Patriots Look To Clinch AFC East
Just six weeks after a questionable 3-3 start to the season, New England finds itself within touching distance of the AFC East championship. Meanwhile, the rest of the division looks to improve on some woeful records and performances.
New England Patriots (8-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-6)
Sunday, 1 PM ET
New England (8-3, 4-2 road) can make short work of the AFC East this weekend. A win on Sunday will see the Patriots crowned division champions for the fourth consecutive year, and the ninth time in 10 years.
Miami (5-6, 3-2 home) is charged with the task of preventing this from happening, at least for another week anyway. The Dolphins snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a 24-21 win over the road-phobic Seahawks. A win on Sunday will see the team return to .500 and keep its slim playoff hopes alive.
Understandably, Miami faces a tough task. The Patriots’ high-octane offense has averaged 36.5 points per game over a six-game winning streak, while the defense has conceded just 17.8 points per game. Miami has been susceptible to passing attacks this season, and will be well and truly tested by Tom Brady and Co.
Miami’s strongest suit this season has been its defense against the run. The Fins have given up just 96.7 yards per game – good enough for seventh in the league – but Stevan Ridley and the New England running game will be more than happy to try the defense on for size, The Pats are sixth in the league rushing, averaging 143.7 yards per game on the ground.
New England has won four in a row against Miami and eight of the last 10. The two sides will meet for the first time this season on Sunday, with a second encounter coming at Foxboro on Dec. 30.
The red-hot Patriots opened as 6.5-point favorites but this number has increased to nine as kickoff approaches. New England is 7-4-0 against the spread, while Miami is 5-6-0 ATS.
The over/under has risen a half point to 51.5. The total has gone over in nine of New England’s 11 games this season. A defensive minded Dolphins side has kept the total under seven times, but it’s unlikely this Dolphins side will be able to limit the steamrolling Patriots offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-7)
Sunday, 1 PM ET
While New England is within touching distance of a division championship, Buffalo (4-7, 2-2 home) is just trying to regain some respectability this season.
Highly-touted following some big offseason moves, early season hopes have pretty much been dashed as we approach the final stretch. However, the Bills aren’t out of it just yet, and with three of the last four at home, there’s still an outside chance Chan Gailey’s side could make the postseason.
A three-game home stand – that includes next week’s annual ‘home’ game in Toronto – begins with the visit of Jacksonville (2-9, 1-4 road).
The Jaguars are coming off a 24-19 win over Tennessee last weekend, only the second time the northern Florida side has dialed-up a ‘W’ this season. That win put the brakes on a seven-game losing streak.
The Bills will look to the running game to take advantage of a gaping hole in the Jacksonville defense. The Bills rank seventh in the league in running the football with 140.3 yards per game, whereas the Jaguars rank 31st against the run, giving up 147.3 yards per game. On the other side of the ball, Jacksonville has struggled to run the football (81.4 YPG) but Buffalo is also susceptible to the run, giving up 147.3 yards per game. Only the Dallas Cowboys have been more anemic running the football.
Jacksonville has won two in a row against the Bills and three of the last four. The Jaguars are also 4-2 when traveling to Buffalo. The Bills will need to be on upset watch heading into this one.
Despite Jacksonville’s historically solid play in Buffalo, bookmakers prefer the Bills (-6). The Jaguars have been better at covering the spread this season , tallying a 6-5-0 ATS record compared to the Bills’ 5-6-0 ATS.
The over/under is 44. The total has gone over in six Buffalo games this season and five Jacksonville games. With the two teams ranked 29th and 30th in the league defensively, points could be free-flowing, providing each offense finds a groove.
Arizona Cardinals (4-7) at New York Jets (4-7)
Sunday, 1 PM ET
Like the Bills, the New York Jets (4-7, 2-4 home) have failed (miserably) to live up to expectations. A playoff berth, whilst not mathematically impossible, seems improbable at this time. For the Jets, it’s time to regain some credibility.
Rex Ryan’s side faces a final stretch of five games against opposition with a losing record. Games in Jacksonville, Tennessee and Buffalo lay in wait, whilst San Diego makes the long cross-country trip to MetLife Stadium in Week 16. First up though, Arizona (4-7, 1-4 road) arrives in New Jersey.
After winning its first four games of the season, Arizona has lost seven straight, thanks mostly to a woeful offense that averages just 16.4 points per game. Bovada is now offering 6/1 odds that Arizona will lose its remaining five games, extending its loss streak to 12.
New York thrashed Arizona last time the two sides met (Sep. 2008), running away with a 56-35 victory. New York has actually taken five straight victories from the Cardinals, who have not won on the road against the Jets since 1975, when the side was based in St. Louis.
The point spread opened at three in favor of the Jets and that has since increased to six. The Jets are 6-5-0 ATS this season compared to the Cardinals at 4-6-1.
The over/under is 36.5. The total has gone under is eight Cardinals games this season, and five Jets games.
As a sideshow to the main attraction, both head coaches are under fire for their respective teams’ performance. Both could also be casualties before the summer gets here. Bovada has Rex Ryan as -200 to no longer be head coach of the Jets in Week 1 of the 2012 season, and Ken Whisenhunt as -150 to be pacing the sidelines for the Cardinals in Week 1. It’s tough times to be an NFL head coach.