Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jackson on Bills' GM: 'He's a man of his word'

By Nick St. Denis

Fred Jackson went down to a season-ending injury Week 11 in the midst a breakout campaign. In fact, the fifth-year Bills running back was on his way to as good of a 2011 season as any player in the entire NFL.

Earlier this week, Jackson was notified by the league that he would not be eligible for the Pro Bowl because he was on the Injured Reserve list. While that was disappointing, Jackson is probably more concerned with getting paid.

Redskins' Shanahan: 'Revis is in a class by himself'

By Nick St. Denis

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson challenged New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis Sunday.

Compared to what most teams do (or can't do) against Revis, the Bills' quarterback-receiver tandem was successful. Johnson caught eight passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

That's probably bad news for the Washington Redskins (4-7), who host the Jets (6-5) Sunday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Despite Pro Bowl year, Jackson not going to Hawaii

Posted by Nick St. Denis

Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson was the top Pro Bowl vote-getter for AFC running backs two weeks ago, but a broken fibula erased all that.

Jackson, whose season ended against the Miami Dolphins a week and a half ago, was informed by the league that players on Injured Reserve are not eligible for the Pro Bowl.

Wake's drop in sacks a result of drawing attention

Posted by Nick St. Denis

Cameron Wake exploded on to the pass-rushing scene last season with 14 sacks.

Through 11 games this year, Wake is at 6.5 quarterback takedowns. And while the season isn't over yet, the 29-year-old third-year NFL player isn't likely to match his 2010 total.

But it's not for a lack of trying. Wake has just drawn more attention now that offenses know who he is.

O'Brien: No. 3 WR rotation is 'beauty of what Pats do'

Posted by Nick St. Denis

With Chad Ochocinco sitting out last Sunday due to a hamstring injury, second-year wideout Taylor Price was expected to see some time as the New England Patriots' third wide receiver.

Instead, Price didn't see a snap, and Julian Edelman and recently-signed Tiquan Underwood instead shared the No. 3 role.

Streaky Sanchez getting it done in 4th quarter

Posted by Nick St. Denis

Rex Ryan likes to gush about his quarterback any chance he gets, and when it comes to the fourth quarter, Ryan has the right to do so.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez's play has been all over the place this season, but he's always been pretty good in the fourth quarter.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Smith to be a factor for Bills moving forward

Posted by Nick St. Denis

With all of the Buffalo Bills' injury issues at the wide receiver position, all-purpose player Brad Smith had a chance to make a splash Sunday.

Even better, it was against his former team.

Smith, who was a career New York Jet before signing with the Bills in the 2011 offseason, caught four passes for 77 yards, including a tip-and-catch touchdown in the third quarter to knot the score at 21-21.

Dolphins LB not buying 'spoiler role' just yet

Posted by Nick St. Denis

At 3-8, the Miami Dolphins' odds of making the playoffs are .1 percent.

Cue Lloyd Christmas: "So you're telling me there's a chance."

Yes, a Dumb and Dumber reference straight from 1994.

Anyway, "dumb" isn't a word the Dolphins care to hear regarding whether or not their games are meaningful.

Bills' Johnson says he needed superhuman instincts to catch critical drop vs. Jets

Posted by Nick St. Denis

When Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson in the hands, in stride as the Bills were trying to make a last-minute comeback Sunday in a loss to the Jets, the incompletion counted as a drop.

Johnson, however, wasn't "hurt" by the drop, because according to him, it wasn't his fault.

Patriots win in typical fashion over Eagles

Posted by Nick St. Denis

Sunday was just a typical day at the office for the New England Patriots.

The Patriots (8-3) gave up a bunch of yards through the air, quarterback Tom Brady gained a bunch himself and the running game was infrequent but plenty productive as the Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-20.

Johnson can fake shots, can't fake catches

Posted by Nick St. Denis

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson is good at pretending to shoot himself in the leg.

He's also good at dropping passes.

During a touchdown celebration in the Bills' 28-24 loss to the New York Jets Sunday, Johnson mocked Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who spent two years in prison after accidentally shooting himself in the leg in a club in 2008. Burress played for the New York Giants at the time.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rex to his Jets: 'Bills are in rear-view mirror'

Posted by Nick St. Denis

Think the New York Jets don't talk playoffs in the locker room?

Think again.

The Jets won a critical game Sunday, ousting the Buffalo Bills in improving to 6-5 while dropping Buffalo to 5-6. The victory kept New York's playoff hopes alive and all but eliminated the Bills from postseason contention.

Jets coach Rex Ryan gave the message when addressing the team after the game.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What to watch for: Jets vs. Bills, Round 2

At 5-5, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are both teetering on the edge of being knocked out of playoff contention, and both badly need to win this week to keep their chances alive.

Week 12 guide to Bills', Jets' rooting interests

First and foremost, the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills will be looking to oust each other from playoff contention when the 5-5 teams meet at MetLife Stadium Sunday.

But with two other AFC teams at .500 (Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans) and the two Wildcards spots at least a game above 5-5 (6-4 Cincinnati Bengals and 7-3 Pittsburgh Steelers), Jets and Bills fans should be eying the league scoreboard all afternoon Sunday.

Individual game plans key to Pats' D success

When a defense doesn't have an identity, it's usually a bad thing.

For the New England Patriots' defense, lacking identity is what helps them win games.

The Patriots are last in the league in totals yards and passing yards allowed, yet they're in the top-third in fewest points-against. While New England's defense has the luxury of playing opposite a really good offense, the unit has done its part in making timely turnovers and critical stops.

Jets' Tomlinson likely out Sunday vs. Bills

LaDainian Tomlinson wants to get back on the field as soon as possible, but it looks like that won't happen Sunday.

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said Tomlinson, who was held out of practice again Friday, is in between doubtful and questionable for the Jets' divisional bout with the Buffalo Bills.

Marshall steady through Dolphins' woes

The Miami Dolphins haven't been good this year, but Brandon Marshall has.

Marshall is ranked near the top of the league in receptions with 59, and he's been relatively consistent all season. The sixth-year wideout has amassed 850 yards and is picking up 14.4 yards a catch.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bills claim Choice, Jackson done for season

The Buffalo Bills claimed running back Tashard Choice off waivers Wednesday, a move coinciding with the announcement that Fred Jackson would miss at least one week to a fibula injury. Jackson was then placed on Injured Reserve Wednesday afternoon.

"Further tests on Fred’s leg have shown that he has a broken bone so that’s disappointing news for our team," Bills coach Chan Gailey said, according to the team's Twitter account.

Dolphins' 'D' has been there most of season

While the Miami Dolphins struggled to put points on the board early in the season, the defense quietly kept them in games.

Now that the Dolphins are scoring, they’re winning.

The Dolphins (3-7) are sixth in the league in points-against, giving up just 20 points combined in their last three games, which were all victories, while the offense put up a staggering 86 points despite being ranked 23rd in points per game at less than 20.

Bills RB Jackson ruled out vs. Jets Sunday

Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey ruled out running back Fred Jackson against the New York Jets Sunday.

Gailey made the announcement Wednesday during his press conference.

Jets' Brunell gets some 1st-team reps Tues.

Rex Ryan had New York Jets backup quarterback Mark Brunell take some of the first-team repetitions Tuesday durning practice.

Was it a motivational tactic to light a fire under quarterback Mark Sanchez? Sure.

Did it work?

"I don't know," a somewhat reserved Sanchez told reporters Tuesday. "We'll see Sunday."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pats' 20.3 points-against average overlooked

The New England Patriots give up the most yards per game in the NFL, yet they're 7-3.

Initial reaction has most people pointing at the Patriots' Tom Brady-led offense regarding their record, but the defense has played a bigger role than it gets credit for.

Games are won and lost based on how many points a team scores and how many points it gives up. In that regard, New England's defense has done its part.

Rex: 11-5 = playoffs, but Jets focused on Bills

After losing to the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos just four days apart, the New York Jets are clawing for their playoff lives.

The Jets (5-5) host the Buffalo Bills (5-5) Sunday in what is essentially Round 1 of their postseason.

