Monday, December 31, 2012

No We Chan't: Bills fire Gailey, entire coaching staff


This one was a gimme.

After three seasons in which the Buffalo Bills went a combined 16-32, the Bills fired head coach Chan Gailey Monday morning. In addition, every member of the coaching staff was relieved of their respective duties.

"The first thing I want to say is thanks to the Bills organization, to Buddy (Nix) and Mr. Wilson for the opportunity," Gailey said Monday. "I understand this is a business. We didn’t get the job done. I’ve been called two other times to turn things around, was able to do it. I wasn’t able to get this one done soon enough, and I understand that completely."

After the Flightmare: Tannenbaum out, Rex still in


Finishing the season was a formality, but big changes were inevitable.

Following a dismal 6-10 campaign, the New York Jets were poised for a housecleaning that would involve coaching firings, front office shakups and player dealing. The tremors have already begun, with general manager Mike Tannenbaum the first to officially go.

A day after the Jets lost to the lowly Buffalo Bills, Jets owner Woody Johnson released a statement Monday morning announcing Tannenbaum's dismissal.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Jets at Bills


It's hard to know exactly what this game means to New York Jets (6-9) and Buffalo Bills (10-5) coaches and players. Pride? A last-gasp effort to prove worth before getting fired? Just staying healthy?

No matter how you slice it, both teams look to put their respective tumultuous seasons to rest. The Jets blew out the Bills 48-28 in Week 1, but a 17-week gap and lots of misery in between makes this one anyone's guess. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)


Monday looming. We can talk about the game, but fans, media and members of the organizations themselves are mainly wondering who will be issued pink slips in less than 24 hours. Both teams are expected to make some major changes with players, coaches, and front-office personnel alike. Among a handful of other moves, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum is expected to be demoted, and Bills coach Chan Gailey is a likely candidate to be looking for a job this week.

Turnover clinic. Buffalo turned the ball over four times against the Jets earlier this season, thanks mostly to three interceptions from Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz got a couple touchdowns in garbage minutes last time around, but New York has been pretty good against a 30-year old journeyman who could very well be on another journey in the coming weeks. (Photo: Matt Britt: Flickr)

Sanchize Quarterbackup. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had his best day of the year in that Week 1 AFC East contest, throwing three touchdowns and completing just over 70 percent of his passes. But a deteriorating surrounding cast and crumbing confidence put Sanchez on a downhill spiral since, and he's now only getting the start this week because Greg McElroy, who got the nod last week, is out with a concussion. It's too late to salvage anything, but Sanchez could use a little pick-me-up before the season commences.

Spiller/Greene. Bills tailback C.J. Spiller amassed 169 yards and a touchdown on the ground Week 1 against the Jets. All it took was Spiller to get level with the Jets' linebackers on a pair of long runs, and it was over. Rex Ryan's defensive squad will try to not be humiliated with such plays, which it has been susceptible to this year (see Chris Johnson two weeks ago). Meanwhile, Jets tailback Shonn Greene looks to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. He needs just 11 yards to do so. Spiller has 1,185 despite being limited because of Fred Jackson's presence.

Gameday Deciding Factors: Dolphins at Patriots


Though the Miami Dolphins (7-8) are no longer in playoff contention, they're highly motivated to knock off the division champs and finish the season at .500. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots (11-4) hope to snap out of a cold streak and enter the postseason with some sort of rhythm. (photo: jdn, Flickr)

The only thing at stake for the Patriots in this game is playoff seeding. If they beat Miami, they will clinch a first round-bye with a loss by either the Houston Texans or Denver Broncos. This game is a rematch from Week 13, which was won by the Patriots 23-16 in Miami.


Pressure Tom Brady. After lukewarm performances in two consecutive games against the San Fransisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady and the New England offense look to re-assert themselves before the games really start to count. If the Dolphins can consistently prevent Brady from setting his feet, they have a good chance to keep the score within striking distance.

Wear 'em out. In the last matchup, New England sealed the victory by pounding the ball on the ground late and wearing out the Dolphins' defense. That should be a big part of their gameplan this time around, and it'll help mitigate Miami's pass rush, as well.

TDs, not FGs. The Dolphins shouldn't have trouble moving the ball on this Patriots defensive unit between the twenties. The key, however, will be to finish drives with seven points and not settle for field goals. New England's defense does a fantastic job of clamping down close to its own goal line, and field goals will not help Miami win. Look for Reggie Bush to once again be a big part of the Dolphins' strategy in the red zone. (photo: Bob Brown, Flickr)

Ball security. It seems odd to have concern about the league leaders in turnover differential taking care of the ball, but it has become an issue in recent weeks for New England. The Patriots are a much more talented team than the Dolphins, but a couple of ill-timed turnovers and the chances of an upset increase dramatically.

Week 17 AFC East game picks: Jets at Bills

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the New York Jets' AFC East road contest with the Buffalo Bills.

