NFL Nation: Seven-step drop
December, 24, 2012
Here are seven notes and observations about Week 16 in the AFC East:
- Did the New York Jets quit on Tim Tebow or did Tebow quit on the Jets? I’ve been asking myself this question since ESPNNewYork’s report that Tebow asked out of the Wildcat package this week. A case can be made for both sides. It was an uncharacteristic move for Tebow, who has been a very good solider for the Jets all season. The former first-round pick and Heisman Trophy winner accepted his role as the Wildcat quarterback up until Sunday. Tebow played special teams as a punt protector and never complained. But it doesn’t seem right for any player to ask out of a package he’s played in all season. On the flip side, the Jets deceived Tebow by making him feel like he was the No. 2 quarterback. It turns out the Jets thought third-stringer Greg McElroy was a better option when starter Mark Sanchez was benched. So did Tebow quit on the Jets? Maybe both sides quit on each other.
- While we are on the subject of Tebow, should the Jets honor his request to be released? ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports Tebow will be released this offseason so he can sign with the hometown Jacksonville Jaguars. But do the Jets owe Tebow his release at the expense of potential compensation? What if New York can get a late-round pick for Tebow from Jacksonville or another team? Should the Jets throw that away to honor Tebow’s wishes? Yes, the Jets mishandled Tebow in embarrassing fashion this year. But I’m not sure New York “owes” Tebow when the team needs all the help and draft picks it can get.
- Is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady experiencing a slump? Brady didn’t look like his usually dominant self in a 23-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Patriots started slow and Brady finished with 267 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He had multi-interception games in back-to-back weeks for the first time all season. The Patriots need the best version of Brady in the playoffs to make a Super Bowl run.
- The Miami Dolphins have to feel good heading into the final week of the regular season. Sure, they were eliminated from playoff contention and will be underdogs on the road against New England. But Miami is 7-8 and is in a great position to get better with plenty of draft picks and cap space. The key will be making the right decision with the immense resources the Dolphins have. Figuring out which in-house free agents to keep will be crucial.
- Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has 96 rushing yards on 14 carries the past two games. The Dolphins added a new wrinkle in their playbook to use Tannehill on read-option plays, which is something that’s also worked for fellow rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Tannehill is a sneaky good athlete who runs well. He is averaging 6.8 yards per carry the past two weeks. Tannehill played receiver in college for two years and Miami is wisely putting those running skills to use.
- There are a lot of things going against retaining Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey. But something Bills leadership will be looking at closely after the season is Gailey’s struggles within the AFC East. Gailey is 3-14 against division rivals in three seasons as head coach. If you can’t win in the division, you can’t make the playoffs. The Bills are 1-4 this year against the AFC East and still have one division game left Sunday against the Jets.
- Finally, there is a silver lining for the Bills losing games down the stretch. Buffalo currently holds the No. 6 overall pick with one game remaining. This is a good spot to land a tremendous player at the top of the first round. Buffalo’s two biggest needs are quarterback and linebacker, and most of the top prospects are in play.
Debby Wong/USA TODAY SportsIs quarterback Tim Tebow simply fed up with his situation this season with the Jets?
December, 17, 2012
The AFC East went 1-2 on Sunday, and the New York Jets will play the Tennessee Titans on "Monday Night Football."
Here are seven notes and observations from Week 15:
Here are seven notes and observations from Week 15:
- The New England Patriots must figure out if they can trust starting tailback Stevan Ridley. He is having trouble holding onto the football late in the season for the second straight year, and mistakes like that can end New England's season in the playoffs. Ridley rushed for 23 yards on nine attempts, and his fumble was costly in a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. This is the second straight week Ridley fumbled in a big game. Ridley's fumble was recovered by teammate Aaron Hernandez last week against the Houston Texans. The difference this season is New England is counting on Ridley. The Patriots can't bench him for the playoffs and hand the ball to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who bolted in free agency. Ridley needs to tighten his ball security, or he will lose much of his playing time to backup Danny Woodhead.
- The Patriots lost control of their own destiny for a first-round bye. Now, it's up to the Denver Broncos to win their last two games against the Cleveland Browns (5-9) and Kansas City Chiefs (2-12) to lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC. I don't see Denver losing either game at home. The only question in my mind is who will New England host at Gillette Stadium in the wild-card round? Will it be the Cincinnati Bengals (8-6), Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) or (gasp!) the rival Jets (6-7)? All three teams present different challenges. I think Pittsburgh, with a top-level quarterback and physical defense, is the scariest matchup for the Patriots in a one-game scenario. The Jets are probably the easiest matchup on paper, although the familiarity makes them dangerous in a one-game scenario.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Jim MahoneyThe Patriots are relying on Stevan Ridley to take care of the football, something he hasn't done very well in New England's past two games.
- The Buffalo Bills have lost some ugly games, but this is the first time I've questioned their effort. Buffalo suffered a 50-17 blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Toronto Sunday. The Bills fell behind 31-7 in the second quarter and never bothered to show up. The Seahawks are better than the Bills, but not 33 points better. Part of it can be blamed on sloppy play and poor game-planning. But I think poor effort was the main factor. You have to wonder how much this impacts coach Chan Gailey's job security. The Bills are 3-8 in their last 11 games. It will be important for Gailey to win these final two weeks.
- The only good news about Sunday's performance is Buffalo's draft position improved. The Bills (5-9) would own the No. 9 overall pick if the season ended today. Being in the top 10 provides a chance that Buffalo could draft a quarterback (West Virginia's Geno Smith?) in the first round. Bills general manager Buddy Nix appears set on fixing his quarterback position in the offseason. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had three turnovers against Seattle, obviously is not the answer.
- I liked the multiple designed runs the Miami Dolphins added this weekend for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He rushed for a career-high 52 yards in a 24-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and most of it came on designed runs. This adds another option to Miami's offense, which needs to become more dynamic. Tannehill is a sneaky good athlete who played some at receiver in college. He can outrun some NFL linebackers and most defensive linemen. The difference at the NFL level is Tannehill needs to slide on nearly every play, which he did well against the Jaguars.
