by Kennedy Ross
Cold, Hard Football Facts AFC East Overlord (@FNscribeNY)
Amazingly enough, despite the records, every single team in the AFC East is still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Does that make the this the strongest division in the AFC? Three teams with a 5-7 record doesn't necessarily scream monster division. Nonetheless, there they are.
Here are five things you should be aware of for week 14
1. Possible AFC championship preview. (Patriot vs. Texans)
This game was one of the few on the schedule that New England even bothered to sharpen their pencils for. This was supposed to be a good one coming around the final turn of the season.
According to Houston's 11-1 record, tops in the NFL, it won't disappoint.
A win for the Texans can all but secure home field throughout the playoffs. Something the Patriots have gotten used to over the years. They will have to be on top of their game to make that happen this year. They not only have to beat and over take the Texans, but keep pace with Denver Broncos.
Both teams are working with top 10 numbers in offensive statistical categories. The Patriots are a couple of notches ahead of Houston on the ground and through the air.
They still have the No.1 rushing attack. Pair that with slots two and four in Real Quarterback Rating and Offensive Passer Rating, and any team will have their hands full. Even the Texans.
The parallels start to diverge on the defensive side of the ball. The Texans are still top 10 in run defense and passing defense. The Patriots however slide down to the middle of the pack in these categories.
That's not good when facing the likes of Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster.
Home field in this game should be a help to the Pat's and put them over the edge.
2. The day (week) after. (Jets vs. Jacksonville)
Is it possible to screw things up so much you might be a genius? After being benched for the first time in his pro career, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez says it might be the best thing that ever happened to him.
Sanchez contends that he has been humbled and motivated to play better. He says he can play better and has to show it now. Doesn't he say that after every third interception?
Apparently his coach Rex Ryan believes he has learned the error of his ways. So Ryan reinserted Sanchez as the captain of this sinking ship. But if this was all a plan to shake Sanchez up, then he gave him the best make up test in the league.
The Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars are one of the two worst teams in the league, according to the standings. They are even worse than the Cardinals who gave the Jets a run for their devalued money last week.
Does this mean Sanchez has a bounce back game? Or will he struggle all the way to the fourth quarter this time before McElroy has to come in and save the day?
According to Ryan, he will no longer tolerate poor play from Sanchez.
This added pressure should help Sanchez get off to a good start. Then the reality of who he has to help him win will creep back into focus. That's when we'll have a repeat of gutter ball like there was last week. They will all rally around the fact that they are still in the playoff hunt though.
Hooray for small favors.
3. Hanging on by a frayed thread. (Dolphins vs. 49ers)
Somebody doesn't like breathing-fish in the NFL schedulers office. Last week the Dolphins gave everything they had just to compete with the Patriots.
Now they have to fly out west to a 49er's team coming off of a stinging loss to St. Louis. Not the ideal situation to be in when you're fighting for your playoff life.
And when Negative Pass Plays is the only statistical category you best San Francisco in, you must have humped someone's daughter in the back seat of your e350.
With Collin Kaepernick out to prove he's not a fluke, this may not be a defensive grinder that the Dolphins hope it will be. Toughing it out and keeping it close is your best option when you're on the short end of the stats.
Kaepernick dosn't seem like the "play it close to the vest" type.
The Dolphins will have to summon up something from the offense to help keep Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore off the field. Unfortunately, a struggling rookie quarterback and a struggling, running back are not looking at good times against this top 10 defense.
It's going to be a long plane ride back to Miami beach.
4. On the outside looking in. (Bills vs. Rams)
Both of these two teams are on the very outskirts of playoff-ville. Barely alive, the Rams and Bills both try to keep their slim hopes alive with a victory on Sunday.
Both teams will be riding a high from the previous week.
St. Louis will be the highest (figuratively speaking) nipping their division leader, the San Francisco 49ers. After fighting them to an unsightly tie a few weeks prior, the Rams pulled off a major upset with a final score of 16-13.
The Bills are feeling pretty good themselves. Even though the Jaguars play like a group of Jerry's Kids, the Bills did what they were supposed to do. They stomped out the Jags 34-18 at home.
In that game Ryan Fitzpatrick had a rather odd stat line. He threw for only 112 yards and completed only nine passes. However he accounted for three touchdowns. Two throwing and one running.
The running game featuring Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller helped the Bills control the ball with a 24:51-35:09 edge in time for possession. That type of ball control will be needed much more when dealing with Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Steven Jackson.
Those two by themselves are more potent than anything Jacksonville had to offer last week. If the Bills can limit their production, they will be half way home . . . at home.
5. You can sleep well knowing . . .
. . . The Patriots are 10-1 in their last 11 Monday night games, with wins coming by an average of 20+ points. They can sure use some of that this Monday.
. . . How good would Sanchez have felt about being benched if Tebow took over and won the game then have to go to his home town of Jacksonville the next week?
. . . Andy Reid and Jim Harbaugh switched their quarterbacks and stuck with it. Rex is uncommitted to his non commitment.