NFL Nation: Rams-Patriots

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The league has handed down numerous fines for players' actions in Week 8 games. Here are a few pertaining to games involving NFC West teams:

The fines against Smith and Green-Ellis did not draw penalties during the games. In other fine-related news, the league docked Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber for a horse-collar tackle. That one cost $7,500. I confirmed these fines with NFL officials.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

MIAMI -- Reporters lowered their microphones, and the TV cameras went dark as the crowd dispersed from Langston Walker's locker.

But I wanted to ask the Buffalo Bills right tackle one more question about the tightening divisional race.

All of the AFC East teams played at 1 p.m. Sunday. The first-place Bills were the only ones to lose, beaten by the Miami Dolphins, no less, 25-16.

 
  Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
  Joey Porter's Dolphins may be in last place in the AFC East, but they are far from out of the race after beating the Bills, 25-16, Sunday.

"We're still in first place, aren't we?" Walker said as he extended the handle on his rolling suitcase and headed for the door. "End of story."

If only it were that simple.

This thing's just getting started.

The New England Patriots fended off the St. Louis Rams and are now tied with the Bills at 5-2. The New York Jets came back to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the final minute to pull within a game of the division leaders.

The Dolphins are 3-4, but have a lot more going for them than most last-place clubs. They're merely two games out of first place. They own the AFC East's best intra-divisional record at 2-1. They were one play away from beating the Jets and the Houston Texans.

"We can be right there, man," said Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, who registered two sacks (one which led to a safety), forced a fumble and recovered another. "We can't lose the games we're supposed to win. The games we're supposed to win? This is the first close game that we pulled out.

"We could easily be sitting in a different situation. But it is what it is, and we're 3-4. We could easily be a [5-2] team. We're not supposed to be where we're at at 3-4. But we can't cry over that."

Plenty of time remains. Nine games per team, no less. The Bills, in fact, still have five divisional games left.

Here is a team-by-team look at what's to come:

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams are indeed a new team under interim coach Jim Haslett.

They proved it again even in defeat.

The decision to name running back Steven Jackson inactive with a thigh injury gave the Rams a built-in excuse -- one they refused to accept.

They hung tough against New England from start to finish at Gillette Stadium. And with rookie receiver Donnie Avery enjoying another huge game, the future suddenly appears brighter for Marc Bulger and the St. Louis offense.

Avery, the first receiver chosen in the 2008 draft, has so far overtaken Torry Holt as the most dangerous threat in the Rams' passing game.

Bulger also appears to have his confidence back. That's a good combination for the Rams, particularly once Jackson's return restores another dimension to the ground game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jackson

The Rams' chances for an upset in New England took a hit when the team named running back Steven Jackson inactive Sunday.

Coach Jim Haslett sounded optimistic on Jackson early in the week. He expressed relief Monday upon learning that Jackson had suffered only a thigh bruise against the Cowboys. Haslett's subsequent comments sounded more guarded, but I expected Jackson to play anyway.

Quarterback Marc Bulger will likely have to carry more of the offensive load for the Rams. Antonio Pittman's return to health improves the depth at running back, but Jackson is in another class. The Patriots should be able to stop the run with nose tackle Vince Wilfork already enjoying favorable matchups against the Rams' interior offensive line.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFL SCOREBOARD