Season likely over for Bills receiver Jones

Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey gave Donald Jones and "outside chance" of returning this season, calling the second-year wide receiver's ankle injury, which he sustained in the Bills' 35-8 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday, more long-term than short-term.

Pats' Gronkowski fastest tight end to 20 TDs

In case you didn't know, Rob Gronkowski is a pretty good football player.

The second year tight end caught two touchdown passes -- including one for 52 yards -- in the New England Patriots' 34-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs Monday night.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ryan fined $75K for shouting profanity at fan

Rex Ryan's middle finger cost him $50,000 in February 2010, and his mouth will cost him $75,000 this week.

Ryan was caught on video telling a fan to "Shut the f*** up" after the fan shouted "Hey Rex, Belichick is better than you!" as Ryan was leaving the field at halftime during the New York Jets' loss to the New England Patriots Sunday, Nov. 13.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dolphins' Fasano finding rapport with Moore

Miami Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano didn't get ton of passes thrown his way early in the season, and he isn't getting many lately, either.

But the difference now is that when the Dolphins do go to Fasano, he's making it count.

Fitz's play has plummeted since extension

During the Buffalo Bills' bye week, Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a six-year contract extension worth $59 million.

At the time, the Bills (5-5) had a 4-2 record, and Fitzpatrick had tossed 12 touchdowns to six interceptions. The 28-year-old (soon to be 29) was poised to become Buffalo's long-awaited franchise quarterback.

Since then, Fitzpatrick has thrown four touchdowns to eight interceptions. He recorded a 116.4 quarterback rating in Buffalo's post-bye victory over the Washington Redskins, but the team has lost three in a row since, and his rating has averaged below 50 in that stretch.

Gailey: I put Andy (Levitre) in a bad spot

Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Andy Levitre hasn’t played in his normal spot at left guard in quite some time this season because of Buffalo's injury-depleted offensive front.

He was forced to take over at center Sunday against the Dolphins, and he was clearly out of place in Buffalo’s 35-8 loss.

Bills' offensive woes continue vs. Dolphins

The Buffalo Bills' offense had five more total yards than the Miami Dolphins. That's about all it can say.

Buffalo (5-5) went 0-for-12 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down in the Bills' 35-8 loss to the Dolphins (3-7).

Moore very efficient in Dolphins' rout of Bills

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore threw three first-half touchdowns, and that was more than enough to help Miami earn its third straight victory and hand the Buffalo Bills their third straight loss.

Moore went 14-for-20 for Miami (3-7) in the 35-8 blowout win.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Guard Waters proves a huge pickup for Pats

The New England Patriots signed veteran guard Brian Waters a week before the 2011 regular season started to help shore up an offensive line in limbo.

With as good as the five-time Pro Bowler has been throughout his career, and as good as he's looks this season, even Patriots coach Bill Belichick was surprised Waters was for the taking that late in offseason/preseason.

Week 11 injury report for Chiefs at Patriots

With a Monday night matchup, the New England Patriots (6-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) have an extra day to heal. Kansas City, however, will definitely be without starting quarterback Matt Cassell, and the Patriots have their normal encyclopedia of injuries listed:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Week 11 injury report for Bills at Dolphins

The Buffalo Bills have their regularly-loaded injury report this week, while the Miami Dolphins are mostly healthy. Here's your Week 11 injury report for the Bills' (5-4) divisional matchup with the Dolphins (2-7):

Week 11 guide to Bills', Jets' rooting interests

With the New York Jets (5-5) and Buffalo Bills (5-4) trailing the New England Patriots (6-3) and likely fighting for a Wildcard playoff spot for the remainder of the season, here are the teams Jets and Bills fans should be rooting for in Week 11:

Sparano assesses Bills' Fitzpatrick, Jackson

Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled lately, but his entire body of work over the season has been pretty good.

Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, whose team will host the Bills Sunday, was asked Thursday what Fitzpatrick’s strengths are. And, well, Sparano didn’t use the word “smart” once.

Rex: Jets' playoffs begin next week vs. Bills

The New York Jets were in a pretty good spot Sunday morning at 5-3, coming off a three-game win streak and prepping for what may have been a season-defining matchup with the New England Patriots coming up that night.

The Jets went on to lose that divisional match and traveled to Denver Thursday night to face the Broncos, where they lost again.

Now, they could be in trouble.

Quantity over quality for Patriots' run game

The New England Patriots had the top rusher in five of their first six games, but they haven’t had much success running the ball since their Week 7 bye.

“Yeah at times it has been up and down this year,” Patriots guard Logan Mankins told New England reporters Thursday.

However, because the Patriots are obviously a pass-first offense, the quality of runs isn’t as important as quantity, because they’re going to pick up yards through the air regardless.

Taylor poised to move up all-time sack list

Jason Taylor is two quarterback-takedowns from tying John Randle and Richard Dent on the all-time sack list at 137.5. That would put him tied for sixth all-time and four behind Michael Strahan.

The Miami Dolphins' veteran linebacker is also approaching the 140-sack milestone.

'No-name' Bills battling through injuries

With the loss of center Eric Wood for the season, the Buffalo Bills' fraternity of experienced starters will move on without another member.

The three-year starter suffered a torn ACL in the loss to Dallas last week, forcing versatile lineman Andy Levitre to slide over and handle snapping responsibilities from here on out. The injury loss is nothing new for the banged-up Bills, who with the addition of Wood, have the fourth-most players on the injured reserve list in the league with 10. Only the Giants, Panthers and Jaguars have more.

Jets get Tebowed, put up pathetic showing

The New York Jets should have never let it come down to this, but they did.

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who hadn't done much of anything all game, marched his team down the field on a 95-yard drive -- mostly thanks to his legs -- and scored a rushing touchdown with under a minute to go to put Denver ahead for a final time Thursday night.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jets want to make quick turnaround worth it

The New York Jets lost a tough important divisional game Sunday night against the New England Patriots, but they don’t have any time to mope about it.

They had to regroup quickly with an extremely short week, as they’re in Denver tonight to take on the Broncos (4-5) in Thursday Night Football action.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A look at Patriots' latest call-up, OL Cannon

The New England Patriots activated rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon from the reserve/non-football injury list Tuesday, months after the college standout was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft (138th overall) out of Texas Christian University, the 6-foot-5, 358-pound Cannon illustrated outstanding potential in his 49 games with TCU, which included 36 starts. He missed only two games in college with an ankle injury in 2008.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bills' offense seeks fix before must-win game

Before the Buffalo Bills’ bye week, their offense was averaging just over 31 points a game. In that time, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 12 touchdowns to six interceptions.

Since then, Buffalo's points-per-game average has dropped to under 14, and Fitzpatrick has tossed six picks and four touchdowns in three outings.

Pats should roll through remaining schedule

Before the start of the 2011 season, the second half of the New England Patriots’ schedule looked pretty tough.

Following their Week 7 bye, the Patriots headed to Heinz Field for a battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers (which the Pats lost, 25-17), then had another tough matchup against the New York Giants a week later (which the Pats also lost, 24-20).

After that, New England had to travel to New Jersey to take on the New York Jets for the second time in five weeks. The Patriots then avoided their first three-game skid since 2002 with a message-sending 37-16 victory over Gang Green Sunday night.

Suddenly, now in the middle of a rollercoaster season, the latter half of the Patriots’ schedule doesn’t look nearly as intimidating as it did on paper before Week 1.

Dolphins' run defense their best-kept secret

The Miami Dolphins have given up only three rushing touchdowns this season, which would look really good had the San Francisco 49ers given up at least one all year.

Second-best is still not bad.

Jets D vs. Broncos offense a guessing game

The New York Jets like to move around on the defensive front (and in the secondary) before the snap in trying to shake up opposing quarterbacks’ pre-snap reads.

With raw second-year quarterback Tim Tebow calling signals for the Denver Broncos, Jets coach Rex Ryan will certainly be looking to dial up some confusion when the Jets travel to Denver Thursday night.

AFC East playoff picture with 7 weeks to go

With nearly an entire half of an NFL season to go, a lot will change between now and Week 17.

But as the AFC East is in the midst of a plethora of high-value divisional games, the playoff picture is already starting to shape up.

Fitz really good in wins, really bad in losses

The old adage that quarterbacks typically get too much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose is certainly overused.

