AFC East Primer: Week 14 Edition

The Patriots clinched the division last week with a victory over the Bills, so they're out to gain homefield advantage and a bye in the playoffs. The rest of the division is fighting for an improbable Wildcard spot

New York Jets (5-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)

Gang Green's doable stretch of the schedule continues in Jacksonville against the injury-depleted Jags. This has the look of another stinker. Despite injury issues of their own, the Jets have no excuses in this one. Jacksonville's only hope, aside from New York's general awfulness, is now-starting quarterback Chad Henne, who was 3-1 against the Jets as the Dolphins' starter in 2009-10... Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez still has his starting job despite getting benched last week, but for how much longer? He'll likely be on a short least with backup Greg McElroy waiting in the wings for another chance.

Buffalo Bills (5-7) vs. St. Louis Rams (5-6-1) Defensive end Mario Williams has really come on as of late, tallying six sacks, two passes defensed and a forced fumble in the last five games after taking down opposing QBs just three times in the team's first seven contests. He thanks a minor wrist surgery during the bye for that. Only two quarterbacks have been sacked more than Sam Bradford, so the Bills will look to take advantage of that in inclement weather at home...

Offensively, Buffalo is fine if it can give Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller upwards of 15 rushes apiece, sprinkling in some short stuff in the screen game. Ask Ryan Fitzpatrick to carry the team, though, and they don't have much of a shot.

Miami Dolphins (5-7) at San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1)

If style points counted, the Dolphins would feel pretty good this week -- at least on defense -- after what was mostly a close game against the Patriots. Despite the offense and special teams constantly putting Miami's defense in bad positions, it held the Patriots to just two touchdowns... All three units face another tall order this week, heading out to the West Coast to take on the Colin Kaepernick-led 49ers at Candlestick Park. Kaepernick is slated to make his fourth straight start, the biggest factor in this one will be defensive end Aldon Smith, who leads the NFL with 17.5 sacks. He'll go head-to-head with Dolphins rookie tackle Jonathan Martin, who will make his first start at left tackles after playing 12 games on the right side. That should be interesting.

Houston Texans (11-1) at New England Patriots (9-3)

The AFC's two best teams going head-to-head in December on Monday night? Yeah, we'll take it. Third down will be absolutely critical here. The Patriots boast the NFL's best third-down offense, moving the chains at just under a 53-percent rate. Meanwhile, the Texans have the stingiest third-down defense in the NFL, surrendering third downs just over 28 percent of the time. New England practiced with tennis racquets on the defensive line this week to simulate defensive end J.J. Watt's incredible knack for tipping and swatting passes. Even scarier is the fact that Watt is an elite pass-rusher, as well... New England's defense will need to stay disciplined against one of the best play-action offenses in the league. This game has major implications for seedings at the top of the conference.


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