You know it’s getting late in the season when teams start clinching playoff spots, and as of right now both the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals have done just that. With the main slate of games coming on Sunday, the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos will be looking to do the same – at least I think so – playoff calculations can get a bit tricky this time of year.
Week 13 saw some impressive QB runs, with Blaine Gabbert, Russell Wilson and rookies Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota all doing a great job in extending plays, making defenders miss, and scoring TD’s. But this week I will continue my division-by-division playoff run down – so let’s get to it! This week, I’ll take a look at the AFC East.
The Patriots are great, but have taken a beating on the injury front
As another key piece of the New England Patriots offense goes down, #Tommy continues to make plays, but is it getting a bit too much for the Pats to handle? Brady has been able to make do without receiver Julian Edelman (foot) and running back Dion Lewis (knee), but the recent losses of Rob Gronkowski (knee) and Danny Amendola (knee) have stretched the Patriots close to breaking point. The culmination of a full season of bad luck was a worrying loss to a struggling Philadelphia Eagles outfit, where they were dominated on special teams.
There’s no doubting that the full-strength New England Patriots are a formidable side; they proved that by starting the season 10-0. But as their injury list grows, so does the doubt around their Super Bowl credentials. As scary as the full-strength Pats can be, the reality right now is that they aren’t anywhere near the same side as they were in their week one win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Right now, it’s hard to see anyone other than New England winning the division, but what was once a forgone conclusion – that the Pats would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs – is now in serious doubt. But, you add a healthy Gronk and Edelman back into the mix, and the Pats are back in business.
Fantasy watch: Tom Brady scored over 30 fantasy points again. His 312 passing yards, 4 total TD’s, 2 interceptions and 31.78 fantasy points were enough for him to stay the highest scoring player in NFL fantasy (290.58 points).
The New York Jets’ playoff push is nearing a critical juncture…
After their week 11 defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans, the New York Jets’ season was in danger of unravelling. An impressive 4-1 start to the season was levelled out as they lost four of their next five to slip back to the pack of Wild-Card contenders. Since then, the Jets have strung together two clutch wins – one against division rivals the Miami Dolphins, and one against a side they share a stadium with, the New York Giants.
The win against the Giants was particularly sweet, as Ryan “The Amish Rifle” Fitzpatrick lead his side to the win, overcoming a 10-point 4th quarter deficit to secure the Jets’ first victory over the Giants in the regular season since 1993.
This leaves “Gang Green” sitting at 7-5, and with their upcoming schedule, the next two games are crucial; the Jets will play the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium, and the Dallas Cowboys at Jerry World – two sides with losing records. After that, the Jets will complete two divisional games, against the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. If the Jets want in on the postseason action, they’ll need to win three of those four. To do that, they’ll need their stars to step it up; that means a consistent output from Chris Ivory, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Eric Decker and Ryan Fitzpatrick. If they get that, they’ll be playoff bound.
Fantasy watch: Ryan Fitzpatrick balled out against the G Men, totalling 390 passing yards, 2 TD’s and 22 rushing yards for his 25.80 fantasy points. Not bad for a perennial back up!
…The same can be said of the Buffalo Bills
Despite sitting at 6-6, Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills are actually in a pretty good position to make a run at the playoffs. This is in no small part due to an NFC East-heavy remaining schedule; the Bills will face the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys in consecutive weeks. If the Bills can pocket a victory in all three that will most likely set up an all-or-nothing clash with the New York Jets in week 17. I’m getting excited just writing that.
The key to success for the Bills will be their ground game. In fact, with an average of 140.9 rushing yards per-game the Bills are the 4th best in the NFL at running the football. In LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor, the Bills have a versatile RB/QB tandem and with both of them healthy the Bills are a difficult team to match up with.
What Buffalo needs is consistency, which, however obvious it is, is vital if a team is going to have continued success. If Taylor and McCoy can stay healthy, then these next few weeks will be a nice look into the future of the franchise, and may even give them a shot at doing some damage this season.
Fantasy watch: Tyrod “Tygod” Taylor burned the Houston Texans for 211 passing yards, 4 total TD’s, 28 rush yards and 29.24 fantasy points. He good.
The Miami Dolphins have been really, really disappointing
It has been hard to watch the Miami Dolphins this year. Not because they haven’t taken the next step toward becoming an AFC East contender, but because they have actually regressed to become the worst side in the AFC East. Now, it would be unfair to dish out blame for the team’s poor performances – especially when the season itself is not yet finished – but there has been one common denominator in the firings of head coach Joe Philbin and offensive co-ordinator Bill Lazor: an unhappy Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill, a product of Texas A&M, is coming off an improved season that saw him throw for 27 TD’s and 12 interceptions, and up his completion percentage from 60.4 to 66.4. But as expectations built, Tannehill’s play wilted; thus far, he has completed 61.4 per cent of his passes and has thrown 21 TD’s and 11 interceptions – very average indeed.
But, as I said, blaming Tannehill for the Dolphins’ poor play would be unfair. It’s a whole team issue. Recruiting Ndamukong Suh was meant to help their defence, but it hasn’t.
At 5-7, the Dolphins’ season isn’t over, but a playoff berth is unlikely. Maybe greater freedom for Tannehill will make 2016 his real break out year.
Fantasy watch: WR DaVante Parker was the only double-digit Dolphin in their win over the Baltimore Ravens. Parker had 63 receiving yards, one TD and 12.30 fantasy points.
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