowest at No. 15.

Miami Dolphins (5-9)

Results: W, 30-23 against Buffalo

Power Ranking: No. 23 (same)

Walker’s vote: No. 22 (same)

Analysis: The Dolphins are finally ahead of the Bills in the Power Rankings. I've been voting Miami ahead of Buffalo for weeks after watching both teams trend in opposite directions. Our panel finally was convinced after Miami swept Buffalo in the season series. The Dolphins deserve a lot of credit for playing hard in the second half of the season, despite inner turmoil and the eventual firing of former head coach Tony Sparano. Miami has two tough games against the Patriots and Jets to finish the season.

Buffalo Bills (5-9)

Results: L, 30-23 against Miami

Power Ranking: No. 26 (down four spots)

Walker’s vote: No. 26 (down three spots)

Analysis: The Bills continue to drop after their seventh consecutive loss. The defense hasn't stopped anyone in weeks and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been too streaky and inconsistent to lift his team. Buffalo needs to take a hard look at its roster in the offseason. The defense needs a major overhaul, but the offense also needs several pieces. Until then, Buffalo needs to try to win at least one of these next two games to help with confidence.