Nick's take:
There once was a game this season that saw Mark Sanchez throw three touchdowns and complete over 70 percent of his passes -- Week 1 against the Bills. Sanchez has fallen quite hard since then but gets the season-finale nod against those same Bills, this time in Buffalo. Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick's inability to get into any type of rhythm against a stout defense is good enough for a Gang Green victory despite one of the saddest offenses in recent memory taking the field.
Prediction: Jets 20, Bills 14 (Nick's record: 36-13)

Dan's take:
The Jets' quarterback situation right now is downright ridiculous, but hey, they have won eight of the last nine against the Bills. Buffalo’s offense has been spotty of late — not counting C.J. Spiller — and the Jets shouldn’t have a problem making them one-dimensional. Look for Sanchez to be quiet in his return and Shonn Greene to hit the century mark with ease, putting him over 1,000 yards for the second straight season.
Prediction: Jets 21, Bills 17 (Dan's record: 29-20)

Week 17 AFC East game picks: Dolphins at Patriots

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the Miami Dolphins' AFC East bout at the New England Patriots.

Nick's take:
The Dolphins have a way of giving the Patriots fits no matter what the current state of either team is. Miami made some big-time mistakes when the teams met earlier this season, yet it still was in the game until its defensive linemen got offended by New England's rushing success in the fourth quarter. The Pats build off of that work on the ground en route to another feather in their AFC East cap.
Prediction: Patriots 24, Dolphins 14 (Nick's record: 36-13)

Sean's take:
The Patriots' offense looks to re-gain its stride against the Dolphins, a team that did a good job slowing down Tom Brady back in Week 13. Miami struggles to duplicate that effort on defense and has a sputtering offensive performance in the chilly New England climate. The Patriots coast to victory behind a dominant effort via the ground game.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Dolphins 10 (Sean's record: 39-10)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Around-the-Web AFC East power rankings: Week 17

Here's where the four AFC East teams stand in the major media outlets' NFL power rankings entering Week 17:
            NE    NYJ     BUF     MIA
ESPN      5(4)  23(21)  25(25)  19(19)   4(3)  25(24)  24(23)  19(29)
CBSSports 3(4)  24(21)  26(26)  21(25)
FoxSports 2(3)  27(26)  29(29)  19(19)
NBC (PFT) 4(5)  26(25)  23(23)  20(20)    4(3)  25(24)  27(27)  19(19)
PFF     N/A(2) N/A(27) N/A(23) N/A(20)
AVERAGE:  3.7   25      25.7    19.5

Bills' Chopping Block Trio: Gailey, Fitzpatrick, Nix


Though the outcome of Sunday’s matchup against the New York Jets may be uncertain, personnel changes in the offseason are looking more and more absolute for the Buffalo Bills.

After a number of additions this past offseason boasted expectations of a strong season to come, those hopes fell flat with inconsistent play and a plague of injuries across the board. As the losses have piled up, so has the blame, and it’s been placed on nearly every facet of the team at one time or another.

Buffalo's leadership trio -- the general manager, coach and quarterback -- have absorbed much of the heat.

Film Review: Jags' pressure, coverage vs. Patriots


Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have steamrolled through another regular season, appearing near-perfect at times as the team has coasted to a fourth consecutive AFC East title.

But New England isn't without flaws, and that showed this past week, as it needed all 60 minutes to beat the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars by a 23-16 margin.

The should-be overmatched Jaguars kept it close with their defense, by playing solid coverage while getting pressure on Brady.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

That. Just. Happened. McElroy out, Sanchez to start


Mark Sanchez will start in the New York Jets' Week 17 bout with the Buffalo Bills Sunday. Whoa.

Coach Rex Ryan made the announcement Thursday after telling the media Greg McElroy, who got his first career start last week, sustained a concussion in a game that saw him get sacked 11 times and hit some more.

Ryan said he found out about the concussion at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning, according to Brian Costello of the NY Post, as McElroy didn't come forward about headaches and concussion-like symptoms until days after the game. (photo: Marianne O' Leary, Flickr)

Belichick, Patriots wary of Jones' nose for the ball


Miami Dolphins safety Reshad Jones may have been denied a Pro Bowl nod this season, but he has emerged as one of the better play-making defenders not just in the AFC, but in the league.

And though the third-year defensive back may not be getting the national recognition, his opponents are certainly aware of his abilities.

"He’s been involved in a lot of big plays lately," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said, according to "I think that’s where he jumps out at you."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Quick take on AFC East's 2013 Pro Bowl selections


The AFC East boasted 10 Pro Bowlers this year, as announced by the NFL Wednesday night. Here's the breakdown:

Patriots (7): QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski, G Logan Mankins, LB Jerod Mayo, ST Matthew Slater, WR Wes Welker, DT Vince Wilfork.

Jets (2): S LaRon Landry, CB Antonio Cromartie.

Dolphins (1): DE Cameron Wake.

Bills (0): None. (photo: Jose Louis Garza, Flickr)

Lineman Levitre has been 'Steady Eddie' for Bills


In yet another season of double-digit IR designations and job security rumors, the Buffalo Bills have at least one thing they can rely on: Andy Levitre suiting up on a Sunday.