- Greg Jennings and starting tight end Jermichael Finley. Jennings is an unrestricted free agent looking to cash in big. The problem is he's been injured all season, and that may prevent Green Bay from overpaying to keep Jennings. The Dolphins have a ton of cap space next year and will be able to outbid Green Bay and others if Jennings is their top target. Jennings knows Philbin's offense well and would be the legit No. 1 receiver Miami is looking for. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel also reports Finley will be traded or release due to behavior issues and his high 2013 salary. Expect the Dolphins to at least take a look, especially with Miami tight end Anthony Fasano headed toward free agency. If the Dolphins want to reunite head coach Joe Philbin with former players in Green Bay, they will certainly get an opportunity in the offseason. The Packers reportedly are preparing to lose two key players on offense: No. 1 receiver
- The Jets still need a lot of help to get into the playoffs. Their head-to-head loss to Pittsburgh in Week 2 may turn out to be New York's downfall. The Steelers control their own destiny with that win. The Jets need to win out and have Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati next week. Then, the Steelers need to lose in Week 17 to the Browns to have a chance. That's a lot for the Jets to ask to go their way. But the fact that New York still has a decent shot is amazing consider how bad this team has been most of the season.
November, 12, 2012
The AFC East went 1-3 on Sunday. Here are seven notes and observations on the division:
- After watching the New England Patriots' secondary stumble over itself against the Buffalo Bills, the acquisition of Aqib Talib could not have come at a better time. The talented but troubled corner is off suspension Monday and expects to make his debut next weekend against the Indianapolis Colts. New England’s defense allowed 20 passing first downs, and Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns in New England's 37-31 victory. The Patriots' secondary appeared to be a lost cause. But Talib has the talent to inject new life into this awful group. His man-to-man cover skills also provide more options for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
- Even Patriots fans must admit that Sunday's game was poorly officiated. The Bills were on the short end of several blown calls, which are costly in a close game. In all, the Bills were penalized 14 times for 148 yards, which is twice as much as New England (seven penalties, 73 yards). This certainly doesn’t quell the notion that the Patriots, because of their winning reputation, get the benefit of the doubt from officials.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Tony GutierrezThe Patriots hope cornerback Aqib Talib can provide a boost to their secondary.
- The Bills might be without the services of starting running back Fred Jackson in their next game. Jackson was belted late by Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes and is suffering from "concussion-like symptoms," according to Bills coach Chan Gailey. Buffalo plays against the Miami Dolphins Thursday. That's probably too quick of a turnaround for Jackson.
- Jackson's injury means more carries for backup tailback C.J. Spiller. He only got nine carries against the Patriots, but it still resulted in 70 yards. Spiller is the kind of dynamic tailback who can give the Dolphins a lot of trouble. Miami struggled with a similar player in Tennessee's Chris Johnson, who ran for 126 yards and a touchdown. Johnson broke a 22-game streak of Miami not allowing a 100-yard rusher.
- Did Dolphins coach Joe Philbin do the right thing by benching Reggie Bush? Yes, Bush made a mistake by fumbling on Miami’s second possession. But was that grounds to keep out your best playmaker until the third quarter? Just about every player made mistakes in Miami’s 37-3 blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans. Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions and wasn’t benched. Left tackle Jake Long was beat a few times and called for a holding penalty and wasn’t benched. Philbin clearly wanted to send a message and used Bush, a team leader, to do it. Coaching like this could backfire if Philbin is not careful this season.
- Miami’s upcoming schedule is no joke. The Dolphins (4-5) will face the Bills Thursday, then the Seattle Seahawks (6-4), Patriots (6-3) and San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1). This is why the past two weeks were critical for the Dolphins to pad their record. They already can kiss any chance of making the playoffs goodbye. Miami cannot survive this stretch with the way it is playing. The Dolphins could be 4-9 or 5-8 before you know it.
- It’s scary to think that was the best offense the New York Jets could come up with after two weeks of preparation. New York scored just seven points in a loss to Seattle. The Jets only got 11 first downs and were 2-for-12 on third- and fourth-down conversions. Tim Tebow throwing screen passes was the only noticeable wrinkle -- and that’s not innovation. The Jets need to blow up this offense and retool in the offseason.
November, 5, 2012
With two teams on the bye, the AFC East is shorting its progression.
Here are five notes and observations on Week 9 in the division:
Here are five notes and observations on Week 9 in the division:
- The Miami Dolphins (4-4) have a tough decision to make with left tackle Jake Long. It is clear the pending free agent and former No. 1 overall pick is not the player he used to be. Long has battled injuries and played below his usual level for a couple of seasons. He struggled again against defensive end Dwight Freeney in a 23-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts (5-3). Long spent a lot of time on the ground, getting penalized and trying to stay in front of Freeney. Coming off his rookie contract, Long may aim to be the highest-paid lineman in the NFL. But it’s been more than a year since he’s consistently played at an elite level. Miami must decide whether to pay Long for what he’s done in the past or what he will be the next few years. Miami doesn't have a viable replacement unless rookie Jonathan Martin can eventually switch to the left side.[+] EnlargeDarron Cummings/AP PhotoDolphins tackle Jake Long runs the ball after catching a forced fumble against the Colts on Sunday.
- Miami’s loss puts the team in a tough spot. They have two games in a five-day stretch against the Tennessee Titans (3-6) and Buffalo Bills (3-5). On paper, both opponents are struggling. But the Dolphins could quickly go from 4-4 to 4-6 if they're not focused. Miami also has the potential to be 6-4. I asked Miami coach Joe Philbin about this quick turnaround in Indianapolis. “We have to be smart,” Philbin said. “We’re going to have to take a look at the injury situation and get through this thing and look at our practice time, how much time we can spend on the field, those types of things. We’ve given it some thought already. ... But it’s a challenge for anybody.”
- I don’t get what the Bills are doing with tailback C.J. Spiller. He is clearly Buffalo’s best playmaker and doesn’t get nearly enough touches. Six carries? The Bills lost to the Texans, 21-9, and it was a close game until the fourth quarter. I don’t understand why the Bills would have a pass-to-run ratio of 38-16, more than 2-to-1, with Spiller touching the ball sparingly. The Bills had two weeks to figure out what works offensively. Maybe they will never figure out.
- Buffalo’s season is over if it can’t win next Sunday in Gillette Stadium. The Bills (3-5) will travel to face the New England Patriots (5-3) with their season on the line. The Bills will be huge underdogs in this game but are desperate and need to pull out all the stops.