But an argument can be made that Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick should take a lot of the credit when the Bills win -- and a lot of the blame when they lose.

Another injury forces Levitre to move, again

Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood tore a ligament in his right knee Sunday in a loss to the Cowboys and was placed on Injured Reserve.

With that, left guard Andy Levitre will again slide out of his position – this time to the right – to take over snapping duties. Levitre had been playing at left tackle the last three games, filling in for injured starter Demetrius Bell and backup Chris Hairston, though Hairston is expected to be ready to go this week.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Patriots still get it done with call-ups, movers

The New England Patriots have long been known as the team that fills roster with whoever will fit, especially in their years of playoff runs and Super Bowl championships.

Remember when Patriots veteran and captain Troy Brown hopped over on defense and lined up as a cornerback? The franchise receptions leader even hauled in three interceptions in 2004, becoming a versatile player on both sides of the ball for New England.

In Sunday night’s 37-16 victory over the New York Jets (5-4) at MetLife Stadium, Bill Belichick’s Patriots (6-3) looked much like those teams of the early 2000s: bringing up no-name defenders and giving them the chance to be game-changers, finding success based on the system, and, of course, using a wide receiver to fill a void in a depleted secondary.

That’s right. Julian Edelman, a second-year quarterback-turned-receiver out of Kent State, was used the same way as Brown, coming in during the fourth quarter to play cornerback. Edelman even tackled Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

"He's a smart kid. He's worked in there before," Belichick told the media Monday. "He would know enough to do be able to do whatever it is we have."

And Edelman wasn’t the only guy who manned up. He was just the only one switching from offense to defense. There was also Antwaun Molden, a fourth-year pro recently claimed off waivers from the Houston Texans; Phillip Adams, a second-year corner out of South Carolina State; and recently promoted defensive backs Sterling Moore and Ross Ventrone, who have both bounced back and forth between the practice squad and the 53-man roster.

The result was clear. Belichick’s tactic of “next man up” still works. Even in the most heated of rivalries against the most hated opponents.

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Bills struggling lately on third-down offense

The Buffalo Bills have struggled on third down as of late.

Buffalo went 2-for-7 on third down and didn’t convert on its only fourth-down attempt Sunday in a 44-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The Bills were 3-for-11 on third down and 1-for-3 on fourth down the week before in a loss to the New York Jets.

“We have to execute. We didn’t execute at all,” Bills coach Chan Gailey told the media Monday. “And you have to stay away from those third-and-14 and third-and-12s. You can’t expect to be very good when you keep them in that category. We missed way too many third-and-4s and third-and-5s this past week.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, were 8-for-12 on third down, thanks to their production on first and second downs, which put them in manageable situations.

“Any time you’re in third-and-long it makes it tougher to convert,” Bills running back Fred Jackson said. “We’ve got to stay out of those. That’s the number one thing we know to be on the field is you have convert on third down and we haven’t been able to do that the past couple of weeks.”

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Rex tells taunting fan to "Shut the **** up"

Via a video uploaded on YouTube, it appears a fan had a few choice words for Jets coach Rex Ryan following the first half of New York's 37-16 loss to the Patriots Sunday night.

Rex had a few choice words himself.

The fan yelled, "Hey Rex, Belichick is better than you!" to which Ryan replies: "Shut the f*** up."

As of Monday afternoon, Ryan hadn't spoken to anyone with the league regarding the incident.

"I obviously made a mistake," Ryan told the media Monday. "I was full of emotion and just popped off."

WARNING: Kiddies, video contains foul language.

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Dansby has monster game for Dolphins

Sunday, Karlos Dansby played like the linebacker the Miami Dolphins thought they were getting when they signed him to a big contract in the 2010 offseason.

Dansby recorded 10 tackles, a sack and an interception in Miami’s 20-9 victory over the Washington Redskins to follow up on his 11-tackle game last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Karlos was brought here to make plays like he made in this game,” Dolphins coach Tony Sparano told the media Monday.

Dansby came into the offseason well over his playing weight, something he attributed to the extended offseason. But he’s worked hard all season to get back into shape.

Sparano said Dansby has weighed “considerably less” over the last few weeks than his normal playing weight, which has allowed him to do more.

“He’s playing faster, he’s playing more explosive,” Sparano said.

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Gronk delivers as Patriots' big target vs. Jets

Rob Gronkowski is a beast.

The New England Patriots’ massive target at tight end was quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite one Sunday night against the New York Jets, as he grabbed eight receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns in New England's 37-16 victory in Foxborough.

“He's a great player and we depend on him,” Brady told the media after the game. “I think he came up very big tonight. We needed him to come out big tonight. It was a tough match up. He's big, but he has good speed. He's a very good runner and he's a good blocker. We have to keep finding ways to get him the ball.”

With the Jets’ defense keyed in on slot receiver Wes Welker and wideout Chad Ochocinco drawing some attention after a pair of early catches, Gronkowski exploited his matchups and kept attracting footballs.

“You never know who can be the main target that game,” Gronkowski said. “You never know what the coverage is going to be. You just have to be prepared for every game, every coverage and go out there ready.”

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Pats capitalize, Jets fail on big opportunity

The New England Patriots weren’t perfect Sunday night. But not to worry – the New York Jets had their back.

Jets kicker Nick Folk missed a chip shot on the opening drive, Joe McKnight fumbled and lost a punt return later on, and Mark Sanchez threw two interceptions – one for a score to seal it late – as the Patriots ousted New York, 37-16, to complete the regular-season sweep.

Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich was the unexpected standout of the game, making both of the interceptions, recovering the muffed punt and making five tackles.

New England improved to 6-3 and now has a hold on the division lead, while the Jets fell to 5-4.

“We got no chance,” Jets coach Rex Ryan told the media after the game when asked about where New York stands in the division race.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished the game 26-for-39 for three touchdowns and no picks, while Sanchez was 20-for-39 for 306 yards, one passing touchdown, the two picks and a rushing touchdown.

“You got No. 12 back there, and I don’t care who you got,” Ryan said of Brady’s effectiveness.

On Sanchez?: “I think it was inconsistent – like the play of the rest of the team.”

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Jets/Patriots Sunday Night Football inactives

Inactives for Week 10 Sunday Night Football divisional bout between the Jets (5-3) and Patriots (5-3):

New England Patriots
Patrick Chung, FS; Dane Fletcher, OLB; Ryan Mallett, QB; Taylor Price, WR; Brandon Spikes, OLB; Donald Thomas, OG; Shane Vereen, RB.

New York Jets
Kenrick Ellis, DE; Shawn Nelson, TE; Kevin O'Connell, QB; Brodney Pool, FS; Bilal Powell, RB; Eron Riley, WR; Martin Tevaseu, NT.

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Romo throws 3 TDs, Fitz 3 picks in Bills' loss

Tony Romo looked awfully good Sunday. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked awfully awful.

Though it wasn't all on Fitzpatrick. Romo was nearly perfect in the first half, going 18-for-19 for three touchdowns before the break, forcing the Bills to throw more than they're comfortable with.

Dallas went on to win, 44-7.

The Cowboys' signal-caller finished the game 23-for-26 for 270 yards and no interceptions.

Fitzpatrick, who threw a touchdown pass to David Nelson in the second quarter, was picked off three times in the second half -- twice in the last five minutes of the game. His second interception was a pick-6 by Terence Newman, who also made the first interception.

"It's hard to even think ahead right now just because of how embarrassing that loss was," Fitzpatrick told the media after the game.

Bills running back Fred Jackson gained 114 yards on only 13 carries but lost a fumble.

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Bush scores two rush TDs in Dolphins' win

Reggie Bush scored twice as many rushing touchdowns Sunday as he had in the eight games leading up to it.

Bush rushed for two scores, accounting for most of the Miami Dolphins' points in a 20-9 victory over the Washington Redskins. The win was Miami's second in as many games.

In his first multiple-rushing-touchdown game since 2007, Bush picked up 47 yards on 14 carries, thanks in part to his second touchdown, which went for 18 yards.