Levitre missed practice Wednesday, though don’t expect to see him inactive this weekend in the team’s final game against the New York Jets. Levitre has made 63 consecutive starts — every game since his introduction into the league in 2009 — and at nearly every position on the offensive line.

The Bills’ line has struggled to keep starters healthy in recent years, and Levitre has stepped in time and again to smooth things out as well as possible via hard-nosed performances and reliability. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

Fitzpatrick: Hard to block out 'uncertainty in the air'


The Buffalo Bills are uncertain of what the future holds, and they won't pretend it's not on their minds.

Buffalo heads into Week 17 to finish off another disappointing season that saw it miss the playoffs for the 13th straight time. With that, speculation is aplenty regarding who will be around next season and who will not. (photo: Doug Kerr, Flickr)

"It is hard just with all of the uncertainty in the air right now in terms of what is to come," Fitzpatrick told the media Wednesday. "I think it is very hard at this point to block out for it not be at the forefront of your mind. You just have to make sure that it does not affect (you). I have to make sure that it is does not affect the way that I play."

Wilfork: Hard to believe Pouncey's only in 2nd year


New England Patriots veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork has gone head-to-head against Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey a few times. It's felt like more.

Wilfork will be up against Pouncey, who is now finishing up his second season, when their respective teams square off Sunday. (photo: jdn, Flickr)

"It’s rare that you find a center that can pull out into the open field and can block DBs and linebackers, especially up front being able to orchestrate that offensive line and getting everybody in the right position that they need to be in," Wilfork said, via "... It’s hard to just know that he’s only two years in – that’s the scary thing.

Wilkerson's stellar season may be over a week early


Not many defensive linemen, or defensive players in general, have had as good of a season as the New York Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson, albeit quietly in what was otherwise a dismal season for Gang Green.

Unfortunately for Wilkerson, that season will likely end a game short. (photo: Daniel Speiss, Flickr)

Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters Wednesday that the second-year player was concussed Sunday in New York's loss to the San Diego Chargers, via the NY Daily News. The team later said Wilkerson received the concussion near the end of the game and didn't show concussion-like symptoms until after it was over.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tom Brady says Patriots were 'lucky' to beat Jaguars


For the second week in a row, the New England Patriots got off to an incredibly slow start. This time around, they were fortunate enough to win.

Six days after losing to the San Francisco 49ers in a game they were down 31-3 early in the second half, New England didn't score its first touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars until the final seconds of the first half. The Patriots went on to win 23-16.

“We played pretty terrible out there," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said after the game. "It came down to the wire and the defense made some plays but it was a bad sixty minutes of football. We got out competed, out fought and we’re lucky to win.”

Edwards: Don't assume sack debacle is all OL's fault


The New York Jets boasted the NFL's best offensive line during Rex Ryan' first season as head coach in 2009. It's gotten worse each year since, but so has the rest of the offense.

Gang Green's front unit surrendered a team record-tying 11 sacks in yet another debilitating loss, this time a 27-17 stinker against the San Diego Chargers with Greg McElroy at the helm in his first career start.

While New York's protectors had maybe the worst day of their careers, there's likely plenty of blame to go around.

Dolphins win but are 'tired of playing for pride'


The Miami Dolphins' defense was able to do something it had struggled with all season, creating four turnovers in a convincing 24-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

But the team wasn't satisfied that they had just dominated a division rival. Instead they were focused on the reality that they would miss the postseason for the fourth straight season.

"There are guys in this locker room that are tired of playing for pride," linebacker Kevin Burnett said, according to Ben Volin via Twitter. "It’s getting old for me."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Chargers at Jets


The New York Jets' drama play has come full circle, with quarterback Mark Sanchez getting benched for Greg McElroy following a five-turnover performance against the lowly Tennessee Titans that saw Gang Green get eliminated from playoff contention.

The sensationalistic media has gotten everything they can out of a team that just wasn't very good to begin with, "underachievement's" aside. Sunday, they'll host the San Diego Chargers (5-9), a team that lives off of underachievement. (photo: Marianne O'Leary, Flickr)

Target practice. Who will be McElroy's go-to target Sunday? He's had limited work with the first team this season, not that "first team" means anything, anymore. He won't have the used-to-be reliable Dustin Keller, and Stephen Hill is done for the year. We'll see if McElroy finds good balance in taking shots at the big target Braylon Edwards with smart, conservative throws to Jeremy Kerley in space.

D-termined. The Jets' defense has been stellar as of late, climbing all the way from the bottom of the league to eighth in total defense despite the Jets' anemic offense keeping it on the field. If anything, Rex Ryan's squad will be playing for pride, trying to finish the season in the top 5 for the fourth straight season.

Rivers' generosity. Only Sanchez has more turnovers in the last two years than Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers. New York's defense will need to take advantage of that. The Jets have made timely turnovers all season long, but the offense rarely converted on them. McElroy needs to prove he can build off of the momentum the defense creates rather than muffle it.

