NFL Nation: Logan Mankings

Final Word: AFC East

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
1:30
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Here are five nuggets of knowledge for Week 10:

Spiller Time: If the Buffalo Bills have any chance of pulling off a monumental upset of the New England Patriots, the Bills must get C.J. Spiller involved. Spiller is Buffalo’s most dynamic player, but doesn’t get enough touches. He leads the NFL with 7.2 yards per attempt, but only had six carries in last week’s loss to the Houston Texans. Spiller is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the football. New England’s defense must account for him.

[+] EnlargeWes Welker
AP Photo/Jon FerreySeveral injured Patriots, including Wes Welker, were helped by the bye week.
Healthy returns: The bye week helped the Patriots with several injuries. Receiver Wes Welker (ankle) and cornerback Kyle Arrington (head) were injured in a win against the St. Louis Rams. Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins (hip) and tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle) didn’t play in the game. The time off should help the Patriots get back most of these key players Sunday against Buffalo.

New and improved Tebow: The New York Jets said that during the bye week they would figure out how to get backup quarterback Tim Tebow more involved in the offense. New York (3-5) plans to unleash more Tebow in a tough road game against the Seattle Seahawks. Tebow has been mostly a dud in the first eight games. He hasn’t done much on offense, but successfully converted on several fake punts on special teams. On Sunday we will see what the Jets came up with.

Rookie vs. Rex: Jets head coach Rex Ryan is a longtime defensive coordinator who has made a habit of battering rookie quarterbacks. Look no further than Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who lost his first meeting against the Jets and was knocked out of the second game in the first quarter. Ryan’s defense gets another rookie this weekend in Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Expect plenty of blitzes and exotic looks to confuse and get in the face of Wilson, who has won five games this season. The Jets’ best chance to pull the upset is to stop the run and bring the kitchen sink at Wilson to see if he can beat New York with his arm.

Quick turnaround: The Dolphins (4-4) have an important two-game stretch that could determine their season. Miami hosts the Tennessee Titans on Sunday and travels to play Buffalo on Thursday. The Dolphins have a chance to take two winnable games in five days. The Dolphins could quickly be 6-4 if they take care of business. Miami also could be 4-6 if it loses focus.

Patriots Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
12:00
PM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: The New England Patriots will have a younger, more athletic defense in training camp. The Patriots were 31st last year in total defense. It’s questionable how much this group improved, but the Patriots certainly will be faster. Additions in the draft such as first-rounders Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower help.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick needs to find the right balance for his defense right now. This is a team that did not cover well and had issues at times rushing the passer. The combination made it rough for the Patriots to keep opponents from racking up yards. They did several things in minicamp to mix it up defensively and find the right combination. That will continue in training camp.

One thing that might happen: New England could see major changes at both guard positions. The training camp status of Patriots Pro Bowlers Brian Waters and Logan Mankins are both up in the air. Waters is contemplating retirement, while Makins is recovering from ACL surgery.

Waters’ absence has been a mystery. He has not participated in any offseason workouts, but also has not officially made a decision on his playing career. Mankins was put on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

One thing we won't see: I’m sure we will not see any distractions. That simply is not the “Patriot Way.” New England is a veteran team with great leadership. It is the consummate football culture that has kept this team focused on winning, and away from outside distractions.

The reigning AFC champs have most of their roster spots filled. So there won’t be many position battles drawing attention. The one potential controversy could be Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker. He expected a long-term extension this offseason but got the one-year franchise tag for $9.5 million. Welker certainly will be asked about his feelings on this. But an educated guess is Welker will say he is happy to be a Patriot for at least one more year and he’s ready to concentrate on football.

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