Bush was lined up in the left slot but motioned to the snap and took a handoff from quarterback Matt Moore, following fellow back Daniel Thomas, who was the lead blocker, around the right side. The Dolphins have had success on the play throughout the season.

"We're getting the right blocks on that play and making it happen, and I'm trusting the reads I see," Bush said during his postgame presser. "... It's just blocked like a sweep."

It was a hard-earned run following a 1-yard rushing score where he walked in untouched.

The Dolphins improved to 2-7 while Washington fell to 3-6. It was the Redskins' fifth loss in a row.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Quick look: Jets' offense vs. Patriots' defense

The New York Jets haven’t been incredibly overwhelming on offense this season. But the New England Patriots have been incredibly underwhelming on defense.

New England (5-3) boasts the NFL’s worst defense, giving up 437.2 yards a game. Its run defense has been middle-of-the-pack, but the Patriots have given up 325.6 yards a game through the air, which is deplorable.

Still, the Jets (5-3) have gotten back to more of a run-first mentality the last few games and should stick to it, as they’ve won three straight. While the Patriots will give quarterback Mark Sanchez plenty of opportunities through the air, a consistent dosage of running back Shonn Greene will move New York down the field and keep the Patriots’ second-ranked offense off of it.

Sanchez threw two touchdowns to no picks in New York’s 30-21 loss to New England earlier in the year, and he had a three-touchdown, no-interception ratio when the Jets beat the Patriots in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs last season.

Greene has improved as the season has gone on, and his rise in play began in Foxborough, as he rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown. Greene picked up 76 yards and a score last year in New York’s playoff victory over New England.

While the Patriots have had a tough time getting Sanchez off his game as of late, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington is tied for the NFL's interception lead with five picks. New England would like him -- or anyone on the defense -- to get something done against New York.

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Dolphins look forward to getting Davis back

Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis is expected to return Sunday after sitting out last week due to a team-imposed suspension. Davis had already missed three other games this season with a nagging hamstring injury.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported Davis was disciplined for showing up late to practice smelling of alcohol last Saturday. Davis also reportedly got into a confrontation with receiver Brandon Marshall earlier in the week. Whatever the case was, Davis did not make the trip to Kansas City last week.

Still, the Dolphins (1-7), who are coming off their first victory of the season, look forward to getting back their third-year, first-round corner when they host the Washington Redskins.

“His character and the way he goes about it definitely energizes the defense in the secondary,” Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith told the media Friday. “So I definitely look forward to having him out there.”

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Revis vs. Welker always a matchup to watch

The All-World cornerback vs. All-World slot receiver matchup is always an interesting one when the New York Jets and New England Patriots square off. They'll be at it Sunday night when the Jets (5-3) host the Patriots (5-3).

While cornerback Darrelle Revis usually guards the perimeter manned-up against the opposing team’s main deep threat, he plays the nickel position against the Patriots because receiver Wes Welker is just so damn good from the inside.

The players have had very equal punch-for-punch battles the last few games. And while Welker did pick up a 73-yard reception in the teams’ last meeting, Revis kept him in check for most of the game. Though Revis takes responsibility, the big catch was supposed to be supported by safety Eric Smith, but he bit on play-action and left Revis to leave his zone and chase down Welker.

Welker leads the league in receiving yards (960) and receptions (66). He’s picking up 120 yards a game and has 17 receptions of 20 or more yards, which is more than any NFL player not named Steve Smith (Panthers).

Revis has defensed 16 passes and has four interceptions, which are bigger numbers than his this time last year, mainly due to the fact that opposing quarterbacks are targeting him more. The Jets hope they keep it up.

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Quick look: Patriots' offense vs. Jets' defense

Behind reigning NFL MVP Tom Brady, the New England Patriots (5-3) have the top-ranked passing offense, averaging 326 yards per game. But against the New York Jets (5-3) and stud cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Pats will have their work cut out for them on Sunday Night Football.

The Jets rank sixth in pass defense, giving up only 196 yards per game. They also have eight takeaways in the last three games, and Brady is third in the league in thrown interceptions with 10.

So can the New England rushing game get it done if the passing game isn’t progressing? The Jets’ defense is ranked 21st, significantly lower than what was expected from it when the season began. That includes a Week 5 performance when the Jets traveled to New England and loss, 30-21, and Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis carved up New York for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

But Green-Ellis has been pretty quiet as of late, going scoreless over the last three games. The Pats also have veteran running back Kevin Faulk back, who missed this season’s first meeting, as well as rookies Stevan Ridley and Shane Vareen and former Jet Danny Woodhead.

With that, New England needs to balance its offensive attack against a hungry Jets D that hasn’t lost to New England at home since Rex Ryan took over as coach.

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Bills a-Ware of Cowboys' leading pass rusher

It’s hard to go unnoticed when you're Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, and the Buffalo Bills' eyes are wide open.

“He can rush the passer with the best of them,” Bills’ coach Chan Gailey told the media Wednesday. “We’ve got a challenge on our hands in pass protection.”

Ware is only half a sack behind Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who has 12.5, while also forcing two fumbles so far.

“Ware obviously is somebody you’ve got to have your eye on,” Fitzpatrick said Wednesday. “Every play you’ve got to know where he is. That being said, they’ve got some other guys on the front four that can really get after the passer. They do some really good things up front. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”

Ware has been carrying the load for Dallas sack-wise, with linebacker counterpart Anthony Spencer second on the team with four. Buffalo’s offensive line still leads the league in fewest sacks allowed with only nine, and it's been getting a lot of help from Fred Jackson.

Jackson plans to contribute greatly Sunday.

"Without a doubt he’s a playmaker so we have to slow him down somehow," Jackson said. "It’ll be a tough challenge for those guys and I’m sure they’re looking forward to it. But I’ll definitely be there to help when I can.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Patriot DB gets another shot on active roster

It’s no secret that the New England Patriots are having some serious problems in their defensive secondary.

They’re ranked dead last in pass defense, and there really isn’t an answer anywhere in sight. Well, at least not yet.

But after promoting defensive back Sterling Moore to the 53-man roster from the practice squad, New England is certainly hoping he will become part of the solution.

Moore, who was added to the 53-man roster for the second time this season (he played in the win vs. Dallas in Week 6), was originally signed by the Oakland Raiders as a rookie free agent but was released after training camp there and added to New England’s practice squad on Oct. 5.

The 21-year-old Moore, who played ball at Southern Methodist University in Texas, played mostly cornerback there, but has also played in dime and nickel packages and used a variety of different ways since, and he said he’d be comfortable with whatever his role is in the secondary with the Pats.

“I’m not quite sure what my role is going to be yet, but I’m just trying to play my best in any role,” Moore told the Boston Herald after being promoted. “I just (have) a knack for getting to the ball. I think that’s something I really pride myself on, making plays on the ball, so that’s something I’m going to try to bring.”

The addition of Moore comes after the Patriots announced safety Josh Barnett, who played in five game with New England this season, was going on the injured-reserve list with a calf injury. And, with a banged-up secondary that includes safety Patrick Chung (foot) and cornerback Kyle Arrington (foot) — as well as the recently released veteran Leigh Bodden (and we can’t forget the release of two-time Pro Bowler Brandon Meriweather just before the regular season started) — the Patriots need to figure out how to improve their secondary. And fast.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bills' Chandler to face former team Sunday

Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler was mostly a practice-squad wanderer for three years.

Now, he wanders in the red zone.

Chandler, who is tied with seven other players for second in the league in touchdown receptions (6), will face his former team Sunday when the Bills travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys.

Chandler was drafted in the fourth round in 2007 by the San Diego Chargers, but Dallas picked him up when he was waived two years later.

After being waived by the Cowboys, the 26-year-old out of Iowa spent time with the New York Giants in the 2010 offseason before being reacquired in September of 2010 by the Cowboys when the Giants waived him.

“We thought that was a good get for us,” Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told the Dallas media Thursday. “… You’re trying to develop a guy like that, have him around. He was on our active roster at different times.”

Garrett said the Cowboys monitored Chandler in college and through the draft.

“It does not surprise me,” Garrett said of Chandler’s success this season. “He’s been productive. He was a productive player in college and when he had his opportunities here, he was productive as well.”