CareerBuilder. No job is safe in the Jets' organization. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is likely a goner after the season, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine reportedly turned down an offer for a contract extension, Ryan could be on thin ice soon and general manager Mike Tannenbaum is a potential housecleaning candidate. Simply put, the Jets' coaching staff and management better work their tails off in a season-ending stretch to prove their worth.

Gameday Deciding Factors: Bills at Dolphins


Not much has gone well for the Buffalo Bills (5-9) this season, but completing the sweep of the host Miami Dolphins (6-8) would be some measure of consolation for a team missing the playoffs for the 13th consecutive year. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

In the first meeting in November, Buffalo's defense stymied Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill en route to a 19-14 Bills victory. That defense has struggled since, most recently allowing 50 points to the Seattle Seahawks last week. Meanwhile, Miami hopes to hang on to miniscule playoff odds and doom Buffalo to a last-place finish in the AFC East for the fifth straight season.

Pass protection. Both the Bills' and Dolphins' defenses have had success pressuring the quarterback this year. The team that does the best job of mitigating that pressure and keeping their respective turnover-prone quarterback clean will have the best chance of winning.

Feed Spiller. With Fred Jackson gone, C.J. Spiller is the Bills' lead back. The Dolphins will have their hands full, as Spiller is averaging 7.1 yards every time he touches the ball. Containing Buffalo's star tailback will be crucial, though Bills coach Chang Gailey has done a pretty good job of that himself.

Impact of the run. Tannehill's success with play-action and rollouts depends completely on the Dolphins' ability to run the ball. With Daniel Thomas out, Miami will rely on Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller to set up the rest of the offense. (photo: June Rivera, Flickr)

Win the turnover margin. Tannehill can still be baited into rookie mistakes, and Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown the sixth-most interceptions of any player this season. A positive turnover ratio will spell victory.

Gameday Deciding Factors: Patriots at Jaguars


After being brought back down to Earth last week at the hands of the San Fransisco 49ers, the New England Patriots (10-4) head into Jacksonville this weekend, where a win has been been pretty easy to come by.

The two-win Jaguars have struggled against the division as well as on the scoreboard, and they will now face a Patriots offense that's put up more than 500 points already this season. New England will be looking to gain some ground in the AFC standings, as it currently sits third behind Denver and Houston in the hunt for home field advantage in the playoffs. (photo: Mark Kortum, Flickr)

The talented Mr. Ridley. Running back Stevan Ridley is quietly putting together a season for the Patriots' record books. He is up over 1,100 yards for the season, currently 11th on the team's all-time list. Two more strong games could put him the top five, and a game against Jacksonville is a good place to start. The Jags are currently touting the league's worst rush defense, giving up 148 yards a game.

Third down. Despite netting more than 500 yards last week against San Fransisco, the Patriots couldn't get the yards when it counted — on third down. The offense converted only 13 percent of its third down opportunities last week when it has been averaging close to 50 percent. Lucky for them Jacksonville's defense has been allowing teams to convert 42 percent of their third downs.

AFC East troubles. Jacksonville has gotten a heavy dose of the AFC East of late, and it hasn't been very enjoyable. The team is 0-3 against the division so far, having played the three other teams back-to-back the past three weeks. In those three loses, the defense has allowed 25 points per game, while the offense has only mustered an average of 10. That's not a good sign as they prepare for a team putting up an average of 36 points.

More Smith. Linebacker Daryl Smith, the Jaguars' all-time leading tackler, has been out all season with a groin problem, but he was activated from IR prior to Sunday and is slated to start. This could be a good morale boost for a team in desperate need of a lift.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Week 16 AFC East game picks: Bills at Dolphins

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

Nick's take:
Bills players are desperate to save Chan Gailey's job, and C.J. Spiller will be the best player on the field. That had me initially leaning toward Buffalo. Then I remembered that Gailey's misuse of Spiller is part of the reason his seat is hot in the first place. Plus, Leodis McKelvin isn't around to bail out Buffalo with a punt return touchdown.
Prediction: Dolphins 23, Bills 20 (Nick's record: 34-12)

Sean's take:
The low point of Ryan Tannehill's rookie season may have been the first matchup between these teams, as Buffalo's defense stymied nearly everything Miami tried to do. This game will be a test on how the young passer can adjust to an opponent he's seen before, and he passes that test.
Prediction: Dolphins 24, Bills 13 (Sean's record: 36-10)

Week 16 AFC East game picks: Patriots at Jaguars

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the New England Patriots' road matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Nick's take:
Upset Alert: Just kidding. Cecil Shorts, who leads the AFC in yards per reception, is up against a Patriots defense that has given up the league's most passing plays of 20 yards or more. That's all the Jags have going for them in a game that will likely be over at halftime.
Prediction: Patriots 40, Jaguars 17 (Nick's record: 34-12)

Dan's take:
The Jags are 0-3 against the AFC East, and now they get to face a Patriots team coming off a loss of its own. Jacksonville has had trouble stopping any offense this season let alone New England's, which is touting the league's No. 1 squad. This should be a cakewalk for the Pats.
Prediction: Patriots 44, Jaguars 20 (Dan's record: 27-19)

Week 16 AFC East game picks: Chargers at Jets

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the New York Jets' home bout with the San Diego Chargers.

