Friday, November 30, 2012

Fins not concerned with Pats' ability to clinch East

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

When asked Thursday whether he was thinking about Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins being a potential division-clincher for his team, New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker had a one-word retort: “Absolutely.”

The Dolphins, however, don't seem to be on the same page. (photo: Dave Rezendes, Flickr)

“I had no clue until you just said that,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill told the New England media via conference call Thursday. “I don't think it's anything that we're talking about in the locker room thus far. We're just obviously focused on a good Patriots team that is going to come in and play hard and play well.”

Tannehill wasn't kidding about the lack of chatter in the Miami locker room regarding the game's ability to decide the division. Even coach Joe Philbin admitted he was in the dark about the implications the matchup had.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanks to Jets, Cards can relate to Jets' meltdown

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Ken Whisenhunt can sort of relate to how the New York Jets were feeling in their second-quarter, 35-point collapse against the New England Patriots last week. He can thank the Jets for that.

The last time the Cardinals head coach faced Gang Green was in 2008, when Brett Favre threw six touchdown passes in a Jets victory. New York scored 34 points in the second quarter of that game and led 34-0 at the half. (photo: GMO66, Flickr)

Last Thursday, an unlikely series of miscues saw the Jets cough up up 21 points in 52 seconds to the Patriots en route to 35 straight points. New York mustered a measly field goal at the end of the half to go into the break down 35-3.

"It’s tough. It’s unusual that you see something happen like that and there’s not a lot you can do about it," Whisenhunt told the Jets media Monday, via NewYorkJets.com. "They continue to play hard and they have good players. That’s one of the unfortunate things that happen.

Film Review: Tannehill's game-winning drive

BY SEAN DONOVAN

In the Miami Dolphins' last-second victory over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Dolphins fans were treated to a stellar fourth quarter performance from rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

With his team down by seven in the final stanza, Tannehill led his offense downfield against a stout Seahawks defense and scored a touchdown to knot the score at 21. The ensuing Seattle drive penetrated Dolphins territory, but the defense held strong and forced a punt.

Tannehill then delivered a game-winning drive, an occurrence that hasn't been common in South Florida in recent years.

Jackson adapting to 'different' role in Bills' offense

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson has been accustomed to the starting role for three years now, and he's amassed nearly 1,000 yards in each of those years.

But after a second trip to the injury list this season and the breakout performance of fellow back C.J. Spiller, he now has to become accustomed to a new role: backup.

“Any player in this league wants to be on the field. This is about doing what we can to help the team win,” Jackson told reporters Wednesday. “That is what I am going to try and do when I am called upon I will try and make plays.

"I will continue to support my team. While C.J. is out there I will let him know what I am seeing and continue to support him.” (photo: Alan Kotok, Flickr)

Dolphins: Turnovers absolutely critical vs. Patriots

BY SEAN DONOVAN

The Miami Dolphins, after winning a thriller last week over the Seattle Seahawks to snap their three-game losing streak, now hope to keep their outside chance at a playoff berth alive with another victory Sunday. (photo: June Rivera, Flickr)

Problem is, the division-leading New England Patriots are coming to town.

Miami, losers of eight of its past 10 matchups with New England, including four straight, must find a way to keep up with Tom Brady and the NFL's highest-scoring team if it has any hope of winning.

But Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins' rookie quarterback who has yet to face off against the perennial AFC East juggernaut, isn't getting any more hyped for this one. At least that's what he's saying.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Around-the-Web AFC East power rankings: Week 13

Here's where the four AFC East teams stand in the major media outlets' NFL power rankings entering Week 13:
             NE     NYJ      BUF      MIA
ESPN        5(8)   23(22)   24(24)   18(20)
NFL.com     5(6)   29(25)   20(20)   21(23)
CBSSports   4(5)   21(20)   24(24)   25(26)
FoxSports   5(6)   23(20)   24(22)   20(23)
NBC (PFT)   2(3)   29(22)   22(19)   18(25)
SI.com      4(6)   25(22)   22(23)   18(21)
PFF         2(4)   22(24)   23(22)   19(20)
AVERAGE:    
3.9    24.6     22.7     19.9

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lack of big-play passing game hurting Bills' offense

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had his fair share of missed opportunities downfield in the Buffalo's Bills' loss on Sunday. That seems to be becoming a nasty habit for the veteran signal-caller.

While Fitzpatrick connected with wide receiver Stevie Johnson for a 63-yard strike that lead to a field goal, he missed more than one deep throw that could have turned the game around.

The most apparent of those misses was an overthrown pass to running back C.J. Spiller on a free play after the Colts jumped offsides. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

“I get them to jump offsides and I miss C.J. Then we have a down the field shot to Donald (Jones) we do not complete,” Fitzpatrick told reporters. “Being able to hit those big plays would help.”

Rex 'cherishes' first NFL experience with Cardinals

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Regardless of what you may think of Rex Ryan as head coach of the New York Jets, the guy has a pretty impressive coaching resume.

Ryan went from a graduate assistant at Eastern Kentucky in the late 1980s to one of the best defensive coaches in the game leading the mid-2000 Baltimore Ravens' defense. A few years later, he's the lead guy for New York's green team.

But Ryan held a lot of gigs in between, one being his first NFL job -- coaching linebackers and defensive linemen with the Arizona Cardinals under his father, Buddy Ryan, who was head coach at the time. (photo: Marianne O'Leary, Flickr)

"... that’s something I was grateful for. I think that’s the best thing that really ever happened to me from a career standpoint," Ryan told reporters Monday, via NewYorkJets.com. "I got to coach under my father for two years and see how he would approach offenses and game planning and specific things to opponents and he really was 20 years ahead of his time at least."

Philbin on Bess: 'He's got some slipperiness to him'

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Davone Bess got a few looks from rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill Sunday, and Bess delivered.

Bess had his best game of the season in the Dolphins' 24-21 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, catching seven passes for 129 yards. More importantly, he caught two passes for first downs on the Dolphins' game-winning drive.