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Taylor: 2010 Jets 'had more swagger than anybody in history'

During his meeting with reporters Thursday, Jason Taylor was asked if he was worried his Miami Dolphins team was overconfident after a 31-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Taylor laughed. And with good reason. The Dolphins are still 1-7, and no lopsided win can correct a season that started with a losing streak that went over half a dozen games.

Still, Taylor, who was a New York Jet last season, emphasized the importance of players having confidence in themselves.

“I played on a team last year that had more swagger than anybody in history,” Taylor said of the 2010 Jets, who reached their second AFC Championship game in as many years. “And while we lost some games, we were still very confident. So, I’d rather you be overconfident than lack confidence.”

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Cro slated to field kicks if McKnight can't go

In the event that running back Joe McKnight doesn't dress Sunday night when the New York Jets host the New England Patriots, cornerback Antonio Cromartie will get the nod returning kicks – assuming he, too, is healthy.

McKnight was held out of practice Thursday after suffering a toe injury. Cromartie, however, is also on the injury report with a finger injury he acquired in practice.

During his Thursday presser, Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters rookie running back Bilal Powell will return kicks if neither player can go.

McKnight leads the NFL in kick returning, averaging 40.2 yards a takeback. Cromartie has averaged 23.6 yards a return on seven tries.

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Patriots waive Haynesworth, Bucs claim him

Among the abundance of stories flying across the headlines, the big news for the suddenly sliding New England Patriots (5-3) — other than facing a division rival this weekend while in the midst of a rare two-game losing streak — is the abrupt release of offseason acquisition Albert Haynesworth.

Haynesworth, who has been the focus of much scrutiny since signing a seven-year, $100 million contract, was acquired this past summer in a trade with the Washington Redskins after two seasons of constant clashes with ’Skins coach Mike Shanahan. Many thought New England was the place that could help Haynesworth once again reach his potential. Even Haynesworth thought so.

“If it doesn’t work out here, I’m not going to play anywhere else,” Haynesworth said after being traded to the Pats for a fifth-round pick.

Not only was that a lie, because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed Haynesworth off waivers Wednesday, but the decision to release him came from his actions both on and off the field.

Through eight games, Haynesworth hardly did anything worth gloating about. No sacks. Less than a handful of tackles. And his final play with the Patriots? A 10-yard touchdown run by New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs in a game that New England went on to lose. The last straw was Haynesworth’s confrontation with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson after that loss. Exit Haynesworth.

“I’ll just say on the Albert situation, I thought that both he and myself, speaking for the staff, we really tried to make it work,” Patriots coach and defensive coordinator Bill Belichick told the media Wednesday. “He had a few physical limitations to overcome when he got here but I thought he really tried to do what we asked him to do. We tried to work with him and in the end it just obviously didn’t work out. The best thing we can do is just move on.”

Before “moving on,” though, Belichick did say that Haynesworth’s problem was not physical limitations.

The Patriots can obviously get by without Haynesworth. With longtime Patriot Vince Wilfork leading the defensive front and the emergence of undrafted second-year D-lineman Kyle Love, New England will do just that.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bills go journeyman route for Lindell's temp

Experience is everything. So after Rian Lindell went down with a shoulder injury making a tackle against the Jets Sunday, the Bills looked to a journeyman to fill their need at kicker. Enter Dave Rayner.

Rayner, a Michigan State grad who has played in the league since 2005, was added to the roster Monday after the team looked at several candidates. Head coach Chan Gailey said that although other potentials looked good, experience won out.

“He had experience,” Gailey told the media Wednesday. “Having experience was one of the biggest factors. All the guys we tried out kicked very well.”

This will be the eighth team Rayner has joined in his career, most recently leaving the Raiders after a brief stint while Sebastian Janikowski was sidelined. The 29-year-old has spent time with in Indianapolis, Green Bay, Kansas City, Detroit and Cincinnati, where he was teammates with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“He’s been around,” Fitzpatrick told the media Wednesday. “He’s a good guy, easy going, fits into what we have going on here in the locker room. He’s a pro. He gets paid to make kicks and that’s what we expect him to do.”

The constant change is something Rayner accepts, and though he acknowledged Wednesday that Buffalo isn’t the easiest place to kick, ultimately it’s about going out there, getting the job done and winning games.

“That’s the life of a kicker, wherever you can get a job,” he told reporters. “There’s only 32 jobs and it’s inevitable that every year someone is going to have an injury so you have to be ready and I’m happy to be here. (Buffalo’s) a tough place to kick. We’re on the road for the next three weeks so that takes the home kicking out of the mix. I’m just going to do what I need to do and make kicks and kick off well.”

Revis a nickel back when facing Patriots

Darrelle Revis is locked on opposing teams’ No. 1 wideouts week in and week out, which has him playing on the perimeter for most of the game.

But when the New York Jets face the New England Patriots twice a year, Revis has to move into the slot, as the Patriots’ best receiver – Wes Welker – lines up on the inside.

Most corners in the NFL have their designated side of the field, or at least stick to a certain style of play. With the Jets, everyone does everything.

“For us, I can't speak for every team, but for us we feel that we have a lot of depth back there in the secondary and guys can play multiple positions,” Revis told the New England media Wednesday via conference call. “In our defense, guys move around a lot. I know the slot position as well as playing corner.

"Kyle Wilson knows the same thing - he has to know the outside corner spot as well as he knows him playing nickel back. We just have versatile guys that we can move in and out of places and do different jobs."

Revis said his approach doesn’t change when moving from the outside to the inside, and he'll certainly stick to his in-your-face game when the Jets host the Patriots Sunday night.

“I try to be as aggressive as I do out when I'm playing corner. To me it really doesn't change,” Revis said. “I think the only thing with that position playing in the slot is a lot of things in there are moving a little bit faster than when you're playing outside cornerback. It's a lot of things moving.

"You have to focus in on the linemen sometimes and what they're doing and how close you are and how close the slot receiver is to the core. A lot of things when you're inside as the nickel back, it moves a little bit faster than you are playing outside corner.”

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Run offense, run defense a decider for Bills

The 2011 Buffalo Bills are proof that rushing -- both on offense and defense -- is still the name of the game.

Buffalo is 4-1 this year when Fred Jackson rushes for at least 100 yards. So while quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been pretty good most of the season, the Bills still heavily rely on Jackson as the clear-cut offensive workhorse.

And on defense, the Bills are 0-2 when their opponent has a 100-yard rusher.

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Despite bad D, Patriots not giving up big runs

Only the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers have given up fewer rushes of 20 yards or more than the New England Patriots.

While the Patriots' pass defense is bad and New England is middle-of-the-back in yards-per-rush on defense, the Patriots have done a pretty good job at keeping running backs from getting to the second level, giving up only three rushes of 20 or more yards this season.

“New England does a nice job playing the run,” Jets coach Rex Ryan told the media Wednesday.

325-pound defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is the anchor of New England’s defensive line, which will face a Jets team that has reclaimed its running game the last few weeks.

“He is big,” Ryan said. “He’s a great player, and quite a talent. It starts with that big guy right there.”

Wilfork has 23 tackles so far this season in addition to a forced fumble, 1.5 sacks and two – yes, two – interceptions.

New England held the Jets to 3.9 yards a carry when the teams met earlier in the season.

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Dolphins' penalty discipline finally pays off

The Miami Dolphins have been one of the more disciplined groups in the league this season, but they had nothing to show for it until Sunday.

The Dolphins (1-7) handled the overwhelming noise and fan atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium with poise, beating the Kansas City Chiefs handily, 31-3.

“I was really proud of my team in that atmosphere,” Sparano told the media Monday. “No false start penalties, none of those things. Now we had a few penalties (Sunday), but the penalties we had (Sunday) were of the aggressive nature.”

Miami took seven penalties for 49 yards, while the Chiefs amassed 70 penalty yards on eight flags.

“In that kind of game against a physical team you’re going to have some of those penalties but none of those pre-snap things,” Sparano said. “In fact we drew the pre-snap things (Sunday), which our guys were yelling for the hard count. They wanted to be in that situation where we’re giving them hard count and we gave them two hard counts and we forced a penalty.”