Nick's take:
Quarterback Greg McElroy, who will be making his first career start, will be the beneficiary of something Mark Sanchez has lacked all season: fan support. A strong running game, a conservative passing attack and a stout defensive showing against the turnover-prone Phillip Rivers gives the Chargers the higher draft pick come April.
Prediction: Jets 17, Chargers 14 (Nick's record: 34-12)

Sean's take:
San Diego's defense is inconsistent, but it certainly has the ability to force a young, inexperienced passer in McElroy into numerous mistakes. A beatdown at the hands of the Chargers punctuates what has been a mess of a season for New York.
Prediction: Chargers 28, Jets 17 (Sean's record: 36-10)

Patriots won't sell Jaguars' passing attack short


If there's been one knock on the New England Patriots this season, it's been their pass defense.

Opposing teams understandably rack up a lot of yards against New England, as they're often playing from behind. However, the Patriots have given up 68 passing plays of 20 yards or more, which is the most in the NFL, while surrendering third downs at a 41.2 percent rate.

As a team, New England is heavily favored against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, but the Jaguars and their quietly explosive air attack have an opportunity to take some shots against the Patriots' secondary. (photo: Lizz Koch, Flickr)

Sherman: Tannehill's 'psyche' is 'the beauty of Ryan'


The Miami Dolphins had some ups -- and a few more downs -- in 2012. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill was along for the ride.

Tannehill was a bit off and on during his first season as a professional signal-caller. Here's his passer rating in order from Week 1 to 15 (not including Week 7, when he left the game early): 39.0, 91.0, 50.2, 86.5, 92.3, 112.0, 90.9, 42.4, 46.9, 97.1, 66.2, 74.0, 123.2.

Tannehill's Dolphins sit at 6-8. But it's not necessarily the results that has the young quarterback's coaches confident in his future. It's how he deals with them. (photo: June Rivera, Flickr)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Two schools of thought interpreting Bills' new lease


The Buffalo Bills announced Friday they signed a new 10-year lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium, with a $400 million penalty if the team wanted to move out of town in the next seven years and a $29 million penalty to get out of the lease in the eighth year, according to the Associate Press and The Buffalo News.

After reading multiple reports and even more fan reaction via story comments and message boards posts, the new agreement, which also commits $130 million in stadium renovations, seems to have divided the fanbase on what the terms of the deal really mean. (photo: Eammon, Flickr)

There are two general schools of thought: a positive one and a negative one.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Norv Turner could be on a business trip at MetLife


San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner won't be "San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner" for very long. After getting fired by the Chargers in two weeks, he'll likely become some needy team's offensive coordinator by the end of January.

That team could very well be the New York Jets. (photo: Nathan Rupert, Flickr)

The Tony Sparano experiment didn't work out in 2012 for the Jets, and Sparano will likely make his New York exit during what looks to be an oncoming housecleaning by the Jets' brass following the season. The Chargers visit the Jets Sunday in a matchup between two reeling teams that used to be among the conference's best.

Brady, Gronk make top 10 in fan Pro Bowl voting


The New England Patriots’ offense is ranked at the top or near the top of every category under the sun this season, so it’s no surprise its key players are being recognized accordingly by NFL fans.

Quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski each made the top 10 in the fan portion of the Pro Bowl voting process, according to

Brady garnered more than 900,000 votes — second most behind only Peyton Manning — and Gronkowski grabbed more than 640,000 votes, good enough for eighth-most. (photo: jdn, Flickr)

Like McElroy, Braylon slated for two-game audition


The New York Jets brought in receiver Braylon Edwards to reunite with his friend and former quarterback Mark Sanchez in Gang Green's last-gasp playoff push.

A week later, Edwards is left with the task of being first-time starter Greg McElroy's No. 1 target in the garbage time of the Jets' season. (photo: Zolotkey, Flickr)

After New York's demoralizing loss to the Tennessee Titans Monday night, Jets coach Rex Ryan benched Sanchez in favor of the second-year McElroy. Wednesday night, rookie receiver Stephen Hill was placed on Injured Reserve, and the Jets' used-to-be top target tight end Dustin Keller is expected to miss yet another game Sunday when the Jets host the San Diego Chargers.

McKelvin IRed after stellar punt return campaign


Leodis McKelvin's spectacular campaign at punt return will come to an end a little early, as the 27-year-old utility player was placed on Injured Reserve Thursday.

McKelvin has lead the league all season in punt return average, and he currently sits 10th on the all-time single-season list behind Lemar Parrish, who was the last to put up more than 18.7 yards per return back in 1974, according to Pro Football Reference. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

The all-time leader in punt-return average is Jack Christiansen, who put up 21.5 a return with Detroit Lions in 1952.

