AFC East Reporter
The AFC East is starting to slide closer to the finish line of the playoff push.
The Buffalo Bills have clinched a spot in the playoffs. It was the only positive result for the division in Week 15. The Bills beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. But the loss wasn’t a deal-breaker for Miami in its postseason pursuit. The Dolphins have a 72% chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. And maybe they’re learning their flaws in this three-game losing streak.
The New York Jets and New England Patriots each suffered losses that nearly killed their playoff chances — both teams have less than a 20% chance of making the playoffs. The Jets and Zach Wilson couldn’t hold off the Detroit Lions. New England lost to the Raiders in one of the most embarrassing games in recent memory.
Let’s dive into a few remedies from the week.
Bills QB Josh Allen It didn’t change, but the result did
There were a few games where many wondered if Josh Allen had broken something. It wasn’t that long ago. From Weeks 8 through 10, Allen threw two interceptions per game, including one in the red zone.
Everyone stayed calm, right?
There was mounting criticism of Allen and first-year offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. But Allen’s turnover woes have returned to average. He has just one interception in his last five games. I don’t think he changed his decision-making that much. He still takes risks. the big ones. It simply transforms them.
Here’s an example from last week. He took it out of his pocket and emptied the watch completely to touch his body. If he missed, he would have missed a goal scoring opportunity. But he hit the receiver. The Bills ended the drive with a touchdown.
“Yeah, run the clock down to zero and throw a touchdown, right? He’s lucky he threw a touchdown pass or else,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said with a smile. “I’d probably flatten his tires after the game. He’ll learn it, and maybe I will.”
Even McDermott knows — at this point — that the Bills need Allen’s magic to win big games. And that means taking those risks with him, which means he’ll fall into rough spells. But she looks hot. And he needs to stay hot if he wants to go that high in the playoffs.
where is the love Saucy Gardner As the best defender of the year?
The offenses have a tough decision to make when they face Jets CB Sauce Gardner. They have to decide which receiver they want to take down on any given play. Gardner generally plays to the side and will completely shut down this area. In Week 14 against the Bills, Gardner allowed just one catch (6 yards) on two targets despite playing with a team-high 35 coverage snaps, per Pro Football Focus.
This season, Gardner has a defensive rating of 87.9 and a coverage grade of 89.6, the highest in the NFL.
as a novice. Let that sink in.
It’s inevitable that Gardner will win Defensive Rookie of the Year. He deserves it. How about Defensive Player of the Year? If the Jets make the playoffs, Gardner would have a better case. But eliminating the postseason shouldn’t rule him out. He was among the best players in the NFL. He is this year’s version of Ja’Marr Chase, a player instantly elite at his position.
A win for the Pro Bowl Tua Tagovailoa
The voters have spoken. Tua Tagovailoa received the most fan votes for the Pro Bowl (306,861).
Not only is this a huge accomplishment for Tua and Dolphins fans, but it’s also a significant change for Miami, who could potentially be paying the quarterback $6 million more.
If he makes the Pro Bowl team, Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option moves from $22 million to $28 million. He is in the third year of his contract and the Dolphins must decide whether to exercise his fifth-year option by May 2023.
They’ll likely pick that up — unless they decide to sign him to a long-term extension.
But if Tua reaches his fifth-year option, his flag football-style trip to the Pro Bowl will ultimately pay off.
Explaining the Dolphins’ strange third-down call
Miami coach Mike McDaniel has done a great job of establishing an impressive ground game — only abandoning it when it mattered. Against Buffalo on Saturday, the Dolphins averaged 7.52 yards per carry. And yet, on third-and-down the entire game, McDaniel dialed up a quick passing game that consistently troubled them.
In the second half, the Dolphins faced four third downs when they needed four yards or less. They threw me every time. At first? It was third and 4 and they made the kick. But on their next three plays, they needed three yards or less. And they passed, ultimately failing to convert every time. They finished 5 of 14 on third downs.
McDaniel was asked about his thought process in leaning so heavily on the pass on third down.
“In a game like this, you have to be ahead of what the defense is doing,” McDaniel said. “We’ve got to give them a reason to play one safety. I think they played four-man snaps the first time we played them. So you have a choice: You can either play scared or you can try to keep your offense going. And if they’re five-man Pressured to stop the run, it’s going to get ugly.
“I was fine with the flow of the game … the offensive line and the running backs believe in our receivers and the quarterback, and you have to play each other and get what the defense gives you.”
Translation: Bills were formations that made it easy for the Dolphins to throw the ball. And even though the Dolphins have been a great passing team all year (and even though the Bills seemed to make things easy for Miami), Tua & Co. Struggled to play a defense as good as Buffalo’s.
So McDaniel was in a tough spot where the defense forced the Dolphins (the pass game) and they still couldn’t convert on third down.
what’s next Mc Jones?
The Patriots QB was animated on the field to say the least. I’m not sure if it’s a fighter (against playcaller Matt Patricia) or if it’s frustration (for his out-of-control offense sinking) or if it’s an attempt to lead (to relieve his teammates).
“You don’t want to let your emotions get the best of you. But yeah, I think it almost does,” Jones said earlier this month. “It wasn’t directed at anybody. It was just an emotion coming out and we needed a spark.”
But now I wonder how Jones is perceived in the dressing room.
As much as Patricia clearly struggles on offense, Jones struggles to help his teammates succeed. And one of Jones’ teammates, Trent Brown, recently liked an Instagram post suggesting the Patriots pursue free agents Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason.
This is interesting.
Of course, who doesn’t want Brady? Even at the end of his career, the Patriots would probably welcome him back.
But Garoppolo? He is an average player who is struggling with injuries. Of course, he’s up to date with Jones. But you can debate how big the upgrade is. I’m not sure Garoppolo improves New England’s offense much.
But it doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what the Patriots players think. And maybe we just got a window into one player’s mind.
If Brown likes the idea of the Patriots looking for another quarterback, how many other players like the idea? And that raises a host of other questions about Jones’ relationship with the team and the future of the franchise.
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Before joining FOX Sports as an AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter @McKennAnalysis.
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