- The Patriots (5-3) and New York Jets (3-5) are both coming off their bye weeks. That means each team has two weeks to rest and get healthy. For the Jets, I want to see if they have figured out their identity on offense. Is this a ground-and-pound team, or will they let quarterback Mark Sanchez fling the ball. It’s been a different formula each week. For the Patriots, the pass defense is key. They acquired cornerback Aqib Talib in a trade but can’t get him on the field for another week due to a suspension.
October, 15, 2012
Here are seven notes and observations in the AFC East:
- Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland takes a beating from the media and fans in South Florida. But it’s time to give Ireland some props for his productive rookie class. Despite various criticisms, Ireland has always relied on his solid drafting to get him off the hot seat. Ireland again is getting great contributions from his first three picks: quarterback Ryan Tannehill, right tackle Jonathan Martin and defensive end Olivier Vernon. The Dolphins could not beat the St. Louis Rams Sunday without contributions from all three rookies. Fourth-round pick Lamar Miller also contributed earlier this year and has potential. Miami is a young team. But it has good, young players and Ireland deserves a lot of credit.[+] EnlargeKirby Lee/US PresswireJeff Ireland's latest draft class has produced some productive players.
- Speaking of the Rams, they were the first team to do two things to Miami that I haven't seen all season. St. Louis ran the ball well against the Dolphins and stopped the run. The Rams rushed for 162 yards, which is the highest total Miami allowed all season. Miami had a lot of trouble with the zone running plays for St. Louis tailbacks Steven Jackson (52 yards) and Daryl Richardson (76 yards). The Rams also stuffed Miami on the ground. The Dolphins rushed for only 19 yards on 18 attempts. Miami has the bye week to fix what went wrong.
- Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman trash-talked New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. That’s nothing new. But what was interesting is Sherman told reporters that Seattle is a true team and New England is mostly one player: Brady. Although I somewhat disagree with that statement this year, that is the perception around the league. If you disrupt Brady, the Patriots have a slim chance of winning. New England needs to get better at winning when Brady isn't dominant. He's not going to be “Tom Terrific” every week. Brady should be allowed to make some mistakes.
- The New York Jets looked like the "ground and pound" team that went to the playoffs in 2009 and 2010 in a 35-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets looked as good as I think they can with the talent left on the roster. But can the Jets win consistently playing caveman football in 2012? The Colts were not tough enough to stop the Jets' running game. But upcoming opponents like the Patriots, Dolphins and Seahawks will not allow tailback Shonn Greene to run for 161 yards. The Jets must be more balanced to win those games.
- All things considered, the Buffalo Bills are actually in a good spot this week. Many left the Bills for dead after they suffered back-to-back blowout losses to the Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. But a big overtime win over the Arizona Cardinals puts Buffalo at 3-3 with a very winnable game at home against the Tennessee Titans (2-4). The Bills cannot have a letdown against Tennessee. They have a bye week coming up and can enter it with a 4-3 record. Buffalo's schedule gets tough after the bye, when it faces the Houston Texans and Patriots on the road, followed by the Dolphins at home.
- Buffalo needs its defensive line to dominate every week like it did against the Cardinals. The Bills registered five sacks and a safety against Arizona. Yes, the Cardinals have arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL. It has resulted in three quarterback injuries already this season between Kevin Kolb (twice) and John Skelton (once). But perhaps this is momentum for Buffalo's defense, which allowed 97 points combined in Week 4 and Week 5. Defensive end Mario Williams was particularly dominant with two sacks and three additional hits on the quarterback.
- Finally, I want to open up the forum to our community. We have a four-way tie in the AFC East. So who are the contenders and pretenders in the division? Do the Jets have a shot to win the AFC East? What about the Dolphins or Bills? Or will the Patriots prevail at the end, as usual? Share your thoughts in our AFC East inbox or the comments section below. I'm looking forward to hearing what our AFC East community thinks about these four teams.
October, 8, 2012
The New York Jets (2-2) still have a game to play on "Monday Night Football" against the Houston Texans.
But here are seven observations from Week 5 in the AFC East:
But here are seven observations from Week 5 in the AFC East:
- Are the Miami Dolphins currently the second-best team in the AFC East? It's a legitimate question five weeks into the season. Miami is 2-3 and tied with the Buffalo Bills (2-3) for the same record. The Dolphins could be in a three-way tie for second place with the Bills and New York Jets (2-2) later tonight after New York plays the undefeated Houston Texans (4-0). Miami has been the most consistent of the three teams this season. The Dolphins have been in every game except a Week 1 loss to Houston.
- Miami's secondary is improving thanks to the increased contributions of cornerback Sean Smith and safety Reshad Jones. Both players are having career years. Smith is taking on the challenge of defending elite receivers and did a solid job defending Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green in back-to-back weeks. Miami has an interesting decision to make with Smith, who is a pending free agent and could command a sizable contract in 2013. Jones is improving and consistently is around the football. He made the game-clinching interception in Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Miami’s front seven is very good. If the secondary catches up, Miami’s defense will be tough to beat this year.
- Remember the recent talk about New England Patriots Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker being "phased out" of the offense? There was even speculation that Welker, who is in the final year of his contract, could be traded. Well, forget about it. Welker is back to being a very important part of New England’s offense. He caught 13 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos could not defend Welker, who had a career-best nine catches in the first half. Welker has stepped up big after injuries to tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle) and backup receiver Julian Edelman (hand). Even when those players return, Welker needs to keep a big role in New England. He had a funny comment to Comcast Sportsnet after the game. "Yeah it's kind of nice to stick it in Bill's face once in a while," Welker said jokingly of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "So this is definitely a good one."
- The Patriots are clearly a well-conditioned team. Belichick has cranked up the tempo on offense and it impacts all three phases of the game. The Patriots are playing extremely fast and went virtually no-huddle the entire game against Denver. Not only must the offense be in shape, but the quick-strike offense also puts pressure on the conditioning of the defense and special teams. The Patriots showed no signs of slowing down. New England just needs to stay healthy and keep its quality depth.
- I don’t know if the Buffalo Bills have enough heart to be a winner. This was one of my biggest concerns when I made the Bills my sleeper pick for 2012. Buffalo, on paper, is not 42 points worse than any team in the NFL. You have to factor in a lack of mental and physical toughness and inability to respond through adversity. Buffalo hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1999. There were too many players in the locker room that don’t know what it takes to be a winner, especially together in Buffalo. The Bills have proved over and over that they are not a team that responds well in tough times. Last season the losses snowballed and went downhill. It’s still early. But after losing 45-3 Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers, you wonder if the Bills have enough to respond and turn their season around. They get rattled too easily. Buffalo has another gut-check game next week on the road against the Arizona Cardinals (3-1).