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jets preparing for incredibly short week

The New York Jets have quite the two-game series coming up.

The Jets (5-3) host the New England Patriots (5-3) Sunday night in the biggest AFC East bout to date this season. New York then has to travel to Denver in the middle of the week to take on the Broncos next Thursday night.

Despite the incredibly short week between the night game and hitting the road three days later, New York is not looking ahead. The Jets have a chance to take the outright lead in the division and hand the Patriots their third straight loss of the season.

“Our preparation for New England is not going to be effected by anything as far as a short week with Denver, no ever, that will be on top,” Jets coach Rex Ryan told the media Monday. “New England is getting 100 percent of our attention right now.”

The Jets will still be doing some behind-the-scenes advance work for Denver, though.

“We’ll definitely do it,” Ryan said. “During the week it will be really put on the coaches, the assistant coaches, the position coaches to make sure they have all the paperwork done, the advance will be done and you just go from there. “

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Bills face tough three-game road stretch

The Buffalo Bills lost their first home game of the season Sunday when the New York Jets paid a visit.

Now, Buffalo (5-3) has to go on the road for three straight games.

“You deal with it,” coach Chan Gailey said Monday. “What are you going to do? Sit around, gripe, moan and complain? You can’t do that. It doesn’t do any good, it’s still going to be there. You take them as they come and don’t worry about it.”

This will be the first time Buffalo has had to go on the road for three straight in 10 years, and none of its games are rollovers. This Sunday, the Bills will play the Dallas Cowboys, who they haven't seen since 2007 and are coming off a win in Seattle. Then they head back east for back-to-back division games against the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. Miami finally picked up its first win last week in authoritative fashion, putting up 31 points while holding Kansas City to just a field goal, and going into New York to seek revenge after two weeks on the road will be no easy task.

“It will be a difficult stretch, but we don’t have to play all three of them at the same time,” running back Fred Jackson said Monday. “We have to play one game at a time, go out and take care of our business and focus on the team that we have.”

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick echoed Jackson's comments, emphasizing the need to fix what they feel is wrong and not think of all the road games as one unit.

“One game as a time for sure. Each game, the next three, they all present a different challenge,” he said. “We’ve got some stuff we need to clean up and need to get better at. We made a lot of mistakes, stuff that we usually don’t do. There’s some stuff we need to clean up on our end and then we’ll get it going.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

Giants' win over Pats complicates AFC East

The New York Giants just love snapping New England Patriots winning streaks.

New York held Tom Brady and New England's potent offense to just two touchdowns and two field goals Sunday, fought off a late fourth-quarter comeback and scored in last-minute fashion to once again disappoint the Pats and snap their 20-game regular season home unbeaten streak while ending NFL-record 31-game regular-season home-unbeaten streak for Brady.

The victory puts the Giants comfortably atop the NFC East with a two-game lead over the Cowboys. New England's loss puts it in a three-way tie for first in their division, with the pressure to get a win even larger as it prepares for the Jets in Week 10.

“We obviously played a very poor first half, but we battled back, we battled through some tough adversity there and put ourselves in a position,” Brady said after the game. “They made some great plays.”

Both defenses came out strong, as only two combined possessions in the first half did not end in a punt, the other two being a Brady interception in Giants' territory early in the second and a missed 27-yard field goal at the end of the half by Pats' Stephen Gostkowski.

“(Sunday), I think we were consistent against a great offense,” Giants' defensive end Justin Tuck told the media after the game. “Considering what we were able to do today, obviously we’re not going to be able to stop them, but to slow them down, and make him think twice about doing some things.”

The G-men came out in the second half and forced two consecutive turnovers, converted both into scores and took a 10-0 lead. The Pats answered quickly, however, notching a field goal on their next drive and picking off Giants' quarterback Eli Manning in the endzone on their next possession, which they converted into an 80-yard touchdown drive to tie the game.

After taking the lead on an early fourth-quarter field goal, Brady and Manning battled back and forth, exchanging touchdowns on three consecutive drives in the fourth, the last a Manning-to-Jake Ballard connection with 15 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

“I think anytime you come into this stadium against the Patriots and get a win, it’s a big win,” Manning said after the game. “They are very good at home and they’re always a good team, especially at home.”

Dolphins snap winless skid in Kansas City

There aren’t many NFL fans who don’t know about the “Suck for Luck” campaign.

You know, the team with the worst record gets the top draft pick and, consequently, highly-touted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

But, until last week, there was someone who claimed ignorance to it -- Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who could certainly use Luck right about now.

“Suck for Luck?” Nolan said to the Palm Beach Post when asked about it. “I haven't heard that. I really haven’t.”


Well, it probably doesn’t matter now, because the Dolphins are off the snide after defeating the Chiefs, 31-3, Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

“The guys played good and the coaches coached good,” Dolphins coach Tony Sparano told the media after the win. “Those guys kept believing in the locker room. They were pretty daring today, to come into a place like this and win a football game — that’s a really good team out there — credit to the people in the locker room and to those coaches.”

As the score implies, it was a solid, statement-sending win for the Dolphins (1-7). And a lot of the credit goes to the play of quarterback Matt Moore. He was the first Miami signal-caller to throw for three touchdowns since Chad Pennington back in 2008, as he threw for 244 yards en route to a dominating Dolphins W.

Running back Reggie Bush, tight end Anthony Fasano and wide receiver Brandon Marshall also had big games, showing the production a lot of people expected from the Dolphins since the season started but haven’t seen until Sunday.

“I’m just happy for the guys in the locker room, I really am,” Sparano said. “All I’ve wanted to do for seven weeks is to see these guys smile. I’m happy for them, happy for people in the organization and happy for the coaches.”

So, are the Dolphins out of the Suck for Luck campaign? Hardly. But they’re looking a lot better than the dismal Indianapolis Colts who look like a pop warner team without quarterback Peyton Manning.

And expect Miami to keep playing the way Nolan was thinking until his interview with the Palm Beach Post. No one in that locker room in thinking about Luck, and they shouldn’t be.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jets' defense too much for Bills in Buffalo

The Buffalo Bills’ offense thought it had a good matchup against the New York Jets’ defense Sunday.

It didn’t.

Despite constant shoot-itself-in-the-foot mistakes by the New York offense early on, the Jets’ defense stayed strong throughout, holding Buffalo’s offense (Rian Lindell kick not included) scoreless until a meaningless late fourth-quarter touchdown and two-point conversion.

The Jets won, 27-11.

New York (5-3) held Buffalo (5-3) to a 3-for-11 third-down conversion rate, giving the offense plenty of time to make good on some first-half blunders. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez threw an interception from the Bills’ 7-yard line in the first quarter. Kicker Nick Folk missed a field goal in the second quarter and Sanchez lost the ball on a fumbled snap just before the half, yet the Jets led, 3-0, at the break.

The Jets’ offense got things going in the second half, scoring 17 points in the third quarter thanks to a LaDainian Tomlinson run and a touchdown strike from Sanchez to Santonio Holmes, and fullback John Conner added the dagger with a touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Linebackers David Harris and Calvin Pace each intercepted Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick once, and Jarius Byrd got the Sanchez pick.

Bills running back Fred Jackson did gain 82 yards on the ground and 38 through the air, though the Jets would have certainly signed up for that before the game given his success out of the backfield this season.

Sanchez finished the game 20-for-28 for 230 yards with a score and a pick, and Fitzpatrick was 15-for-31 for 191 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

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What to watch for: Jets offense/Bills defense

Three things to watch for when the Jets' offense takes the field against the Bills' defense:

Sanchez vs. Bills' secondary

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has taken care of the football the last three games, throwing six touchdowns to just one interception in that span, though he'll face a true test Sunday in the interception-happy Bills.

Buffalo leads the NFL in interceptions with 14. Sanchez reiterated earlier in the week about how important ball security will be in this game, because the Bills are very good at getting after tipped balls and being in position to make a play on defense any time the ball is in the air.

With New York's passing offense, it's a different guy (if any guy) each week. Plaxico Burress, for instance, caught three touchdowns in the team's last game. Before that he had two total.

Bills' newfound pass rush

Buffalo had four sacks in six games entering last week. Now it has 14. The Bills' defense recorded 10 quarterback takedowns last weekend against the Washington Redskins.