The undrafted free agent (2008) out of Hawaii doesn't have the speed of the top wideouts in the league, but he's a much better than average receiver out of the slot and has a knack for getting into space. (photo: Photo-Gator)

"He’s got a little bit of slipperiness to him," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Monday, via the Palm Beach Post. "... and again, he’s one of those guys that if you were playing in the backyard and you had 15 guys, you want him on your team because he’s a good football player."

Stevie: Fitz needs more freedom; Fitz: I have enough

BY NICK ST. DENIS

After the Buffalo Bills lost to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Bills receiver Stevie Johnson said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick needed to be handed over play-calling duties.

Monday, Johnson clarified that he meant Fitzpatrick should have "the ability to audible a little more." (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

"When you are back there you see what the defenders are doing and all of that," Johnson told reporters. "Maybe we check it into a draw play for C.J. (Spiller) or what not. That is the basis of it. It was not even turning to no-huddle or do the two-minute drill. It was not even that deep. It was just simply making an audible."

That sounds like something any quarterback should already be able to do, and Fitzpatrick insisted Monday that he does in fact have that freedom.

Monday, November 26, 2012

McDaniels: Big plays from 'D' drive Patriots' offense

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New England Patriots have the best offense in the NFL. The offense's supporting cast is pretty good, too.

Forget all the yards given up, because the defense gets it done when and where it counts. New England has recorded a ridiculous plus-24 tally in turnover differential, thanks to the defense's 32 takeaways and the offense's ability to protect the football. (photo: Stephen Luke, Flickr)

"Anytime offensively that we can get an extra possession that way or a possession that starts in positive territory where we don’t have to move the ball 70 or 80 yards to score, I think it’s a great advantage for any team," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Friday, via Patriots.com.

But it's not just the short fields that give the offense a boost. McDaniels added that "there's a little extra incentive" for the offense to finish on the defense or special teams' lay-up.

Colts give Bills' special teams taste of own medicine

BY NICK ST. DENIS

No punt returner in the NFL has been better than Leodis McKelvin this season. But Sunday, he wasn't even the best returner on the field.

That honor went to Indianapolis Colts returner T.Y. Hilton.

We expected McKelvin and the Bills' punt return team, which leads the league in touchdowns and had one two weeks ago against the Miami Dolphins, to be a difference-maker against the Colts. However, Indianapolis gave Buffalo a taste of its own medicine.

Hilton returned a punt for a touchdown early in the first quarter, and the Colts never relinquished the lead in ousting the Bills 20-13. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

Third-down woes continue to doom Bills, Jets

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The Buffalo Bills entered Sunday's AFC contest against the Indianapolis Colts with the NFL's worst third-down defense, and they made good on their reputation.

Buffalo allowed the Colts to convert on eight of 16 third-down attempts. Conversely, the Bills moved the chains on just four of 13 third-down tries. (photo: Chris Seward, Flickr)

The New York Jets haven't been able to get off the field lately, either.

Gang Green used to pride themselves on maximizing their offense's opportunities with shut-down defense, but now they boasts the second-worst third-down defense in the league and got torched by the Patriots on third down Thursday night. New England was 11-for-15 in such situations.

Jets still stealing headlines: Fireman Ed call it quits

BY NICK ST. DENIS

New York Jets fans are at a crossroads, just like their team.

On a night that saw the neighbor New York Giants slaughter the Green Bay Packers on national television, Gang Green has made a splash, albeit one that's not necessarily endorsed by the team itself.

Longtime "unofficial" mascot Ed Anzalone, who has conducted the "J-E-T-S" chant at Jets home games under the moniker "Fireman Ed" for two and a half decades, decided to call it quits Sunday after making a halftime exit during the Jets' 49-19 beatdown at the hands of the hated rival New England Patriots. (photo: GMO666, Flickr)

Anzalone made his departure from his role official via a guest column in Metro New York:

Mario finally showing up, earning some of that $100M

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The Buffalo Bills lost a game Sunday, but they gained something else. Call it what you will.

Defensive end Mario Williams, who was invisible through the first part of the season but has been finding himself as of late, had a sort of coming-out party during the Bills' 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Williams accounted for three of Buffalo's four sacks on Andrew Luck, and he also got his hand on a pass that fell incomplete.

Dolphins find long-lost rushing game vs. Seahawks

BY SEAN DONOVAN

A Miami Dolphins rushing attack that was dominant at the start of the season has been all but a distant memory since.

But Miami delivered an emphatic reminder in its 24-21 last-second victory over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday.

The Dolphins accrued 189 yards rushing on the afternoon, their highest total since the second game of the season. In fact, Miami had not crossed the 100 yard mark on the ground since it's Week 3 game against the New York Jets.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tannehill thrives in fourth quarter to oust Seahawks

BY SEAN DONOVAN

The Miami Dolphins needed someone to step up in a big way to put a halt to their three-game losing streak. And, in an encouraging sign for the franchise's future, it was their heralded rookie quarterback who did.

Ryan Tannehill played spectacularly in the fourth quarter as the Dolphins won a thriller over the Seattle Seahawks, 24-21.

"In this league you need to win some games like this," coach Joe Philbin said, according to the Associated Press. "It's important for any quarterback to do that."

Fitzpatrick comes up short in Bills' loss to Colts

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The Buffalo Bills' defense sacked Andrew Luck four times, picked him off once and held the Colts' run game to 3 yards a carry.

Also, Buffalo's ground game gained 5.9 yards of its own. The Bills just needed Ryan Fitzpatrick to deliver. And he didn't.

Fitzpatrick missed a pair of would-be touchdown passes in the first half and was inaccurate for most of the game, yet he still had a chance to make up for it with the Bills down 20-13 in the fourth quarter.

Wishful Thinking: Week 12 playoff rooting interests

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New England Patriots, as usual, are running away with the AFC East and are shoe-in playoff contenders.

