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Week 11: Previewing the AFC East Matchups

Week 11 of the 2013 NFL season is upon us, and the AFC East has all four of its teams in action this week, with the New York Jets and New England Patriots back from their respective Week 10 bye weeks.

For the Jets, who are competing for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC, it was quite the week off, as they saw three teams they’re battling with go down with Week 10 losses, including the rival Miami Dolphins.

Both the Jets and Patriots were able to put their feet up last week and still gain ground on their division rivals, but it won’t come as easily this week. Let’s check out the AFC East standings entering Week 11:

New England Patriots — 7-2
New York Jets — 5-4
Miami Dolphins — 4-5
Buffalo Bills — 3-7

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the AFC East matchups this week:

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills, 1pm ET, Sunday

Coming off their bye, the Jets are refreshed and ready to go this week, as they take on a banged up Buffalo Bills team that is now the only team in the AFC East that has not yet had their bye. The Jets have a surprising new addition in future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, who signed with the Jets on Thursday morning and is expected to suit up right away and play on Sunday.

Reed will probably be a sub-package role player for the Jets, as the third or fourth safety and a surrogate coach on the field, but there’s no doubt that if he’s got anything left in the tank, Rex Ryan will get the most out of him. If the Jets defense is getting better this late in the season, that’s a scary thought for the Bills offense, and every offense the Jets will face the rest of the way.

The Bills will be without rookie wide receiver Robert Woods this week, and the status of fellow wideout Stevie Johnson is up in the air. The Jets stop the run better than any team in the league, and you can bet that their imposing defensive line will be licking their chops as they get ready to face rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, who was sacked eight times the last time these two teams met.

No question about it, the odds are stacked against the home team in this one, but the Bills were able to hang tough in that previous meeting, and we certainly know that anything can happen in the NFL. On NGN’s Jets podcast, “Press Coverage” this week, we cautioned about looking past Buffalo, but I don’t think Rex Ryan will allow his team to lose focus. Every game is of vital importance the rest of the way, especially division and conference games.

San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins, 4:05 pm ET, Sunday

The Chargers and Dolphins both had big opportunities to tie the Jets in the Wild Card race last week, only to fall a game back with two very contrasting losses. The Chargers lost to the powerhouse Denver Broncos, while the Dolphins lost the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, these two teams face each other in Week 11, in a crucial game for each team’s playoff hopes.

I believe the Chargers are the better team in this matchup, but the great equalizer is that they have to travel to the east coast, albeit in a later game. Miami’s offensive line is in shambles, having lost yet another starter this week, this time to injury. The Chargers are a much improved team in 2013, but are unfortunate enough to play in the same division as two of the best teams in football this season.

For Miami to win this game, they’ll have to run the football much, much more effectively than they did last week. Asking Ryan Tannehill to stand in the pocket all day long is a recipe for disaster. Miami’s defense has been inconsistent this season, and it’s going to be a tough task going up against a rejuvenated Philip Rivers, who looks as comfortable as ever in Mike McCoy’s offense.

New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers, 8:40 pm ET, Monday

In perhaps one of the best Monday night matchups of the season, the 7-2 Patriots take on the 6-3 Panthers, who have won five straight games and have emerged as one of the breakout contenders in the NFC this season. Anyone who questioned whether Carolina was for real got their answer last week, when they went on the road and knocked off a good San Francisco 49ers team.

The last time we saw the Patriots, they were putting up 55 points. It’s probably a safe assumption we won’t see another 50-burger from New England this week, against a Panther defense that’s second in the NFL in both yards (283.3) and points (12.8) per game. It should make for a great game, with a strength versus strength battle of that Patriot offense and the Panther defense.

On the other side of the ball, Carolina will try to lean on their 10th-ranked rushing attack to control the clock, with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and quarterback Cam Newton all capable rushers. Newton has grown as a quarterback each and every season of his three-year career, and in at tight defensive battle last week, he was able to make the big throws when they needed them.

The Jets would love nothing more than to win this week and see their rivals lose in Carolina, getting them back within a game of the division lead. The Panthers are tough, and it should be interesting to see if the Patriots can go on the road and beat a team that hasn’t lost since the first week of October.

Jon Presser is the lead host of NGN’s New York Jets podcast, “Press Coverage: Jets Talk with Jon Presser,” live every Tuesday at 7:30 pm ET. Follow “Press Coverage” on Twitter: @PressCoverNYJ

photo by: runneralan2004

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