- Do not be surprised if the New York Jets go after a wide receiver before the trade deadline. Monday’s game against Houston is a litmus test to see what the Jets have on offense for the rest of the season. If the receivers play well, New York may be comfortable with the group going forward. But if the Jets' passing game struggles, which is what I expect, then they will be in the market for a receiver. The Jets are a veteran team built to win now. Injuries to No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes and Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis mean the team is going nowhere fast. The Jets are proving this year they can no longer win with just defense. They need to score points.
Tyler Barrick/Getty ImagesMiami CB Sean Smith has proved this season that he can defend against the league's top receivers.
October, 1, 2012
Here are seven notes and observations on Week 4 in the AFC East:
- I liked how the Patriots stashed rookie free-agent running back Brandon Bolden on the roster. Starting tailback Stevan Ridley and backup Shane Vereen were garnering all of the headlines in training camp. But Bolden quietly impressed the Patriots and made the 53-man roster. New England didn't use Bolden much in the first three weeks and suddenly unleashed him against the Buffalo Bills. Bolden led New England with 137 yards and a touchdown. There was little film on Bolden and he caught the Bills off guard.
- Our friend and colleague Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com brought up a good point Sunday about Patriots Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins. Reiss pointed out that Mankins is extremely tough. Since the hip injury kept Mankins out of a big game, it makes you wonder if this is a multigame injury. Mankins didn't make the trip to Buffalo or practice all week. But the Patriots' offensive line stepped up without Mankins and showed they can produce without their best O-lineman.
- It’s gut-check time for the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were embarrassed by the 52-28 loss to New England, and their upcoming schedule is not easy. They play on the road in four of the next five games, and all four road games are against teams with winning records. It starts next week when Buffalo travels to the West Coast to face the San Francisco 49ers (3-1). The Bills then will travel to play the undefeated Arizona Cardinals (4-0), at home against Tennessee (1-3), then on the road against Houston (4-0) and New England (2-2).[+] EnlargeRick Stewart/Getty ImagesRyan Fitzpatrick had an up-and-down day, throwing four touchdown passes to go with four interceptions.
- Here is a stat that will scare Bills fans: Buffalo has been outscored 100-56 in two AFC East games against the Patriots and New York Jets. The Bills are just 2-12 against division foes under coach Chan Gailey and look to be far from competitive again in the AFC East. The Bills know they have little chance of getting over the hump if they can't beat teams they play twice a year.
- The Miami Dolphins' run defense continues to amaze. Yes, they lost in overtime for the second straight week. But the Cardinals averaged 1.9 yards per carry on 15 attempts. It got to the point where Arizona basically stopped trying against Miami, which has the top-ranked run defense in the NFL. Defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are two of the best at stuffing the run. They don't make a lot of tackles, but they have good technique and rarely get pushed around. That allows the linebackers and ends to fly to the football. If you like defensive football, it's enjoyable to watch Miami play the run week in and week out.
- Perhaps no player in the AFC East has come further since training camp than Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline. He was virtually forgotten in Miami as a new coaching staff had to do without him most of the offseason due to a calf injury. Hartline slid down the depth chart. But once Hartline got healthy, it was hard for Miami to keep him out the lineup. Hartline took over the starting job in Week 2 and never looked back. He set a Dolphins record Sunday with 12 receptions for 253 yards against the Cardinals. Hartline, who has 455 receiving yards on the season, is just 94 yards shy of last year's total.
- It’s a little too early to bench New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, but the leash gets shorter every week. The bottom line is the Jets are 2-2 and tied for first place in the AFC East. That's enough for Sanchez to keep his job. Yes, Sanchez had a horrendous game against the 49ers. But he's also had two winning performances. The key for Sanchez is not to suffer a long losing streak. The second the Jets lose three in a row, that is when the team will consider backup quarterback Tim Tebow. Thinking back to last year, Kyle Orton of the Denver Broncos lost his job to Tebow in Week 5. Sanchez must have a bounce-back game against the Texans this year in Week 5 to keep Tebow at bay.
September, 24, 2012
Here are seven notes and observations from Week 3 in the AFC East.
- I know it’s early to think about contracts, but the injury to Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis brings up an interesting scenario. Revis clearly wants a new contract next year and considered holding out this summer. Now, he played just three games and will be coming off major knee surgery. Will Revis demand a new extension in 2013 to become one of the NFL's highest-paid players? If so, will the Jets accommodate Revis or tell him to play another year under the old contract to prove he's the same dominant player? This is a precarious situation that will need to be ironed out by Revis and the Jets next year. This also is why players need to get paid when they have the leverage. Revis lost a lot of leverage with this injury.
- The numbers don't look good for New York without Revis. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Jets’ opponent completion percentage goes up from 54.1 to 62.5 the past two seasons when Revis is not on the field. The Jets also have allowed five touchdowns and recorded zero interceptions without Revis in that span. With Revis on the field the past two years, the Jets have 23 interceptions and allowed 15 passing touchdowns.
- I'm not sure the Jets need Tim Tebow right now, especially if they still don't know how to use him. Much of the gimmicks they have come up with have not worked. Tebow ran two times for zero yards in Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins. He also played tight end/H-back and had a pass bounce off his helmet. The only real contribution Tebow made was a successful fake punt on fourth down. Mark Sanchez doesn’t need to throw to Tebow. If that’s the best the Jets can come up with, Tebow is better off on the sidelines strictly as the No. 2 quarterback.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Lynne SladkyTim Tebow definitely won't take Bill Belichick and the Patriots by surprise.
- This is the time I want to see more growth from Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He continues to show flashes in three career starts. But I'm most concerned with Tannehill throwing just one passing touchdown in three games. He's on pace for a little more than five passing touchdowns this season, which won’t cut it. Miami doesn’t need Tannehill to take over games. But the Dolphins need a little more now that he is one month into the season. Miami won’t beat the undefeated Arizona Cardinals (3-0) on the road this week without solid quarterback play.