The rest of the division, not so much. But, despite the Buffalo Bills (4-6), Miami Dolphins (4-6) and (especially) New York Jets (4-7) being lumped into the "doubtful" column, math is math.

Here's how fans of the bottom-three AFC East trio will be rooting outside of their respective games this week:

Browns (2-8) over Steelers (6-4) in Cleveland.
Raiders (3-7) over Bengals (5-5) in Cincinnati.
Ravens (8-2) over Chargers (4-6) in San Diego.
Jaguars (1-9) over Titans (4-6) in Jacksonville.
Chiefs (1-9) over Broncos (7-3) in Kansas City.

Gameday Deciding Factors: Bills at Colts

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

After feeling the sting of defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots, Buffalo turned things around last week and picked up a much-needed win over the Dolphins. Indianapolis is looking for a similar result this week, as the team comes off a crippling loss in Foxborough but hosts the Bills Sunday. (photo: Angie Six, Flickr)

A win for the Colts would keep them in the driver's seat for a wild card spot, while a loss for Buffalo could be curtains for its playoff chances. Despite the 4-6 record, the Bills still have a chance at a run, as Indy and the Seattle Seahawks are the only two remaining teams on the schedule with winning records. A win away could give the team the push it needs, especially since the next three games will be at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

DECIDING FACTORS:

Big return. Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin has been a special teams master this season, and he's on an all-time pace. He's led the league nearly the entire season in punt return average and added another return touchdown to his stat sheet last week against Miami. Indy's special teams unit is near the bottom of league in punt returns against, giving up nearly 14 yards a try. Expect Buffalo's unit to come out swinging on its first few returns and try to put one in the end zone early.

Gun slinging. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has quashed his inconsistency of late, averaging nearly 66 percent in completions over the past five games and throwing only two inceptions in that span. The Colts' defense is giving quarterbacks all sorts of confidence, allowing a QB rating of nearly 100 for opposing signal callers and 240 yards in the air per game. So while most Buffalo critics are saying the team needs to stick to the ground game, Sunday may be the perfect opportunity for Fitzpatrick to let it loose, especially since the Colts' defense has snagged just six turnovers all season.

REG-GIE, REG-GIE. Since the transition to quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver Reggie Wayne's career has seen a rebirth. Moving into more of slot-receiver role, Wayne is back to his 1,000-yard days and has already eclipsed his reception totals from last season. Though he may not be tallying as many touchdowns as he would like, his new role has helped Luck and Indy average nearly 300 yards per game in the air, good enough for eighth in league. He sits behind only Calvin Johnson for the most yards per game among receivers at more than 100.

Going big. With the help of Wayne, Luck has made his mark throwing the ball deep this season, leading all quarterbacks in passes of 20 yards or more. He's paid for though, getting hit nearly 22 percent of the time he drops back. Buffalo forced three turnovers against Miami and is hoping to keep that going, which may come easy against Luck, who's thrown 12 picks already this year and has fumbled eight times.

Gameday Deciding Factors: Seahawks at Dolphins

BY SEAN DONOVAN

Once darlings of the early-season AFC playoff picture, the free-falling Miami Dolphins (4-6) must gather themselves for a home matchup against the surging Seattle Seahawks (6-4). Losers of three straight games, Miami must now contend with one of the leagues most opportunistic and aggressive defenses as well as the talented, dynamic rookie signal-caller Russell Wilson. (photo: Joint Base Lewis McChord)

Working in the Dolphins' favor is the fact that Seattle is just 1-4 on the road, with an offense putting up just 14.2 points per game away from CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks are coming off their bye after dispatching the New York Jets by a 28-7 margin two weeks ago.

DECIDING FACTORS:

Get something going offensively. Miami's offense has struggled mightily during the team's three-game skid, which is all-the-more alarming due to the fact that they've played some of the league's worst defenses in that time. The Seahawks' third ranked unit will be no easy assignment for Ryan Tannehill or a running game trying to regain its swagger. Another putrid performance will doom Miami to a fourth straight loss.

Contain the other rookie QB. Wilson has been an electric player this season but has struggled on the road. In order to keep the game manageable for the slumping offense, Miami's defense must apply pressure to Wilson, keep him from escaping the pocket, and force the rookie into making mistakes. But the Dolphins' very recent history against mobile passers suggests that's much easier said than done.

Keep Tannehill upright. Seattle boasts a fierce pass rush, led by elite defensive ends Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin. The Seahawks' 28 team sacks are good for fifth best in the NFL. The Dolphins' two anchors on either end of the offensive line, Jake Long and Jonathon Martin, have had up-and-down seasons so far but must be at their best to give their offense a fighting chance.

Field position and, as usual, turnovers. In what will likely be a very defensive game, special teams and field position will play a major role. And, as they have done in each of their past two games, the Dolphins must stay on the positive side of the turnover battle to have a chance. Miami has shown that it not a team that can commit multiple turnovers and still win a game.

Week 12 AFC East game picks: Bills at Colts

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the Buffalo Bills' road contest against the Indianapolis Colts.

Nick's take:
Bills tailback C.J. Spiller is slated for a big day against a Colts run defense that gives up way too many big scampers. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be good enough, and Buffalo's rushing attack will limit rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and his Colts offense's opportunities by eating a lot of clock. Plus, Buffalo's defensive front pressures Luck into a couple costly mistakes, including a pick to the red-hot Jairus Byrd.
Prediction: Bills 27, Colts 23

Dan's take:
The difference in this matchup may be which team converts more big plays than it gives up. Buffalo has given up 43 plays of 20 yards or more this year and has completed 39. In comparison, the Colts have given up 37 and converted 48. Indy's specialty has been its passing attack, while Buffalo's has been Spiller's explosive run game. Buffalo's more balanced offense and special teams play takes this one, forcing Luck to be one-dimensional and giving punt returner Leodis McKelvin one too many opportunities.
Prediction: Bills 36, Colts 27

Week 12 AFC East game picks: Seahawks at Dolphins

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the Miami Dolphins' home contest against the NFC's Seattle Seahawks.