Pats realigning after 3 primetime games in 4 weeks


The New England Patriots played a near-flawless game against the Houston Texans a week and a half ago on Monday Night Football before turning around to post a sloppy showing against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football.

Two weeks before the Houston game, New England blew out the New York Jets on Thanksgiving night, a Thursday Night Football contest. That's a lot of Night Football's. (photo: Steve Glass, Flickr)

Coach Bill Belichick is pleased to finally return to a regular work-week, as the Patriots are slated for a normal, early-Sunday afternoon football game at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Around-the-Web AFC East power rankings: Week 16

Here's where the four AFC East teams stand in the major media outlets' NFL power rankings entering Week 16:
              NE      NYJ       BUF       MIA
ESPN         4(1)    21(19)    25(24)    19(21)      3
(1)    24(23)    23(20)    19(24)
4(1)    21(19)    26(23)    25(26)
FoxSports    3
(1)    26(24)    29(26)    19(22)
NBC (PFT)    
5(1)    25(24)    23(23)    20(22)       
3(1)    24(22)    27(26)    19(21)
2(1)    27(26)    23(24)    20(20)
AVERAGE:     3.4
     24        25.1      20.1

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

With Thomas out, Miller gets chance to earn his keep


The Miami Dolphins effectively ended running back Daniel Thomas's season Wednesday, putting the second-year tailback on Injured Reserve due to a knee ailment he acquired last week in a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With Thomas's departure from the depth chart, rookie tailback Lamar Miller, who has shown flashes this season, will get some opportunities to show his stuff backing up Reggie Bush for the final two games of the season.

Miller has attempted just 36 rushes this season but is averaging 4.6 yards a carry. His best outing came in the team's first game of the season, when he rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. (photo:

Wood says Toronto Series is a 'joke' and it 'sucked'


We all knew Buffalo Bills players were not fans of the five-year Toronto Series that saw them play one "home" game a season at Toronto's Rogers Centre.

Last season, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and safety George Wilson were extremely critical of the atmosphere and lack of home-field advantage, and receiver Stevie Johnson echoed those sentiments last week.

This week, one Bills player verbally laid the wood on the up-north campaign following their blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Buffalo is 1-4 in Toronto. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rex makes necessary switch to McElroy, not Tebow


Greg McElroy is the starting quarterback for the New York Jets -- for now.

Less than a day after Mark Sanchez threw four interceptions and mishandled a critical snap at the end of the Jets' demoralizing 14-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Jets coach Rex Ryan handed over signal-calling duties to McElroy. (photo: slgckgc, Flickr)

Tim Tebow had been the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart pretty much the entire season, but Ryan insisted starting McElroy "is what is best for our team" in Gang Green's now-meaningless bout with the San Diego Chargers Sunday.

Bills extend would-be free agent guard Kraig Urbik


The Buffalo Bills had a pair of starting offensive linemen headed to free agency this coming offseason, but at least one of them won't get that far.

Buffalo signed right guard Kraig Urbik to a contract extension Tuesday. Urbik is now slated to be a Bill for at least four more years, according to The Buffalo News.

The 27-year-old, who was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010, has started 24 games over the past two years and can play at any of the three interior offensive line positions. (photo: Doug Kerr, Flickr)

New York Jets' season ends in typical Jets fashion


The New York Jets' season came crashing to an end Monday night in only a way that the Jets could manufacture.

After an absolutely deplorable showing by their offense, the Jets still had the ball at the Tennessee Titans' 25-yard line with just under a minute to go, down just four points and poised for an improbable scoring series that would keep their season alive for at least another week.

So it's only fitting that maybe the Jets' best player, center Nick Mangold, snaps the ball low, which gets kicked by running back Bilal Powell and ends up in the hands of the dismal Titans, who end the Jets' season on a play that says all anyone needs to know about Gang Green's 2012 condition.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Jets at Titans


The New York Jets (6-7) are winners of three of their last four contests, and with a victory over the Tennessee Titans (4-9) Monday night, they can remain just on the outer edge of the Wildcard race with two games to go.

Gang Green's defense has been stout as of late, and their run game has been just as good. Their passing attack, however, is still stagnant thanks to quarterback Mark Sanchez's shaky play and a injury-depleted receiving corps. The Jets hope recently-aqcuired wideout Braylon Edwards can help turn it around before it's too late. (photo: Al Guel, Flickr)


Away-field advantage. If I were the Jets, I'd be happy to be on the road. The Jets encounter much more animosity at home than on the road, with fans voicing their displeasure via a sea of boos following every single three and out or turnover, no matter what the circumstance is. The Jets are 3-3 on the road and 3-4 at home, and they'll finish the season with two more away games in three contests.

