AFC East Preview: New England vs. Miami and Buffalo vs. New York

The AFC East will wrap up the season up with two Sunday games. The New England Patriots (11-4) will host the Miami Dolphins. After getting off to rough starts in their last two games, the Patriots will try to put that behind them as they enter the game likely knowing their seeding for the playoffs.

In the second game, there’s no post season for these two teams, just a battle of in-state rivals and the likelihood that change is coming next season. The Buffalo Bills (5-10) will play the New York Jets (6-9).

New England vs. Miami

Patriots QB Tom Brady

Playoff implications: The Patriots have the tiebreaker advantage over the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. If one of these teams loses on Sunday, the Patriots could grab one of the AFC’s top two seeds. They will take the field knowing the Texans’ result as they play in the first game.

As for the Broncos game, that will take place at the same time as the Patriots.

This is a win worth playing for as they will need one to grab the No. 3 AFC spot should the Baltimore Ravens beats the Cincinnati Bengals.

Questions are swirling on what Patriots players will take the field with one possibility including tight end Rob Gronkowski. He is recovering from a broken forearm and has been out since Nov. 18. His absence his been felt as he still leads his teammates in receiving touchdowns.

For the Dolphins, they’ll play for the win as they try to avoid a fourth consecutive losing season. A victory will also give them their third straight one thanks to a defense that has been key, giving up 13 total points over the last two games.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has cut down on his interceptions and in the last two games has thrown four touchdown passes. With their two recent wins, the team has relied on its running game (362 total rushing yards) and running back Reggie Bush will try to add 40 yards to see a second straight 1,000-yard season.

The Patriots have been a little off but not enough to end the season with a loss (-11, 46 o/u).

Buffalo vs. New York

Jets QB Mark Sanchez

After losing his starting job to backup quarterback Greg McElroy, former starter Mark Sanchez will be back this week for the season’s finale. It’s been a dismal season for him and in one last opportunity thanks to an injured McElroy (can you say 11 sacks?), Sanchez will try to make the most of it.

The bigger question may be if Sanchez plays poorly again, is it Tim Tebow time or will the team put in leading wide receiver Jeremy Kerley to pinch hit with the wildcat formation again this week?

Other drama includes the question of whether coach Rex Ryan will return. His contract runs through 2014 but after the team’s loss to the San Diego Chargers last week, this represented his first losing season and a second straight one without a postseason visit.

Ryan has been confident about his job but change should be coming for the 2013 season.

Buffalo’s story isn’t much different. They will have their fourth 10-loss season and with coach Chan Gailey at the helm for three seasons, he has a 15-32 record. In the Bills last nine games, they’ve lost seven and now there’s chatter it may be time for Gailey to go.

Quarterback problems also plague this team but it doesn’t include all the drama. In his last eight games, Ryan Fitzpatrick has eight touchdowns with seven picks; to date, he has 3,175 yards (61.4% completion), 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

The Bills one bright spot offensively is running back C.J. Spiller with his 183 carries, 1,185 yards and six touchdowns for the season.

In the team’s last six meetings, the Jets have won but this streak may stop on Sunday with Buffalo at -3.5, 39 o/u.

 

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