Nick's take:
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is coming off his second straight rookie game, and he'll need to turn it around fast facing a defense that will certainly pin its ears back against the young signal-caller. Miami's once-stout run game has completely fallen off, and the defense has lost the toughness that kept it in games early in the season. Tannehill struggles, and Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch runs wild.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, Dolphins 13

Sean's take:
The Dolphins' offense has been pathetic lately, which is especially concerning because it has been that way against the atrocious defenses of Tennessee and Buffalo. Seattle now brings one of the league's best and most aggressive units to Miami. It's a recipe for a disaster for the Dolphins and will further awaken a franchise with vibrant playoff hopes just three weeks ago.
Prediction: Seahawks 17, Dolphins 6

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Philbin: Fins' play count telling of offensive struggles

BY NICK ST. DENIS

When Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman came to South Beach, they had visions of an up-tempo, fast-moving offense that moved the chains and kept defenses on their heels.

Through 11 weeks, Philbin hasn't gotten the results he'd like, and he can pinpoint it to one telling number in the Dolphins' 4-6 campaign. (photo: June Rivera, Flickr)

“The thing that I think has been a challenge for us is our play count is nowhere near where it needs to be," Philbin said Friday, according to the team's media site. "I think that’s primarily, I believe that’s a reflection of our third down performance or lack thereof."

Through 11 weeks, the Dolphins have run 625 plays from scrimmage, which ranks bottom-third in the NFL. The Dolphins are also converting on just 35.8 percent of third downs, which is fourth-worst in the AFC.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Arians: Colts prepping for 'two best returners in NFL'

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

After allowing a punt return for a touchdown in a loss to the New England Patriots last week, Indianapolis Colts interim coach Bruce Arians knew something needed to be done about the team's return coverage, and fast.

He'll find out just how much improvement can be done in one week Sunday when his team faces off against the Buffalo Bills, who tout the league's most explosive special teams squad. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

As he has for the entire season, Bills returner Leodis McKelvin leads the league in punt return average, and thanks to last Thursday's return against the Miami Dolphins, he leads all returners with two touchdowns.

McKelvin's punt return average is an astounding five yards more than any other player in the league, and if he can continue that trend, he'll be the first player to average more than 21 yards a return since 1961 and could perhaps break the all-time, single-season record.

Jets compile can't-make-it-up series of gaffes in loss

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New York Jets were tied 0-0 with the New England Patriots through the first quarter. They were losing 35-3 by halftime.

The Patriots scored four touchdowns off of four straight turnovers in the second quarter, including 21 points in a 52-second span, to destroy the Jets 49-12. They totaled five touchdowns in the stanza.

"Obviously that was a nightmare of a game," Jets coach Rex Ryan said, according to Kimberly A. Martin of Newsday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Patriots at Jets

BY NICK ST. DENIS

AFC East bouts don't get much better than when the New England Patriots and New York Jets square off in the second half of the season. The Patriots are usually rolling, and the Jets are usually desperate.

This season is no exception, as Gang Green (4-6) hosts New England (7-3) Thanksgiving night in a last-gasp effort to keep their Wildcard hopes alive. Meanwhile, the Patriots are working toward a first-round bye and homefield advantage in the playoffs.

DECIDING FACTORS:

Third down. Alongside the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots have the worst third-down defense in the NFL, giving up chain-moving plays at an alarming 46 percent. The Jets are third at 43. New York will only stay in the game if Mark Sanchez and the two-headed rushing attack of Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell can take advantage of that on offense, and the defense absolutely needs to get off the field somewhere in the 30-39-percent range. (photo above: Jose Luis Garza, Flickr)

Turnovers. New England's defense has a plus-20 turnover differential, which is eight turnovers better than anyone else. That's ridiculous. The Patriots don't turn the ball over offensively, and say what you want about their defense, but they're opportunistic. Sanchez and Rex Ryan stressed this week how important ball protection will be Thursday night if the Jets have a chance. (photo right: Marianne O'Leary, Flickr)

Mix it up. Ryan said the only way to slow down Brady is to constantly give him different looks, because if Brady knows what's coming, forget about it. Conversely, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he expects the Jets to show different things, as always. The Jets will be very active at linebacker in showing blitz before dropping back, and vice versa.

Communication. New England isn't running as fast of a no-huddle offense as it did earlier in the season, but it is still rolling at a pretty up-tempo pace. The Jets' defense, particularly in the secondary, needs to be right on top of its communication. The Jets match up pretty well across the board defensively, but pre-snap positioning will determine whether or not Brady gets the ball out on time.

Week 12 AFC East game picks: Patriots at Jets


Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the Thanksgiving divisional slugfest between the New England Patriots and New York Jets.

Nick's take:
Ah... Thanksgiving dinner, beer and Jets vs. Patriots. Few things are better. Rex Ryan will have Gang Green ready, and the Jets will divide their rushing attempts evenly between Bilal Powell and Shonn Greene, which keeps the offensive backfield fresh and the Patriots' ridiculous offense off the field a little longer. New England's defense, however, will make its usual game-changing turnover in the fourth quarter to edge New York.
Prediction: Patriots 30, Jets 27

Sean's take:
The Jets are coming off their most complete performance in quite a while but will need much more to overcome the AFC East juggernaut Patriots. Mark Sanchez played well in a close game earlier this season in an overtime loss in New England but will struggle on Thanksgiving night. The Pats go up early and stick it to their rival in a lopsided victory.
Prediction: Patriots 45, Jets 10

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rex on Patriots' offense: 'It's like, man, I don’t know'

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Rex Ryan knows what his New York Jets are up against Thursday night when they host the New England Patriots. Well, kinda.

"When you look at them offensively, [Tom Brady] doesn’t get sacked, they don’t turn the ball over, they lead the league in points, rushing is in the top five," the Jets coach said Tuesday, via NewYorkJets.com. "It’s like, man, I don’t know."