- Perhaps what was most interesting about the Ravens’ win over the Patriots was how Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco outplayed New England’s Tom Brady in the clutch. Flacco was nearly flawless in the fourth quarter, throwing for an astounding 161 yards, one touchdown and had a 99.1 QBR. Brady struggled with just 41 yards and a 35.7 QBR in the fourth quarter. Some of it had to do with home-field advantage. But there is no doubt that Flacco outplayed Brady for the second straight game and this time it resulted in a close win.
- Patriots coach Bill Belichick was wrong for grabbing a referee after the loss. Belichick most likely will be fined for the incident, especially after the league sent a memo last week warning teams to respect the officials. But this is another example of frustration spilling over. The NFL needs to get this situation fixed so it won’t make national headlines every week.
- The Buffalo Bills got disruptive play from both of their big free-agent additions in Sunday's win over the Cleveland Browns. Bills defensive end Mario Williams and Mark Anderson were paid more than $100 million to be bookends on defense. The pair had their best game of the year by combining for 2.5 sacks and three additional hits on the quarterback. Williams and Anderson were constantly in the face of Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
September, 17, 2012
Here are seven notes and observations from Week 2 in the AFC East:
- Who was that sloppy New England Patriots team we saw in Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals? Was it just one bad game? We are about to find out when the Patriots travel to face the Baltimore Ravens (1-1) Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. It is a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game and arguably the toughest game on New England’s schedule. The Patriots could be 1-2 after three games, which is surprising for a team that many projected to finish with 13 or 14 wins. There were even some discussions of 16-0. Perhaps many pundits overrated the Patriots if they can’t beat a team like Arizona at home. New England remains the favorite in the AFC East, but it’s time to hold off on talk of winning another Super Bowl for now.
- The Patriots need to be honest with what they’re doing with Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker. After denying that Welker was being “phased out” of the offense in Week 1, New England started Julian Edelman in Week 2 and made Welker the backup. Edelman finished the game with more snaps than Welker (75 to 63, according to ESPNBostom.com) but both receivers had five catches. There is no logical reason to make a receiver who caught 122 receptions the previous year a backup unless he’s injured or being phased out. If Patriots’ coaches feel Edelman is a better player or there is some other reason, they need to own up to it.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Elise AmendolaIs wide receiver Wes Welker being "phased out" of Bill Belichick's game plan in New England?
- I liked how the Miami Dolphins coaching staff made some proper adjustments in Week 2 with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. In a loss to Houston, Tannehill was pretty much a sitting duck in the pocket getting pressured and balls batted left and right. But offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and coach Joe Philbin called more designed roll-outs against the Oakland Raiders to get Tannehill to use his athleticism. One called sneak for Tannehill resulted in the first touchdown. It was a subtle adjustment that made a big difference. Tannehill had six batted balls in Week 1 but zero in Week 2.
- Keep an eye on Dolphins rookie running back Lamar Miller. He was a good value pick in the fourth round and played well in relief of starter Reggie Bush Sunday. Miller rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Miller was inactive in Week 1 but got the chance to play in Week 2 with Daniel Thomas out with a concussion. Miami’s strength is its running backs. Miller’s play should earn him more playing time.
- This is not the time to start the “bench Mark Sanchez” chants in New York. I know the leash is short and Sanchez was baffled in a 27-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was 10-of-27 for 138 yards and couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean in the second half. However, Sanchez has played one really good game and one really bad game to start the season. No reason to panic. Sanchez also was without his security blanket in tight end Dustin Keller. With that said, I’m not sure why Tebow didn’t play more against Pittsburgh. He finished with one rush for 22 yards and three plays total. There was a lot of hype surrounding Tebow’s Wildcat package this preseason and it’s been a dud so far.
- The Jets’ upcoming game against the Dolphins is an interesting one, because New York will revisit the scene where the team imploded at the end of last season. The Jets completely fell apart after losing their third straight game to end the season at Sun Life Stadium. New York missed the playoffs and Santonio Holmes was benched late for arguing with Mark Sanchez, which caused an offseason firestorm. New York has a chance to prove it has grown up since then and can band together to beat the Dolphins on the road. If the Jets fall to 1-2, it could be the start of more controversy.
- I will be one of the first to say it: It’s time to start the C.J. Spiller era and make him the Buffalo Bills’ permanent starting tailback. The 2010 first-round pick had another solid game, rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns in Buffalo’s 35-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills probably won’t make that decision until they have to. Jackson is one of the leaders on Buffalo’s roster and benching him could make an impact in the locker room. However, Spiller is healthy, more dynamic and approaching his prime. He is playing well enough to where there shouldn’t be any debate.
September, 10, 2012
Here are seven notes and observations from Week 1 in the AFC East:
- There was an “I told you so” attitude with the New York Jets after their 48-28 blowout of the Buffalo Bills Sunday. Not only did the Jets (1-0) prove a lot of skeptics wrong in Week 1, but they did it against a Buffalo (0-1) team that received a lot of good press and offseason hype. It’s only one game, but the big question now is, “How good is New York?” The Jets were picked by many to be a third-place team in the AFC East and to finish around .500 this year. But they look dangerous when playing complementary football. It was a complete performance by the Jets Sunday where the offense fed off the defense, which also fed off special teams. If this is the type of Jets team we will see consistently, then perhaps the Jets are better than most thought. We could have a better indication of where New York stands next week when the Jets travel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1).
- Also, the Jets’ receiving corps deserves a lot of credit for its production. Santonio Holmes, rookie Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley consistently schooled Buffalo’s young cornerbacks. The Jets had receivers running free regularly on Sunday, even during incompletions. New York quarterback Mark Sanchez did a good job taking care of the football and taking chances deep at the right time. Holmes, Hill and Kerley all had at least four receptions. “It was a great performance by us,” Holmes said. “The game plan went really smooth this week. Guys were paying attention to details. Everything just felt great and we put on a show.”
- How did Jets journeyman offensive tackle Austin Howard keep Bills Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams at bay? According to Williams, Howard cheated. “Pass blocking doesn’t consist of using your hands to the face on every play,” Williams said afterwards. Howard, with some help, pitched a shutout against Williams, who was held to just one tackle with zero sacks and one quarterback pressure. Williams made a point to say Howard illegally and consistently used hands to the face as his primary method. According to Williams, he told the replacement officials on several occasions. “You don’t listen or even call it one time out of the 20 that were there?” a frustrated Williams said. “That’s really disheartening for everyone.” Jets head coach Rex Ryan had a different take. “Austin Howard played a tremendous game,” Ryan said. “Maybe he made a name for himself today.”[+] EnlargeKellen Micah/ICON SMIMario Williams, right, took issue with the way Austin Howard pass blocked on Sunday.