Was it a flukey thing, or have the Bills actually found it? Buffalo defenders had talked throughout the year about how they thought they were right there on pressures but were just a split second too late. We'll find out if they're for real when they go up against a Jets' offensive line that been stout as of late despite an awful start to the season.

Jets like to run vs. Bills

New York (4-3) has averaged 279 yards rushing per game against Buffalo (5-2) in the teams' last four meetings. With Buffalo's knack for turnovers through the air, the Jets will most likely trying their hand early against a Bills' run defense that has given up 120 yards a game this season.

After a slow start to the season, Jets running back Shonn Greene has picked up steam over the last three games and is coming off his best of the season, a 112-yard showing against the San Diego Chargers two weeks ago.

What to watch for: Bills offense/Jets defense

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

What to watch for: Bills offense/Jets defense

Three things to watch for Sunday when the Bills' offense takes the field against the Jets' defense:

Johnson vs. Revis

Earlier this week, Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson said Buffalo will have the advantage over the Jets' entire defense Sunday. Johnson said the Jets' front-seven makes things easy for New York's secondary because the secondary doesn't have to cover for very long.

That's not entirely true, however, as cornerback Darrelle Revis's superb lockdown skills and opposite corner Antonio Cromartie's solid play in fact give the front guys more time to get to the quarterback. Also, Revis and Cromartie combine for seven of the team's 11 interceptions.

Regardless, Johnson will get his fair dose of Revis, so we'll see how Johnson fares. If Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is as "smart" as advertised, he'll probably avoid Revis for the most part.

Maybin's return to Buffalo

The Bills (5-2) took Aaron Maybin in the first round of the 2009 draft only to see him underachieve so much that he was waived after two seasons.

The Jets (4-3), however, gave the defensive end a shot this year, and the price was right. New York picked him up (for the second time) on waivers at the end of September, and he has produced. Maybin has three strip sacks in the last three games.

He'll certainly be after a fourth straight against the team that let him go after making him their top priority in April two years before. Jets coach Rex Ryan is playing right into it, making him a captain for the game.

Jackson the X-factor

Ryan said Bills running back Fred Jackson would have to be the team's MVP if it could name one through seven games, and he's absolutely right.

Jackson makes the Bills' offense go -- whether it's making huge gains on the ground, sneaking between coverages for first-down receptions or hanging in the pocket to pick up blocks.

New York will certainly make Jackson a focal point, as its rush defense hasn't been up to par this season. Great, not just good, tackling will be a must for the Jets, as Jackson will be getting matchups with safeties and linebackers all game long.

What to watch for: Jets offense/Bills defense

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Bills seek consistent pass rush vs. Jets

The Bills' pass rush was in dire need of a statement game last week, and it got what it was looking for, amassing 10 sacks in a shutout victory over the Redskins.

Sunday's matchup against the Jets is primed to be a division-shaker, as the Bills look to solidify their place atop the conference and New York tries desperately to crawl back into the playoff position it was in a year ago. Buffalo's pressure on quarterbacks has been a key issue all season, and now that its presence has been made, coach Chan Gailey told reporters this week he hopes he can see a bit more conformity out of his squad.

“I expect us to be more consistent in our pass rush,” he said. “I don’t expect us to go from four in the season to 10 in one game and I don’t expect us to go back to zero. But the bottom line is to get pressure on the guy and you either need to get sacks or turnovers or sacks or out on third down.”

First-round pick Marcell Dareus “took (the lack of pass rush) personally,” and as the team's sack leader, was excited about the performance Buffalo put up last week.

“It was Giff (Smith) our D-line coach, he really put a lot of emphasis on 'keep your motor running,' staying low, getting after the ball, don’t look in the backfield, work your man and make your move,” Dareus said this week. “It always kind of went from there.”

The boost from the line gives Buffalo a one-two punch on defense if it can show up week-to-week, as the team already leads the league in interceptions and takeaways. And don't think the Jets haven't noticed.

“It will be a challenge for us,” left guard Matt Slauson told reporters this week. “They’re a much-improved team, and they’ve got a lot of big guys on that line now. It’s a matter of executing and really sustaining our blocks. In the past, we’ve had a great game plan going in. We’ve been really committed to the run, and our execution has been great.”

You don't have to remind the Bills of the Jets' success in the rushing attack. Both coaches and players commented on the impact New York has had on the ground in previous meetings, particularly their last first-of-two meetings when Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson combined for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout win.

“We certainly remember how they dominated us at the line of scrimmage a year ago,” safety George Wilson said earlier this week. “They had their way with us in the running game and over the past few weeks they’ve gotten back to that brand of football. So we know they’re going to come in and challenge us in every aspect of the game and we have to do a great job as we did last week limiting their running game to make them as one dimensional as we possibly can.”

With Greene averaging nearly 90 yards per game his last three games, it will be interesting to see which squad can be the difference maker, especially with Pro-Bowl center Nick Mangold expected to start in Buffalo.

“You’re getting the butterflies before these games,” Bills center Eric Wood said Wednesday. “When you come out the crowd is going nuts and it’s a good feeling. At this point it’s our biggest game by far. People are expecting us to win now, expecting us to do well and you have to keep that chip on your shoulder.”

Against Bills, Jets look to end post-bye trend

Coming off a bye week hasn't been the most pleasant experience for NFL teams so far this year. Coming off a bye week for the Jets hasn't been pleasant for quite some time now.

At 4-3 and currently third in the division, New York is looking to reverse its trend of the last few years at the hands of the first-place Bills, who, with a win, could put a definitive stamp on the AFC.

“This is a big game,” Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told the media this week. “I think to say it’s any bigger than any other one it is bigger in the sense that it is a division game. I think the Patriots game in the beginning of the year being a division game was probably as big. But if you want to be playoff team you’ve got to win games in your division.”

Post-bye week games have been problematic this year, as the league has a combined record of 8-10 after a week off. The Jets in particular have struggled in that department, having lost the last two years after the bye week and posting a 5-5 record in the last 10. Jets coach Rex Ryan admitted the team seemed off a bit after last year's bye and emphasized the importance of a win this week.

“Sluggish, offensively, because I think if you look at it defensively, we held Green Bay really to three points (last year),” Ryan told the media this week. “I don’t think the whole team has been sluggish, we just never got in a rhythm, we played some good teams, but yes, we have to do something about that trend. We need to win this week.”

The Jets have been successful against the Bills in recent years, winning the last three meetings and five of six, including a blow-out win at home in early January while fielding nearly an entire lineup of backups. Fitzpatrick told the media he thinks the bye is a positive for Gang Green, but ultimately home-field advantage wins out.

“I think they’ve got a little bit of an advantage to spend some time, just like we did coming off our bye,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think we had a little bit of an advantage just because we were spending more time game planning and preparing and really figuring out what we needed to do offensively and defensively to get better. That being said, we’re playing at home. I think that’s a big advantage for us.”

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chiefs will be in run-first mode vs. Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins may not have a record that garners respect, but opponents still proceed with caution against a Miami defense that was expected to be one of the better units in the league entering the season.

The Dolphins travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs Sunday.

This is a big physical group,” Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell told the Kansas City media Wednesday of the Dolphins’ defense. “They play a 3-4 defense and they’re strong in the middle, and it’s going to be another physical game for us.”

The Chiefs have attempted just over 30 rushes a game, so Kansas City will look to establish the run early against Miami’s decent rush defense, which is giving up 3.9 yards a carry.

Miami’s pass defense is not very good at all, but neither is Kansas City’s passing offense.

“They’re going to challenge us on the outside at times doubling our receivers and we’ve got to be able to run the ball efficiently – it always starts with the run game and then we’ll take our shots down the field,” Cassell said.

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Traps, pressure resulting in more Jets picks

Through seven games, the New York Jets have 11 interceptions on defense – one pick fewer than its 2010 total.

Jets coach Rex Ryan said New York has disguised more coverages this season, sprinkling in loaded zones despite showing man coverage at the snap.

“We're mixing in a few more traps and things like that which have helped, and they've thrown a couple balls in there,” Ryan told the media Thursday. “But sometimes those things happen.”