Ryan gushed over New England's offense, which isn't hard to do considering it is looking pretty flawless as of late. (photo: jdn, Flickr)

"You look at the numbers and 'Hey, they’re struggling in this. They’re fourth in the league in this category,'" Ryan joked. "So that’s something that we really take advantage of."

Dolphins' alarming run game bothers Sherman most

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The Miami Dolphins' rushing offense started the season as one of the best units in the league, but it hit a wall after three weeks. What began as a slump is looking more like the norm, and the fast start now appears to have been an anomaly.

Miami amassed 572 rushing yards through the first three games of the season, highlighted by a 263-yard clinic Week 2 against the Oakland Raiders and a 185-yard showing vs. the New York Jets a week later.

That kind of production is long in the past, though, as the Dolphins have totaled just 468 yards rushing in their last seven games combined. (photo: June Rivera, Flickr)

“Just the run game," Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said Monday, via the team's media site, when asked what bothered him most about the offense. "We had 24 carries the other day. One was Ryan’s run, but 24 carries for 60 yards. We should be better than that and we will be better than that."

Patriots' Ridley quietly on pace for special season

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Running back Stevan Ridley has been quietly and efficiently putting together a season for the New England Patriots' record books.

Shadowed by an MVP-caliber season by Tom Brady, Ridley's performance has been exactly what New England was hoping for when it got him for a steal in the third round of the 2011 draft. Ridley was the seventh running back chosen in that draft, taken after Miami's Daniel Thomas, Dallas's Demarco Murray, and of course, New England's first choice at back, Shane Vereen.

Ridley won the starting role during preseason and hasn't looked back, currently ranking seventh in the league in yards (842) and second in touchdowns (7). (photo: jdn, Flickr)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

AFC East boasts NFL's 3 worst 3rd-down defenses

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Three of the AFC East's four teams are in a class of their own. It's not a class they want to be in.

The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills boast the NFL's worst third-down defenses, surrendering first downs on 46 percent of third downs. The New York Jets are right behind them, giving up a third-worst 43 percent of third-down conversions.

At least the Miami Dolphins are picking up the slack as the league's third-stingiest third-down defense at 33 percent.

Bills' pass rush regains depth, options with Kelsay

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

With the return of defensive end Chris Kelsay to the field, the Buffalo Bills' pass rushing squad regained more than a veteran presence: It now has some much-needed flexibility.

Kelsay practiced individually Monday for the first time since a ligament tear in his neck put him on the sidelines nearly two weeks ago. The 10-year vet was upbeat about his progress, telling reporters he was optimistic about returning for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

“I am feeling a lot better,” Kelsay said. “The weekend and this past week I have seen significant progress. Looking forward to getting back out there.”

Kelsay, a warrior throughout his career in Buffalo, injured his neck pushing the practice sled during team workouts. He's only missed eight games during his decade-long tenure with the Bills, and he was confident that he would be able to fully practice Wednesday to prepare for the weekend.

Rex Ryan, Jets wary of Patriots' strip-sack defense

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New England Patriots have been very good at forcing fumbles on opposing quarterbacks, and the New York Jets' quarterback has been very friendly to opposing defenses in that regard.

Ball security will be at a premium Thursday night when the Jets host the Patriots, as New England has forced 24 fumbles, including six strip sacks. (photo: TexCap, Flickr)

"That’s something that you have to be mindful of," Jets coach Rex Ryan told the media Monday. "It’s put two hands on the football, protecting the football at all times, keeping the ball on your up-field shoulder. Some of that is a presence of when to step up."

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has fumbled nine times this season, including a game-clincher in New York's overtime loss to New England in October. Ryan would like Sanchez to take some notes on how Patriots quarterback Tom Brady protects the football.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gronkowski hurt on late-game PAT with Pats up 34

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New England Patriots have the best tight end in the NFL. So it makes since that he's on the field during an extra point with his team up 34 points with 3:59 to go in the fourth quarter.

At least to Bill Belichick.

With the way the Patriots have occasionally blown fourth-quarter leads this season, it's understandable the New England head coach wants to stay on the gas pedal and put teams away. (photo: WBUR, Flickr)

52-24 is a pretty substantial lead midway through the fourth quarter with possession, but New England opted to leave its starting offense on the field to drive for one more score.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Patriots could've tied Colts without fielding offense

BY NICK ST. DENIS

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was really good Sunday, even though it wasn't necessary.

The Patriots returned two interceptions for touchdowns, returned a punt for a score and kicked a field goal. That, plus three extra points, accounted for 24 of New England's points in a 59-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

In fact Brady was inactive for more than 30 real-time minutes in the first half because of special teams and defensive scores keeping the offense off the field.

Sanchez, Jets' offense wakes up in must-have win

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New York Jets' winning formula Sunday against the St. Louis Rams Sunday was throwback 2009:  stout defensive play, a steady rushing attack and mistake-free quarterbacking from Mark Sanchez.

Running back Bilal Powell rushed for two scores, and Sanchez connected on 15 of 20 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown in the Jets' 27-13 victory. And get this -- Sanchez didn't turn the ball over.

“An emphasis coming into the game is taking care of the football and being in control of those situations down in the red zone," Sanchez said after the game, via NewYorkJets.com. "Some plays that have got us earlier in the season, we just wanted to be real smart in those situations, make the right reads and the right throws."

Jets' desperate defense stuffs Rams, Schottenheimer

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Under former New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's command, the St. Louis Rams easily drove the field on their first possession to take an early lead on Gang Green.

Then the Jets showed up.

Gang Green showed plenty of backbone on defense, tallying a sack, an interception and recovering two of three forced fumbles to go with countless pressures from the front seven that threw St. Louis' offense all out of whack. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed just 23 of 44 pass attempts, and the Jets won 27-13.