Braylon's role. Edwards will make his return debut in a Jets uniform Monday night, but how big of a role he plays remains to be seen. Edwards has been nursing a hamstring ailment the last few weeks and was very limited throughout the week. However, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that Edwards could start depending on which formation the Jets opt to go with on their opening series. Edwards might already be the Jets' best receiver, and he has a good history with Sanchez, so expect Sanchez to take plenty chances in his direction like he did in the pair's 2009 debut on an early-season Monday night, given Edwards is full-go.

Mo, Coples factor. Jets second-year defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and first-year defensive lineman Quinton Coples had big-time games last week. Wilkerson has been one of the best D-linemen in the NFL all season, constantly drawing blocks from the opposition's running backs on passing downs and being equally stout against the run. Coples has been explosive off the line in limited action, and the two will look to smother a Chris Johnson-led rushing attack while harassing young signal-caller Jake Locker.

Greene light. The Titans have been very susceptible to the run as of late, which plays right into the hands of a Jets offense that have rediscovered its identity as a ground-and-pound unit. Gang Green will feed the rock to Shonn Greene as much as possible as long as the score is within a touchdown. Greene had been sharing carries with Bilal Powell, but Powell is currently nursing a toe injury and may be somewhat limited.

Week 15 AFC East game picks: Jets at Titans

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the New York Jets' Monday night contest with the Tennessee Titans.

Nick's take:
At this point, being on the road actually benefits the Jets, who seem to be hated more in their own stadium than in their opponent's despite the fact that they've won three of four. The Jets' defense is playing lights out as of late, thanks mostly to the efforts of defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Stout defense and a sound running game continues to be the formula for another Jet win.
Prediction: Jets 20, Titans 10 (Nick's record: 33-11)

Sean's take:
After all of the media-manufactured controversies and ugly losses, the Jets' 2012 season still has a chance to take an entirely new tone with a playoff berth. It'll require a little luck, but first a win in Tennessee against a team that poses numerous matchup problems for New York. Under this pressure, Mark Sanchez falters and the world prepares for an over-analyzed Jets offseason.
Prediction: Titans 23, Jets 13 (Sean's record: 34-10)

Vince Wilfork: 'Tonight, we just weren't the Patriots'


New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has been around a little while now, so he's pretty good at putting what happens out on the field into words.

Sunday night, following an extremely sloppy performance by the usually disciplined Patriots, Wilfork summed it up best: "... tonight, we just weren't the Patriots."

Fair enough. In a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Patriots executed poorly on all the things they typically do well. (photo: Karen Cardoza, Flickr)

The Patriots lead the NFL in turnover differential, yet they turned it over four times and got just two takeaways.

In Bess's absence, Dolphins' Fasano gets extra work


With Davone Bess missing the first game of his career, a pair of untested receivers in Rishard Matthews and Marlon Moore were moved up the depth chart to fill the void.

Starting tight end Anthony Fasano got the call, too.

Fasano caught a season-high six passes for 56 yards, adding a touchdown and a two-point conversion reception in the Miami Dolphins' 24-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

We expected the tight end would draw quarterback Ryan Tannehill's attention, and that he did. Fasano was targeted a team-high seven times in the game, working out of the slot all game.  (photo: Bob B. Brown, Flickr)

Patriots careless with football in loss to 49ers


The New England Patriots' recipe this season has been ball security on offense and turnovers on defense. Sunday night, New England turned the ball over four times in a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

"We just didn’t do a good job; didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after the game, via

Brady threw a first half pick, and running back Vereen put the ball on the ground two drives later after catching a pass from Brady. But despite the miscues, San Francisco only led 17-3 at the half, with none of its scores coming off of the turnovers.  (photo: JDN, Flickr)

New England punted four times before the break and had only the lone field goal to its name.

Pete Carroll feels bad for running fake punt vs. Bills


Fake punts are typically reserved for critical do-or-die situations, but for the Seattle Seahawks, they're business as usual.

Up by 30 points over the Buffalo Bills early in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks opted to run a fake punt, which went for 29 yards. Seattle got a field goal out of the drive in closing out a 50-17 win. (photo: JC.Winkler, Flickr)

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the game that his team had the play installed if Buffalo gave his punt unit a specific look, which it did at that time. However, Carroll regrets not stopping it in that particular situation.

"I feel bad about this," Carroll said, via the Seattle Times.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dolphins' new quarterback upends their old one


The Chad Henne era of Miami Dolphins football is one that South Florida fans would rather forget. Ryan Tannehill is trying to help them do exactly that.

On a day that Henne returned to Miami to face his former team, Tannehill had the best game of his young career, as his Dolphins defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-3.

The rookie completed 22-of-28 passes for 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns, which was good for a 123.2 passer rating, his highest mark of the season. (photo: June Rivera, Flickr)

Henne, meanwhile, could not match the effort and was only able to lead his offense to three points on the day.

Toront-no: Bills finish above-the-border series 1-4


Maybe the numbers next to the dollar sign say the Buffalo Bills' five-year, five-game Toronto Series was a success.

The numbers in the win-loss column don't.

