AFC East wide open after Pats, Dolphins win

Miami DolphinsWith the Jets’ 24-14 loss to the 49ers coupled with the Dolphins’ 16-3 win over the Bills and the Patriots’ narrow 24-21 victory over the Seahawks, the AFC East is now up for grabs with all three teams sitting at 8-5.

If the season ended today, the Jets would still claim first place because they have the best division record at 3-1. But they currently have the same conference record as the Dolphins do at 6-4 and the Jets still have to play Miami and Buffalo, although both games are at home.

Even though they’re still technically in the best shape, the Jets have just suffered two ugly defeats. Miami has won six of their last seven games and arguably has the easiest remaining schedule as they host the 49ers next week before finishing at the Chiefs and Jets to end the season. New England’s remaining schedule isn’t too daunting either, as the Pats travel to Oakland next week, host the Cardinals in Week 16 and end the season at Buffalo.

It’s amazing to think that this division is so wide open given that just three weeks ago many were talking about the Jets being a possible Super Bowl contender after they beat the Titans. Granted, all of that talk was incredibly premature, but it’s crazy to think that a Tom Brady-less Patriots and a Dolphins team coming off a 1-15 season have just as much of a chance to win the division as a Jets team that looked like world beaters just two weeks ago.

Comment fodder: Who wins the division? None of the three teams have a very difficult schedule, so it might come down to home field advantage. The Jets have two more home games left, while the Pats and Dolphins each have one apiece. I still think New York wins the AFC East, but it’s going to be interesting over the next three weeks.

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Jets are imploding in front of our eyes

Brett FavreThree weeks ago the New York Jets were the talk of the NFL after they beat the previously unbeaten Tennessee Titans. But they were crushed at home by the Denver Broncos last week and on Sunday were rather surprisingly beaten by the San Francisco 49ers 24-14.

What the hell happened?

The 49ers have been a much more competitive team since Mike Singletary took over as head coach, but how do the Jets total just 182 yards of offense against San Fran’s defense? Brett Favre threw for just 137 yards and as a team, the Jets rushed for only 59 yards.

It’s hard to travel cross-country and win. But that said, if the Jets want to win a division, they have to be able to beat a poor 49er team starting Shaun Hill at quarterback. It’s not like the Jets turned the ball over multiple times (Favre threw one interception) and beat themselves (although eight penalties certainly doesn’t help) – the 49ers just flat out took it to them. San Fran had a 39:49 to 20:11 time of possession edge and totaled 375 yards of offense.

With this loss, the Jets have now opened the door for the Patriots and Dolphins in the division. All three teams are now locked in a three-way tie at 8-5.

Has the power shifted in the AFC East this season?

Brett FavreBrett Favre gets traded to Jets + Tom Brady goes down for the season in Week 1 = Jets AFC East Champions. Right? Yes, although it certainly hasn’t been that easy.

Despite Patriots’ QB Matt Cassel throwing for a career-high 400 yards and three touchdowns, Jay Feely’s 34-yard field goal in overtime gave the Jets a thrilling 34-31 victory Thursday night in Foxboro. With the win, the Jets took over sole possession of first place in the AFC East at 7-3 on the year.

While watching the game (yes, I am one of the 34 people who have the NFL Network), I got the impression that the power has shifted a bit in the division. Not to say that New England is out of it because clearly Cassel is more than capable of leading the Pats to the playoffs, but Jet Favre has provided a spark in New York that had been missing at the quarterback position.

After the Jets decided to make the game interesting by allowing Cassel and the Patriots to march right up the field for a game-tying touchdown with only seconds remaining in regulation, New York won the opening toss and marched right up the field. I don’t want to get into all of the “vintage Favre” crap, but the drive was indicative of what Brett has done throughout his entire career. He made plays when the game was on the line and propelled his team to victory. Even though he has resurrected the Dolphins this season, I doubt Chad Pennington would have lead the Jets in the same fashion Thursday night.

The Jets face their toughest test of the season next week when they travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans. If they can muster a victory, they should be on easy street the rest of the year: vs. Denver, at. San Fran, vs. Buffalo, at Seattle, vs. Miami. Of those games, the Jets get the Bills and Dolphins – two division opponents – at home.

With their victory over the Pats, the Jets have now set themselves up to win the division. But obviously Bill Belichick and New England won’t go quietly so this is shaping up for a great battle down the stretch.

Chad Pennington has been solid for young Dolphins

Chad PenningtonThe knock on Chad Pennington his entire career is that he has a noodle-arm and can’t complete passes over 15 yards. But in the Dolphins impressive 25-16 win over the Bills on Sunday, Pennington proved that there is something attached to his right shoulder.

Pennington completed 22 of 30 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown against an underrated Buffalo defense and his 46-yard pass to Ted Ginn on the first play of the game set up a Anthony Fasano touchdown to put Miami up 7-0.

I was definitely skeptical of the Pennington signing in the offseason because I felt the Dolphins weren’t giving their young signal callers a chance to compete. But Pennington has been great for a young Miami squad and at 3-4 they’re certainly in the playoff hunt in the AFC, albeit a long shot.

The Bills really blew an opportunity to stay ahead of the Patriots in the AFC East. Trailing 17-16 at the start of the fourth quarter, Trent Edwards was intercepted, which Miami eventually turned into a field goal. On their next possession, Edwards fumbled and although Miami didn’t turn the turnover into points, they pinned the Bills at their own three-yard line and then sacked Edwards for a safety. Then down 25-16 with less than four minutes to play, Robert Royal fumbled, which allowed the Dolphins to run out the clock.

This was a disappointing step back for a Bills team that was building momentum after beating the Chargers last week.

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