Gameday Deciding Factors: Jets at Rams

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New York Jets are all but officially out of the playoff hunt, but don't tell them that. at 3-6, Jets coach Rex Ryan still thinks they can right the ship, pointing to 2009, when Gang Green suffered two three-game losing streaks, including being at 4-6 at one point, yet still got to the AFC Championship game. (photo: Kris Robinson, Flickr)

If they're going to accomplish the near-impossible, it starts in St. Louis against a 3-5-1 Rams team that is playing with a lot of confidence coming off a tie with the 49ers in San Francisco.

DECIDING FACTORS:

Schotty play-calling. The Jets will be up against former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who was run out of town at the end of last season. Schottenheimer leads an improving Rams offense that has thrived on the run as of late. The cat-and-mouse game between Schottenheimer and Ryan's defense will be entertaining.

Running up close. Shonn Greene and the Jets' run game absolutely needs to get things going against the Rams, especially in the red zone. Only two teams have given up more rushing touchdowns than the Rams, so the Jets, namely offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, should stop trying to outsmart themselves with shotgun passes near the goal line and just pound it up the middle.

Aggressive vs. efficient. The Rams are two-faced in pass defense: they have 26 sacks and are aggressive in the secondary. However, they allow opposing quarterbacks to complete 66.3 percent of their passes. Mark Sanchez and his receivers must improve their efficiency... now.

Tackling. New York was awful against the run to start the season, but it had a few weeks of solid improvement before taking another step back last week against the Seattle Seahawks. The Jets forgot how to tackle, mainly because they were trying so hard to force turnovers to make up for their stagnant offense. Gang Green's defense must tackle well against Steven Jackson if it wants any shot in this one.

Gameday Deciding Factors: Colts at Patriots

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Despite the obvious potential of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck before the season, not many people expected his team to own the same record (6-3) as the Patriots when it traveled to Foxborough Week 11. But that's where we're at. (photo: Angie Six, Flickr)

While the Colts are chasing the Houston Texans in the division and will likely have to earn a Wildcard, the Patriots have all but locked up the AFC East. Now, it's just a matter of how high of a seed they can get.

DECIDING FACTORS:

Third down. The Patriots boast the NFL's best third down offense, moving the chains on 50 percent of third downs. Conversely, they have the second-worst third down defense. Meanwhile, the Colts are no slouches offensively on third down, moving the chains 44 percent of the time, and their 37-percent third-down defense isn't awful. This will be key.

Luck, or skill? New England has been winning this season despite owning one of the league's worst defenses, namely against the pass. However, the Patriots have come up with timely turnovers and have been pretty stout in the red zone when they absolutely need to make play. Luck will have his opportunities, but he'd better make the most of them.

Talib effect. Newly-aquired cornerback Aqib Talib, who came to the Patriots via a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will make his New England debut Sunday after coming back from a four-game suspension. Talib's presence will allow Devin McCourty to settle at safety, where he's played the last few weeks, and can't hurt a very bad secondary. The Patriots hope he's the key to turning it around, and he'll have his chance to prove himself immediately.

Run it off. The Patriots have rushed for 92 first downs, which is by far the most in the NFL. The Colts are giving up 4.7 yards a carry, so there's no question the Patriots will run the ball as much as possible, not only for production, but to take away the Colts' strength, which is having its offense on the field.

Week 11 AFC East game picks: Jets at Rams

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the New York Jets' inter-conference contest with the St. Louis Rams.

Nick's take:
When Jets coach Rex Ryan and Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer shared the field during Schotty's time with the Jets, Rex's defense ran the show. I think that holds true when the two face off in St. Louis. The Jets' run defense had been improving since the beginning of the season but hit a wall last week with poor tackling. They play tough against Steven Jackson and force Sam Bradford to go through the air, where the Jets thrive.
Prediction: Jets 20, Rams 17

Dan's take:
Look for a heavy dose of Jackson, who will be going against Gang Green's 30th-ranked run defense and broke 100 yards rushing last week for the first time this season. And with wide receiver Danny Amendola back in the mix, Bradford will look to continue his success as well, despite the Jets' stout pass defense. New York's fourth loss in a row will be its worst streak since 2007.
Prediction: Rams 17, Jets 13

Week 11 AFC East game picks: Colts at Patriots

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the New England Patriots' AFC battle with the Indianapolis Colts.

Nick's take:
Now is the time of year the Patriots slam down the gas pedal and all but completely shut the door on the division race, which hasn't been much of a race to begin with. It starts when Tom Brady and the Patriots host the Andrew Luck-led Colts in the friendly confines of Foxborough. New England's offense will have its way with Indianapolis' subpar defense, so Luck's likely stellar work against the Patriots' awful pass defense won't have much effect.
Prediction: Patriots 35, Colts 24

Dan's take:
Luck's been impressive of late, but he hasn't faced an opponent as complete as the Patriots since Week 1 in his ugly debut against the Chicago Bears. Luck and receiver Reggie Wayne will get their shots downfield against a terrible big-play defense, but running back Stevan Ridley and New England's dynamic passing attack will be too much for an Indianapolis defense allowing 350 yards per game.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Colts 27

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jets leaning on experience of '09 rally for confidence

BY NICK ST. DENIS

In Rex Ryan's first season as the New York Jets' head coach, Gang Green overcame two three-game losing streaks and won five of their last six games to make the playoffs and ride an improbable road win streak to the AFC Championship game.

Ryan was asked Friday if this year's team, which sits at 3-6, leans on memories of that season for inspiration. (photo: Marianne O'Leary, Flickr)

"I think from a confidence standpoint, I would say yes because we've been down that would before," Ryan said, via NewYorkJets.com. "I know we were 4-6 our first year here in 2009. I believe we were 4-6, went on a run and then made the playoffs.

"Obviously that's what we're hoping for right now, that after this week, get that fourth win, get to 4-6 and let's see what happens."

Luck has big shoes to fill in Colts vs. Patriots rivalry

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Andrew Luck has never met Tom Brady, but he'll get an up-close look at the future Hall-of-Famer Sunday when his Indianapolis Colts travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots.