The Bills were blown out 50-17 by the Seattle Seahawks Sunday in the final installment of their current contract to play a regular season game a year at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, dropping their record playing up north to 1-4.

Buffalo's only win during the series came last year against the Washington Redskins. (photo: Giovanni Variottinelli, Flickr)

Gameday Deciding Factors: 49ers at Patriots


No team has scored more points than the New England Patriots (10-3), and no team has given up fewer points than the San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1). Tom Brady's red-hot scoring offense, averaging 36.3 points per game, is on a direct collision course with a defense surrendering just 14.2 points a contest. (photo: Bay Area Bias, Flickr)

New England, coming off a rout of the Houston Texans in a game that was supposed to be close, could be playing in a Super Bowl preview Sunday night.


Ridley's role. Patriots running back Stevan Ridley remains the team's best-kept secret, as the second-year player has quietly rushed for 1,082 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Ridley's contributions Sunday night against a stout run defense will be critical in loosening up the 49ers' defensive front, which will be pinning its' ears back to get after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady from the get-go.

Receiving help. It'll be all hands on deck for the Patriots' receiving corps against the 49ers' defense. New England's offense is an OK matchup with a great pass rush, because Brady is good at getting the ball out fast, and the Patriots' best receiver in Wes Welker is slot guy who gets into space quickly. Brandon Lloyd will stretch things out, but tight end Aaron Hernandez and Welker will be targeted plenty in the middle of the field, which won't be an easy task against a linebacker corps stout in coverage.

Smith and Smith. 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith leads the NFL in sacks with 19.5, thanks in part to the work of defensive lineman Justin Smith, who opens up opportunities for Aldon to capitalize on mismatches. The pair will pose major issues for Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder, who will need to be fundamentally sound while getting good help from guard Logan Mankins.

Capping Kaepernick. The 49ers opted to roll with second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick for the second part of the season regardless of Alex Smith's health, and it's paid off thus far. Kaepernick's big-play ability and great leg work gives opponents a whole lot to prepare for during the week and a whole lot to account for on the field. New England, however, will give Kaepernick a plethora of looks itself, and the turnover-happy squad is poised to take advantage of Kaepernick's inexperience.

Week 15 AFC East game picks: 49ers at Patriots

Lead writer Nick St. Denis and AFC East Daily contributors Dan Begnoche and Sean Donovan pick the New England Patriots' primetime showdown with the San Francisco 49ers.

Nick's take:
The Patriots are up against their toughest task to date, which we said last week. Remember how that went? The 49ers are a much better team than the Texans, though, starting with the best scoring defense in the NFL. Plus, San Francisco has actually proven it can win in big moments, unlike Houston. That said, New England's turnover-crazed defense frustrates Colin Kaepernick, and Tom Brady does his thing.
Prediction: Patriots 30, 49ers 24 (Nick's record: 32-10)

Sean's take:
It's not often that the Patriots play against a middle linebacker who can match up with any back or tight end that Brady has, much less two. While Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman key a respectable defensive effort, it's the multi-dimensional Kaepernick and the San Fransisco offense that drives the upset of the red-hot Patriots.
Prediction: 49ers 35, Patriots 31 (Sean's record: 32-10)

Gameday Deciding Factors: Seahawks at Bills


The Buffalo Bills (5-8) head to their home away from home, Toronto's Rogers Centre, to take on the Seattle Seahawks, (8-5) who have won their last two and appear playoff bound.

Buffalo will need to stifle former Bill Marshawn Lynch if it's going to have a chance, and all eyes will be on C.J. Spiller now that he's the team's exclusive tailback. (photo: Neal D, Flickr)


Crossing the border. For as much as games on the other side of Niagara Falls have helped NFL promotion, it hasn't done much for the Bills' record. The team is 1-3 since starting its cross-border agreement, with the lone win coming last year against the Redskins. The outcome of this weekend's game could fuel more debate on the team's contract extension in Toronto, as the approval the league handed down has yet to be finalized by the team.

Running wild. With Fred Jackson's designation to IR, Spiller once again becomes the featured back in the Buffalo offense. Spiller still leads all backs in yards per touch, and expect him to get plenty this weekend in an offense that seems to ebb and flow on his performance. Seattle's stout defense has been unusually porous of late, allowing more than 130 yards on the ground in two of its last three games.

Family reunion. The return of Lynch will certainly be bittersweet for Bills fans, given how he may hold the fate of their team's season in his hands. Lynch is second behind Adrian Peterson for the most yards in the league, averaging nearly 5 yards a clip in the process. Buffalo's 28th-ranked rush defense doesn't help instill any confidence, although the team's front has allowed less than 70 yards on the ground in its last four games.

Blowout or bust. Seattle has had some close games this season, and its record coming out of them hasn't been great. Nine of the team's games have been decided by 7 points or less, including all five of team's losses. On the other hand, when Seattle wins, they win big. Besides the 58-point walloping the team gave Arizona last week, the Seahawks also have a 21-point victory over the Jets and a 20-pointer over the Cowboys.