- The look on Bills receiver David Nelson’s face said it all in the locker room. I wouldn’t be shocked if Nelson is done for an extended period. Nelson was carted off in the fourth quarter. It was a tough way to go out for Buffalo’s second-leading receiver, who is the best slot option the team has. This probably means rookie receiver T.J. Graham has to step up in Nelson’s place. Graham was inactive Sunday against the Jets.
- Bills head coach Chan Gailey said starting running Fred Jackson’s knee injury wasn’t as serious as Nelson’s. But Jackson didn’t finish the game and his status is in doubt for a big Week 2 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs (0-1). Jets safety LaRon Landry went low on Jackson, whose leg got caught in the turf. Jackson walked on the sideline after the game but didn’t return. Backup C.J. Spiller looks more than ready for the increased responsibility. Spiller rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown in relief against a tough Jets defense.
- There may be more good news for the New England Patriots' defense. After pounding young Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker in a season-opening win, Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback John Skelton also was sidelined in Week 1 with a possible high-ankle sprain. That type of injury can keep players out for about a month. But Skelton will most certainly miss next week’s game against the Patriots (1-0) at Gillette Stadium. That paves the way for enigmatic backup Kevin Kolb, who filled in decently on Sunday but has been a bust since signing a big contract with Arizona (1-0).
- Finally, you have to wonder how much Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long's knee is bothering him. He was beat on several plays and looked unusually shaky at times Sunday against the Houston Texans. I’m not worried about Long’s play as much as the injuries piling up. Seventy percent of Long is still better than many left tackles. But it seems the past couple of years Long is playing hurt too often. It’s the second season in a row Long is starting the year banged up. It’s a long season and the Dolphins’ best player already is managing injuries. This is a contract year for Long, and Miami (0-1) has to decide whether it can make Long the highest-paid lineman in the league next season when he’s starting to develop the “injury-prone” label.
December, 26, 2011
Here are seven notes and observations after Week 16 in the AFC East:
- New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan will not be on the hot seat. I already hear grumblings coming from Jets Nation, but it's not going to happen. Ryan is too good a coach. He led the Jets to back-to-back AFC title games in his first two years. Ryan is not the issue in New York. His problem is his brash trash-talking makes him an easy target. I can go down a list of many things that went wrong with the Jets this year before I get to Ryan. But his boastful ways place the biggest spotlight on him when things go bad.
- If quarterback Mark Sanchez doesn't improve his accuracy next offseason, he's going to have a hard time proving he's the long-term solution in New York. Most great quarterbacks complete about 60-65 percent of their passes. Sanchez has been hovering around the mid-50s his entire career and hasn't shown much improvement in three seasons. Sanchez misses too many open receivers, particularly deep, which either leads to interceptions or leaves big plays on the field. Sanchez has some strengths, but accuracy is a major weakness that is hard for teams to overcome. He threw a career-high 59 times Saturday against the New York Giants and only completed 30 passes for a 50.8 completion percentage.
- The New England Patriots got the best of both worlds against the Miami Dolphins. New England received a scare by falling behind 17-0 at halftime, but rallied to win, maintaining the inside track on home-field advantage. This game was enough to serve as a wake-up call for the Patriots. Despite seven straight wins, they cannot go on cruise control. It was a good learning tool that head coach Bill Belichick can build on late in the season.
- Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo had his best all-around game of the season against Miami. He led New England with 13 tackles, two sacks and two additional hits on the quarterback. I like the idea of giving Mayo more opportunities to get to the quarterback. Mayo is at his best when he's attacking, as oppose to reacting. Saturday's game marked Mayo's first two sacks of the season. Mayo only has 5.5 for his career.
- Jake Long tearing his biceps was the worst possible news for the Dolphins' left tackle. Long is going into a contract year in 2012. Any chance he had of Miami giving him an extension this offseason might have ended with this season-ending injury in December. Long will miss the Dolphins' final game and has a lengthy rehabilitation process ahead. Miami would be wise to let Long play out the final year of his contract and see how he bounces back from this major injury. Eventually, Long will be looking to become one of the NFL's highest-paid offensive linemen.
- With the Detroit Lions clinching a playoff spot last weekend, the Buffalo Bills are alone with the longest non-playoff streak in the NFL. It will be a dozen years and counting for the Bills since they last made the postseason. This season, Buffalo got off to a fast start but fizzled down the stretch. According to ESPN's Stats and Information, the teams with the second and third longest streaks are the Houston Texans (nine seasons) and San Francisco 49ers (eight seasons). Both will make the playoffs this season, leaving a huge gap between Buffalo and the next team -- the Cleveland Browns (eight seasons).
- Finally, parity is alive and well in the NFL. The league is doing exactly what its supposed to, considering the amount of average teams. An astounding 14 clubs are in position to finish 8-8 or 7-9 this season. Other than the Green Bay Packers (14-1), there are no true dominant teams. Fans love that nearly every team has a shot. There is a fine line for most teams being in or out the playoffs.
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireMark Sanchez still must prove he's the long-term answer at quarterback for the Jets.
December, 19, 2011
Here are seven notes an observations on the AFC East in Week 15:
- With Rob Gronkowski's emergence with the New England Patriots, you almost forget how good fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez is. The Denver Broncos certainly forgot about Hernandez in coverage. He led the game with nine receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. It was clear Denver's strategy was to stop Gronkowski, who is having a monster season. That didn't bother Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who went away from "Gronk" and targeted Hernandez a team-high 11 times. Gronkowski only caught four passes for 53 yards and had his touchdown streak end at six games. But Hernandez also is a top-10 tight end. He's just not as consistent as Gronkowski and had a few drops this season. But Hernandez needs to stay ready, especially in the playoffs, if future opponents decide to put most of their attention on Gronkowski.
- The Patriots won convincingly, but their run defense in the first quarter was atrocious. The holes, missed tackles and not getting off blocks Sunday was the worst I’ve seen from New England all season. Fortunately, quarterback Tom Brady and the offense scored enough points to force Denver to throw the ball in the second half. The Broncos rushed for 252 yards, including 167 in the first quarter. If it was a closer game, New England’s defense could have allowed 300-plus yards on the ground.