Luck watched from afar as Brady and former Colts legend Peyton Manning duked it out in a decade's worth of playoff games and high-stakes AFC battles. (Photo: Mark Susina, Flickr)

"As a young quarterback growing up, I took the opportunity to watch the sort of benchmarks [Brady and Manning] of quarterback play," Luck told Patriots reporters Wednesday via conference call, according to Patriots.com. "There were some great playoff games at both stadiums."

Brady held the head-to-head edge, 8-4, in nine regular season games and three playoff games. But Luck has an opportunity to 1-up Brady this week as he continues to start his own, for lack of a milder term, legacy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bills' defense shows up, Dolphins' offense doesn't

BY SEAN DONOVAN

If only for one night, the Buffalo Bills' defense looked like it was supposed to going into the season.

It stopped the run, was effective against the pass and forced turnovers to lead Buffalo to a 19-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins Thursday night.

Buffalo's defensive unit, led by coordinator and former Dolphins' head coach Dave Wannstedt, was expected to make vast improvements after an offseason spending spree. Instead, the group was among the league's worst in many areas.

But it would live up to it's billing on this night.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fisher: Jets' receivers have been 'unfairly criticized'

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Not many quarterbacks in the NFL have less to work with than New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, which is why he's been given an unprecedented amount of slack during his tumultuous 2012 season.

After losing Santonio Holmes for the season to a Week 4 injury, Sanchez's No. 1 target has been second-year slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, who has actually been really good. But teams have quickly keyed in on him and essentially eliminated Gang Green's lone threat at wideout. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

Rookie Stephen Hill is still incredibly raw, and the rest of the depth chart is filled out by guys named Chaz Schilens and Clyde Gates.  Even tight end Dustin Keller, who used to be Sanchez's go-to target, has made very little impact. A lack of a run game and mediocre offensive line play has tightened things up even more.

Still, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher somehow was able to make a negative sound not-so-negative.

Gameday Deciding Factors: Dolphins at Bills

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

In a crucial divisional bout where neither team can afford a loss, Thursday's primetime matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins shouldn't disappoint. While Miami is looking to snap a two-game losing streak and rebound from an embarrassing loss at home against Tennessee, the Bills are home for only the second time in six games in trying to right the ship. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

Buffalo has lost five of six and is also down a key member of its offense, running back Fred Jackson, who's out with a concussion. The Bills will look to C.J. Spiller and Ryan Fitzpatrick to carry the offense. Miami will put its faith in rookie Ryan Tannehill, who's improved greatly since the preseason, and Reggie Bush, who's looking to regain his early-season form.

DECIDING FACTORS:

Spiller time. Buffalo's running back "controversy" has been put on hold for at least one week, and the Bills will put their run game almost exclusively into the hands of the league's most dynamic ball carrier. Spiller's forte has been the big play all season, accounting for a vast majority of the Bills' explosive offense and a big reason the team leads the AFC in yards per carry average (5.3). In his last game against the Dolphins, Spiller went off for 167 total yards and two touchdowns, so look for Miami to stack the box and try to stifle the elusive back.

Third time's the charm. The Bills' defense currently has the worst third-down percentage in the league (47 percent). The squad may have a chance to lower that number this week, however, against a Miami offense that's struggled on third down, particularly on third-and-short situations. Tannehill is at the bottom of the list in terms quarterback conversions on third down, and all three of his interceptions last week came on third down. Stopping opponent's drives has been a big issue for the Bills, and if they can force a few three-and-outs early the offense may have a chance to grab an early lead.

Airing it out. Miami's wide receiver corps was a big question mark coming into the season, as the team faced the loss of Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall and had no other top-tier receiver in sight. Brian Hartline has been impressive thus far, ranking in the top ten in yards, but the 'Phins passing game has struggled where it counts most, on the scoreboard. Miami has only six touchdowns in the air this season, and the offense has been especially hurting in the red zone the last few games. Thursday may be a day of reckoning, however, with a Bills' defense giving up more than 240 yards a game in the air and a 75 percent TD rate in the red zone.

Out cold. Tannehill has been impressive the first half of the season, but Thursday's game will be the rookie's first cold-weather start, a game-changer for many quarterbacks. Tannehill said earlier in the week that he has had some exposure to playing in cold weather in west Texas, Kansas and Iowa, but Buffalo may be a different beast for the young back. The fans and conditions have always been known as the 12th man at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and Tannehill will have a chilly inauguration, with temperatures forecast in the low 30s with a slight wind.

Week 11 AFC East game picks: Dolphins at Bills

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the Miami Dolphins' AFC East bout with the Buffalo Bills.

Nick's take:
Flip a coin. The Bills' defense is terrible in nearly every facet, and the Dolphins' is sliding. Ryan Fitzpatrick is inconsistent and turnover-prone, and Ryan Tannehill, while mostly impressive this season, is a rookie coming off the worst game of his young career. The difference in this one is Buffalo's clear advantage as the Thursday night home team. C.J. Spiller has a big game, too.
Prediction: Bills 26, Dolphins 23

Sean's take:
Both teams are looking to shake from their respective losing skids in their lone collective primetime game of the season. Coming off a historic letdown at home, the overall-superior Dolphins will need to avoid the catastrophic turovers on offense and blown coverages on defense. They do, and they win.
Prediction: Dolphins 27, Bills 21

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Around-the-Web AFC East power rankings: Week 11

Here's where the four AFC East teams stand in the major media outlets' NFL power rankings entering Week 11:
            NE     NYJ     BUF     MIA
ESPN       8(9)  26(25)  27(28)  18(15)
NFL.com    7(8)  28(26)  26(29)  19(16)
CBSSports  9(6)  27(27)  23(28)  19(13)
FoxSports  7(8)  27(23)  23(29)  19(17)
NBC (PFT)  7(7)  28(26)  26(29)  22(13)
SI.com     7(7)  27(25)  26(26)  18(13)
PFF        4(4)  28(24)  26(29)  17(13)
AVERAGE:   7     27.3    25.3    18.9

Bills to focus on Dolphins' inside passing game

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

As Mario Williams and the Buffalo defense scramble to prepare for Thursday's matchup against against the Miami Dolphins, one piece of the gameplan may get pushed to the wayside: accumulating sacks.