New York prefers man coverage, which puts pressure on cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to lock down their sides so the Jets can do different things in the middle of the field.

Typically, that results in more picks for the safeties and linebackers, yet Revis and Cromartie account for seven of the team's interceptions.

“We play so much man with [Darrelle] Revis that everybody knows," Ryan said. "It's hard to get an interception when you're just playing true man, even though Revis can.

“But every now and then you give him what we call the down off once in a blue moon where you actually let him play like every other corner in the league, and he gets interceptions, it seems like.”

Another key to the Jets’ turnovers through the air has been its improvement on getting to the quarterback.

“I think with a better pass rush comes more interceptions and more sacks comes with better coverage,” Ryan said. “So I think it's a combination of those things. But we certainly have the ability. We have guys that can make plays on the football, and we're doing that so far this year.”

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Patriots expect Faulk to get better from here

Last Sunday, when the New England Patriots traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers (and lost, 25-17), there was an old face making his long-awaited return to the field in Kevin Faulk, who played in his first game in over a year.

The longest-tenured Patriot tore his ACL last season in Week 2 of 2010 and hadn’t been back on the field since. And, as Faulk said after the game, a lot of work awaits him. But for being away for more than a full season, Faulk did not play poorly by any means.

The 35-year-old led the Patriots with 32 rushing yards on six attempts and picked up 20 yards receiving.

“The way the game played out, there were some no-huddle situations, there were some different personnel groupings that we used where he was the back in those personnel groupings,” offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien told the media early in the week. “That’s why he had the bulk of the reps at the running back position.”

Faulk, O’Brien, coach Bill Belichick and his Patriots teammates all expect No. 33 to only get better from here.

“It was his first game back,” Belichick told the media Wednesday. “I think he did some good things. I’m sure he’ll get better each week with more practices, more snaps. I thought he was competitive; he made some plays for us.”

With a banged-up BenJarvus Green-Ellis, limited Danny Woodhead and two NFL halfback greenhorns, Faulk’s production and leadership are much-needed, and his return probably couldn’t have come at a much better time.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dolphins only 2nd-worst in sacks given up

The Miami Dolphins aren’t the worst team in the league in giving up sacks. They’re second-worst.

And not just second-worst, but tied for second-worst. That’s a positive, right?

Miami has given up 27 sacks in seven games this season, one fewer than the Seattle Seahawks’ league-worst total. The St. Louis Rams have also let their quarterback get taken down 27 times.

“The sacks hurt,” Dolphins coach Tony Sparano told the Miami media Thursday. “… it isn’t all the offensive line by any stretch of the imagination. There is a lot of elements that go into sacking the quarterback. But all that being said they’re minus plays.

“… from a statistical standpoint if you look the way they gauge minus plays in this league there’s sacks, there’s penalties, there’s minus runs and there’s turnovers and that’s a league statistic. Well I would urge you to find out what the Miami Dolphins are from a minus play standpoint right now. I believe we’re about fifth in the league.”

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Smith to face Jets, Westhoff for first time

Does Brad Smith miss New York Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff?

“Sure I do,” Smith told the New York media Wednesday via conference call.

Westhoff, who is considered one of the best in the business, coached Smith for his first five years in the NFL and saw the all-purpose player thrive on kick return. The Jets were unable to fit Smith into their plans after he became a free agent during the offseason, so the Buffalo Bills scooped him up.

“Honestly, he’s an unbelievable coach, not just Xs and Os but as far as pushing guys to reach their maximum potential,” Smith said of Westhoff. “Sometimes he can be very harsh. As I was there longer, I learned to understand him and his method. I have a lot of respect for Mike.”

Sunday, when the Bills host the Jets, Smith will face his former team for the first time.

"It’s going to be crazy," Smith said. "It’s kind of a surreal experience just knowing those guys and playing with just about all of them."

During his Thursday press conference, Westhoff was asked about facing Smith, who returned three kickoffs for touchdowns over his last two years with the Jets.

"It would help if he'd quit calling me harsh," Westhoff joked. "I was disappointed he said that to tell you the truth. I don't think I'm harsh. I don't know, maybe I am. I wasn't harsh with him, you know how much I like Brad. Brad did a great job for us.”

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Jenkins talks Jets with Boomer & Carton

Retired defensive tackle Kris Jenkins joined WFAN's Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton Thursday morning to discuss the New York Jets. While he wore a Jets shirt in gratitude for the fact that the organization is still paying him due to the new CBA agreement, he was just as candid as ever:

Here are some interesting quotes from the show:

On quarterback Mark Sanchez: "Sanchez puts the work in. I'll say that. He is a true quarterback, and he's going to put the work in. I just don't think that they allow him to be a man. I think it's unfortunate..."

On offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: "He's trying to do to much. Some coaches, they want to be known for being innovative and doing something new, and bring something wonderfully magic to the game. And it's cool, but sometimes you just gotta get back to the basics, and the X's and O's, and playing to the strength of your players.

"They never go to a true spread offense and let this guy air it out... If they want this guy to throw and be able to do anything Brady-style then they've gotta put him in the shotgun, and at least stretch the pocket.."

On Plaxico Burress' shooting incident in club in 2008: "First of all, if you gotta take a gun to a club, why are you at that club? That's the first thing. Second of all, how many millionaire thugs do you know that aren't drug dealers? You can't be gangster and a millionaire. If you're a legal millionaire, then you're not a gangster anymore. Let it go...

On if he's happy to see Burress succeed now: "I believe that everybody deserves a second chance, and that's what New York was for me. It was my second chance, because after the issues I went through with Carolina... I had the opportunity to show everybody that 'I'm not that much of an idiot.' ..."

On concerns Bills' offense presents: One, I'm worried about the run game with Fred Jackson and them setting the edge. Because they do a spread offense, so you notice that lateral run game. They're going to wait for the times to exploit the weaknesses, exploit the gaps of the defense, and then they're going to let this guy take off...

"Second thing is (Ryan) Fitzpatrick... If you look at the stats from receivers, outside of the top three guys, the bottom guys still have double-digit catches, so he's spreading it around... (Darrelle) Revis is locking down who he's locking down, Cro (Antonio Cromartie), if Cro shows up, he's doing a heck of a job, but everybody else is struggling coverage. So right now they have a complete offense over there in Buffalo and they're gonna be going at 'em."

Jenkins, however, predicted the Jets win.

On general manager Mike Tannenbaum: "I think he's a wonderful businessman, I just don't think he really understands football like that yet."

On Jets' mentality this season: "If you piss them off they do great. If they start feeling themselves, they don't."

Jenkins went on to explain that the Jets defeated the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots in the postseason last year because they played with a chip on their shoulder, but they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game because they had already beaten the Steelers near the end of the regular season.

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Coughlin, Belichick have more history together than Super Bowl upset

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin have more of a relationship than just Coughlin ruining Belichick’s unblemished football season with one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets ever.

They used to work together. And they’re still friends.

Like so many coaches before and so many more to come, changing teams and/or positions throughout a career happens more often than not. The better coaches get the better job offers. The crappy coaches get the crappy ones … or fired.

But it’s no coincidence Belichick and Coughlin were working together then … and facing each other now.

It goes back to a man named Bill Parcells. With the New York Giants, Belichick was the defensive backs coach, and Coughlin coached the wide receivers.

“We always had a really great attitude about helping each other and, whatever we needed, we got from the other guy,” Coughlin told the New England media Wednesday via conference call. “We worked well together, as I said. He’s been a good friend and a guy that I have great respect for.”

Belichick had much of the same to say about Coughlin, which is telling of the Parcells coaching fraternity that continues to find success.

“I always had a good relationship with Tom and his family and it all started in New York,” Belichick told the media this week. “We’ve gone our separate ways, but we always stayed in touch and I have always admired what Tom has done.

“He works hard. He’s a tough, hard-working guy that puts a lot of time in. I know his teams are well prepared. I know he’s very thorough and demands a lot from his players, from his team, and I have a lot of respect for that. We try to do the same thing.

“He’s a good football coach, a good person, a good man and he treats people fairly and he’s honest. He’s tough. I respect all those things.”

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