- The New York Jets clearly missed injured safety Jim Leonhard in Sunday's 45-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. New York blew a lot of coverages over the middle and could not guard Eagles tight end Brent Celek. Philadelphia’s tight end had a monster game, with five receptions for 156 yards and one touchdown. Celek’s longest catch was for 73 yards. Teams have been attacking New York’s defense over the middle this season, because its corners are so good. But there is a big drop off at safety, especially when Leonhard is out of the game. The Jets need to consider this in the offseason when Leonhard becomes a free agent.
- Right tackle is definitely a spot the Jets need to upgrade next season. Right tackle Wayne Hunter has struggled in nearly every Jets game I’ve seen in person. Philadelphia defensive end Jason Babin took Hunter to school Sunday to the tune of three sacks. Hunter does not have quick feet and gets pushed around too often. New York drafted Vladimir Ducasse in the second round in 2010 with hopes that he could develop into a starter. But Ducasse remains a raw project, and the team cannot afford to wait another year. The Jets need to find someone on that side of the offensive line to protect Sanchez.
- The Buffalo Bills' were horrendous on third downs in a 30-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Bills were 0-for-11 on third-down conversions. Buffalo also was 0-for-12 on third downs against Miami in its first meeting in Week 11. It's scary to think the Bills couldn’t get a third-down conversion all season against the Dolphins.
- The Buffalo News reported this weekend that Bills receiver Steve Johnson could be seeking a contract worth $8.5-$9 million per season. If that's the case, the Bills should let Johnson test the open market. I expect Buffalo to make a push to keep Johnson this offseason but only at a price the team is comfortable with. The Bills know Johnson's strengths and weaknesses, and they most likely agree he's not a $9-million-a-year player. Johnson is a good player and a good teammate. But he's not an elite No. 1 receiver who can single-handedly take over games. Johnson only has one 100-yard game all season. Plus, receiver is one of the easiest positions in the NFL to replace.
- If the season ended today, both the Dolphins (5-8) and Bills (5-8) would have top-10 picks. Buffalo would own the 10th overall pick. The Dolphins would draft ninth, despite sweeping Buffalo this season, because they had the easier schedule. Both teams would be in position to land a top prospect. But Miami is starting to hurt its chances of landing a top quarterback.
Ron Chenoy/US PresswirePatriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, 81, had nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.
December, 12, 2011
Here are seven notes and observations from Week 14 in the AFC East:
- Are the New England Patriots putting too much pressure on quarterback Tom Brady? For those who don't believe Brady should be considered for MVP, simply look at how poorly New England's defense played in a 34-27 victory over the Washington Redskins. Brady (357 yards, three touchdowns) kept giving New England the lead and his defense kept giving it back. He made his first real mistake late in the fourth quarter with an interception in the end zone. And when offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien chewed him out, Brady exploded with an uncharacteristic tirade. Pressure busts pipes and I think that had a lot to do with Brady's response. His teammates, particularly on defense, were making mistakes left and right. Yet when Brady has one slip, his coach was all over him about it, and Brady didn't appreciate it at that moment. Cooler heads eventually prevailed. But the bigger picture is the rest of the team needs to do a much better job so New England doesn't require near perfection from Brady.
- The AFC East blog wants to send a congrats to Patriots receiver Wes Welker, who reached 100 receptions for the four time in his career. Welker's consistency and production should be applauded. He’s caught at least five receptions in 12 out of 13 games this season. Welker's career high for catches is 123 in 2009. He needs 24 receptions in the final three games to surpass his personal best.
- If the playoffs started today, the New York Jets (8-5) would travel to play the AFC South champion Houston Texans (10-3). Houston is the No. 3 seed but is without its starting quarterback Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart. New York's defense would face third-string rookie T.J. Yates, who helped the Jets by beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Texans are strong in other areas. But I think the Jets' defense against Yates in his first playoff game would be a good matchup for New York. It's much better, in my opinion, than the Jets traveling to face Baltimore (10-3) or New England (10-3) in the wild-card round. New York also lost this season to Tim Tebow and the surging Denver Broncos (8-5), who are favorites to win the AFC West.
- It's no surprise that Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez puts up better numbers when his offense can run the football. The past three weeks New York has pounded opponents via the run. As a result, Sanchez benefited from less coverage in the secondary and the ability to use play-action, which is one of his strengths. New York has rushed for 399 yards the past three games, and Sanchez has accounted for nine total touchdowns (seven passing, two rushing) and one interception in that span.
- The Buffalo Bills (5-8) will miss the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season, which is an NFL high. The Detroit Lions (8-5) have a chance to tie the Bills if Detroit also doesn't qualify. But Buffalo, with six straight losses, clearly has a long way to go. The Bills have a lot of work to do in the offseason, particularly on defense. But the biggest decision was already made at quarterback. Via a $59 million contract extension, Buffalo has agreed to go forward with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for the foreseeable future. Fitzpatrick was an abysmal 13 for 34 with 176 yards and two interceptions in Sunday's loss to the San Diego Chargers. Fitzpatrick needs to be more consistent and less streaky if he wants to get the Bills to the next level in future seasons.
- Aside from quarterback Chad Henne, the Miami Dolphins have been relatively fortunate with major injuries to key players. But that wasn't the case Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dolphins lost starting quarterback Matt Moore (head), left tackle Jake Long (back) and cornerback Vontae Davis (neck). Miami has talent, but it certainly isn't good enough to sustain losing three of its best players. I'm curious to see how competitive Miami will be if any or all of these players miss significant time.
- Finally, I want to offer more thoughts on the Miami Herald's report of the Dolphins planning to fire coach Tony Sparano and keep general manager Jeff Ireland. It's an interesting concept if owner Stephen Ross goes in that direction. Dolphins fans want change and this would not be a complete overhaul. I believe Miami has to make a huge splash at head coach to get fans excited again. But that probably won't happen with Ireland still on board. The Dolphins may have to go the assistant route. They also will have a lot of competition for top coaches this offseason with Kansas City firing Todd Haley and jobs expected to open in San Diego, St. Louis and Jacksonville.
CBSTom Brady's Patriots beat the Washington Redskins Sunday, 34-27, however, the All-Pro quarterback can't win every game on his arm alone.