Williams told reporters Tuesday the biggest thing he's noticed in his tape study of Dolphins' quarterback Ryan Tannehill is his quick release, a particular trait that can frustrate a pass rusher all game.

“Watching the film, he gets the ball off quick,” Williams said. “They're going to protect him with being able to get safe, sure routes, get the ball out of his hand so he's not getting hit so he doesn't have to make the first, second and third read.

"A key for us this week is getting batted passes because that's going to be just as good as a sack.”

Film Review: Bills' air attack vs. Patriots' zone 'D'

BY SEAN DONOVAN

It was no upset when the New England Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-31 Sunday.

But, surprisingly, the Bills kept it close enough to have a chance to win at the end, which ultimately fell short after a blown route by Buffalo wideout T.J. Graham resulted in a game-ending interception.

In fact, Buffalo scored more points than any other Gillette Stadium visitor this season. It's well-known the Patriots' defense is weak, but few would expect the inconsistent Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bills' offense to have so much success in a difficult road environment.

Through smart play design and accurate throws from the quarterback, the Bills continuously shredded the Patrtiots zone coverages. One of the best examples of this was on a late second-quarter scoring drive.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reggie Bush struggling, Bills may be perfect remedy

BY SEAN DONOVAN

Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush hasn't been playing up to expectations lately. Especially his own.

Bush was benched in the first quarter of Miami's 37-3 trouncing at the hands of the Tennessee Titans Sunday after he fumbled the ball for the third time this season.

"I've never been benched in my life," Bush said Monday, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "First time.... the only thing I can control is fumbling the football." (photo: June Rivera, Flickr)

The good news in the situation is that the seven-year veteran will be well-rested for Thursday night's game in Buffalo, where he returns to the site where he set a career high with 203 rushing yards a year ago.

Bills wary of Dolphins' blitz-happy defensive backs

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The Miami Dolphins like to get everyone involved in their pass rush.

Through nine games this season, 10 different Dolphins defenders have been in on a sack, with defensive end Cameron Wake's 8.5 quarterback-takedowns leading the way.

But even Miami's cornerbacks have gotten in on the action. Cornerback Jimmy Wilson has recorded two sacks, and cornerback Nolan Carroll has one of his own.

"This is a tough defense to get ready for in a short week..." Bills coach Chan Gailey said Tuesday, via BuffaloBills.com. "They blitz secondary guys outside and they blitz secondary guys inside. They bring them from everywhere. It is a very tough defense to get ready for in a short week."

Patriots preparing for life with new cornerback Talib

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New England Patriots' defense might be a little less terrible starting this week.

Newly-acquired cornerback Aqib Talib, who came to Foxborough two weeks ago via a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is eligible to play this week against the Indianapolis Colts after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. (photo: Scott Smith, Flickr)

The addition of Talib certainly can't hurt, as the Patriots' defense, particularly in the passing game, continues to get embarrassed by subpar offenses, most recently giving up 31 points and 481 yards to the Buffalo Bills in Week 10.

New England will get its first real look at Talib Wednesday when the team returns to the field for practice. Until then, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his staff are working out the non-physical kinks.

Jackson injury simplifies Bills' unsolved RB equation

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

The Buffalo Bills are down to one No 1. running back this week, and it's not by choice or design.

And though Buffalo would never admit that having an injured Fred Jackson on the sideline simplifies the unsolved equation that is the Bills' backfield, that could very well be the case.

First things first: Jackson is an extremely talented and driven player, a true leader for the Bills who has earned his spot every step of the way. We do not and would never celebrate the injury of a player, nor would we ever wish harm upon any particular player of any team. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

With that said, Jackson's absence this week due to the concussion he received against the New England Patriots puts fellow running back C.J. Spiller alone at the top of the depth chart. It also curtails questions that started to arise after Sunday's loss regarding a potential increase in Spiller's playing time over Jackson.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Graham on bad route: That's why I don't play much

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a game-losing interception in the final seconds of the Buffalo Bills' loss to the New England Patriots Sunday. But unlike most of Buffalo's mistakes in the passing game, this one wasn't his fault.

From the 15-yard line, Fitzpatrick dropped back to pass with 28 seconds to go, needing a touchdown and an extra point to win the game.

Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty dropped into coverage, and Bills receiver T.J. Graham headed on his route. But Fitzpatrick expected Graham to cut in front of McCourty, and he threw the ball accordingly. Meanwhile Graham ran behind McCourty, who made an easy interception to seal the game. (photo: kdoebler@att.net, Flickr)

“It was a good pass, I should have made that play," Graham said. "I take blame for that one. That might be why I don’t get on the field as much. ”

Monday Morning State of the Division: Post-Week 10

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New England Patriots are now running away with the division after improving to 6-3 and 3-0 in the AFC East with a victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo, the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins all lost Sunday to fall to 3-6, 3-6 and 4-5, respectively.

Unless something absolutely crazy happens, the Patriots should cruise to another divisional title, leaving the rest of the AFC East teams fighting for an improbable Wildcard berth. If the season ended today, the 6-3 Indianapolis Colts and 6-3 Pittsburgh Steelers would grab the two Wildcards spots.

Jets' Cromartie still vehemently defending Sanchez

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Rex Ryan isn't the only New York Jet under the Mark Sanchez love spell.

Sunday, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said those calling for the fourth-year signal-caller to be replaced "can kiss my ass."

"Mark's our quarterback," Cromartie said, according to CBS. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

Cromartie has had a history of defending the always under-heat Sanchez. He railed out on Twitter against the idea of the Jets acquiring Tim Tebow before Gang Green traded for him, and earlier this season, Cro publicly backed Sanchez when he was under fire.