December, 5, 2011
Here are seven notes and observations from Week 13 in the AFC East:
- I have a gut feeling the Week 17 matchup between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins on New Year’s Day is going to be HUGE. The Jets (7-5) are fighting for their playoff lives and have little margin for error. New York has to go at least 3-1 the rest of the way to have a chance, and I can see that final game in Miami being a “win and you’re in” scenario. The Dolphins are 4-1 in their last five games and not going anywhere. Miami is 4-8 overall but could get a lot of joy in sending the rival Jets packing in the final game of the season.
- One of the funniest people in Miami's locker room Sunday was linebacker Kevin Burnett. There was a large group of media waiting at Burnett’s locker after he recorded four tackles, a sack and pick six in a 34-14 win over the Oakland Raiders. Burnett walked through the crowd and said jokingly “don’t try to be my friend now.” Burnett, Miami’s big free-agent acquisition, received some heat from the Miami media during the team’s 0-7 start for not making enough plays. Now, Burnett and teammate Karlos Dansby have been one of the NFL’s top linebacker duos in the second half of the season. The pair is key to Miami’s turnaround.
- I may be in the minority. But I was more concerned about the New England Patriots' defense in the first couple of drives against the Indianapolis Colts as opposed to the 21 points allowed in the fourth quarter. Colts backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, the team’s fourth option, completed his first seven passes against New England to start the game. It only led to three points. But it wasn’t a good look for New England against a quarterback who hadn’t started in three years. I think the lesson we really learned in this game is we really won’t know how improved New England’s defense is until the playoffs.
- If the season ended today, the Patriots would have the No. 1 seed in the AFC. According to ESPN's Stats and Information, New England holds tiebreakers over the Baltimore Ravens (9-3) with the better conference record and the Houston Texans (9-3) with a better strength of victories. Most likely, all New England has to do is keep winning to force the road to the Super Bowl to go through Gillette Stadium. The Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) own the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England and probably is the biggest threat to the No. 1 seed. But the Steelers are in second place in the AFC North, currently making them a wild card.
- The Buffalo Bills (5-7) are looking more and more like a last-place team in the AFC East. I gave Buffalo a lot of credit for its surprising 4-1 start. But since then the Bills are 1-6 and lost their last five games. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Buffalo finishes 5-11 or 6-10. The Bills will be underdogs in most games the rest of the season, including next week's road game against the San Diego Chargers.
- There has been some talk in Buffalo about the contract situation of receiver Steve Johnson. He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and the Bills have an interesting decision to make. As usual, this will come down to value and money. How much is Johnson worth to Buffalo? Johnson is not quite a No. 1 receiver but will ask for No. 1 receiver money. The Bills also just paid quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick $59 million and have to pay starting tailback Fred Jackson in the offseason. Keep an eye on Johnson's contract talks in the coming months.
- Finally, I will give myself a pat on the back for going 4-0 in Week 13. It is my second straight undefeated week and brings my overall record to 8-2 picking AFC East games. I'm going to enjoy it a bit, because I don't know how long this hot streak will last. I hope you don't mind.
AP Photo/Julio CortezThe next time Antonio Cromartie, 31, and the Jets face Brandon Marshall and the Dolphins, there could be playoff implications.
November, 28, 2011
Here are some notes and observations for Week 12 in the AFC East:
- It’s time to play the waiting game with Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson. In Sunday's 28-24 loss to the New York Jets, Johnson celebrated a second-quarter touchdown by dancing and pretending to shoot himself in the leg. It was a tasteless mock of Jets receiver Plaxico Burress, who once shot himself in the leg and spent time in prison for the incident. Johnson seemed regretful about getting the excessive celebration penalty Sunday but not so much about mocking a fellow player in such a controversial manor. This should result in a fine for Johnson. But I don't think the NFL will suspend Johnson for any games.
- A lot of credit goes to New York’s offensive line. The second half was probably the best two quarters I’ve seen the Jets’ offensive line put together this season. Buffalo‘s defense isn‘t very good but played decent in the first half. But the Jets’ offense took over the rest of the game. New York averaged six yards per rush and also gave Sanchez plenty of protection. He wasn’t sacked by Buffalo the entire game.
- The wild card chase is heating up. The Jets (6-5) didn’t get much help as the Cincinnati Bengals (7-4), Denver Broncos (6-5) and Tennessee Titans (6-5) all won their games. It appears New York has to win at least four of its last five to get in. The Jets are down on several tiebreakers, including head to head and conference record.
- I like the way Buffalo (5-6) played Sunday, but where was this desperate and hungry team the past three weeks? The Bills team we saw this past weekend may have had a chance against the Miami Dolphins or perhaps the Jets at home two weeks ago. Instead, Buffalo was blown out and only showed up when down to its last strike. This proves the Bills are still a young team with a lot of maturing to do. Buffalo is not at the point where it can just show up and beat teams. The Bills lost focus and attention to detail during their four-game losing streak and it most likely cost them a chance to make a late playoff run.
- The New England Patriots might have cleared their biggest hurdle before the playoffs. I thought the Eagles in Philadelphia would be the toughest remaining opponent for New England. But the Patriots beat Philadelphia handily. With the Bills losing, New England essentially owns a three-game lead over the Jets because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The division crown is basically in the bag. The only question is can New England stay hot enough to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs?
- No team likes moral victories. But the Dolphins (3-8) should be proud of their effort after nearly pulling off the biggest upset of their season against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Dallas needed a last-second field goal at home to beat Miami. The Dolphins outplayed the hosting Cowboys for about three quarters. Miami won’t make the playoffs and could see some major changes in the organization after the season. But it doesn’t appear the Dolphins and embattled head coach Tony Sparano are ready to lay down without a fight. Miami will have several more opportunities to dash the hopes of other playoff hopefuls, starting next week against the Oakland Raiders (7-4).
- I was surprised by the overwhelming results from Dolphins fans and AFC East readers last week. Fifty-two percent says Matt Moore has done enough to be the starting quarterback of the Dolphins next season. Only 27 percent said Moore shouldn't be the starter and 20 percent were undecided. Moore is under contract next year and has shown some good things. But I think he still has work to do, especially if there is a new coach next year. But Moore most likely earned the right to compete for the job in training camp.
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIREBills wide receiver Steve Johnson's touchdown celebration will most likely garner a fine from the NFL.