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NFL Week 14: Previewing the AFC East Matchups

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Especially in the AFC East.

With four games left in the 2013 NFL season, the New England Patriots are closing in on their fifth straight AFC East title, and 10th in 11 years.

While the Patriots are shoo-ins to play postseason football this season, the rest of the AFC East may not be so lucky.

After beating the New York Jets last week, the Miami Dolphins are still in the thick of things in the battle for the final AFC playoff spot, while the Jets are likely headed for the golf course in January.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills are four games under .500, and also likely looking towards next season.

Here are the AFC East standings going into Week 14:

New England Patriots — 9-3
Miami Dolphins — 6-6
New York Jets — 5-7
Buffalo Bills — 4-8 

All four AFC East teams are playing at the same time this week, in the early games on Sunday. Without further ado, here are the AFC East matchups in Week 14:

 

Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots, 1 pm ET, Sunday

It’s been a quarterback carrousel for Cleveland this year, as injuries have affected their signal callers all season long. As of the time of this writing, your guess is as good as mine as to who will actually be taking snaps under center for the Browns by game time. With all due respect, it may not even matter.

The Patriots have never been the type of team to fall victim to a trap game, and it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to get past a 4-8 Browns team. The only player they need to worry about is young receiver Josh Gordon, who’s put up 623 receiving yards over the past three weeks, including 498 the last two weeks.

Cleveland’s defense is very respectable, but they’ll have a tough time dealing with Tom Brady and the Patriots, especially now that Brady’s settled in with his new crop of receivers. The Browns may not have a great chance to win, but teams chasing the Patriots in playoff seeding sure wouldn’t mind if they did.

 

Oakland Raiders at New York Jets, 1 pm ET, Sunday

After alternating wins and losses for an NFL record 10 straight games, the Jets have now broken that streak with three straight losses. With the way they’ve played as of late, the Jets are probably better served looking ahead to the draft in April 2014  rather than playing games in January 2014.

This week on NGN’s Jets podcast, “Press Coverage,” we talked about why benching Geno Smith now would be counter productive at this point, as it’s important for the Jets to find out what they have in the rookie quarterback, as much as they possibly can. That means riding out the highs and the lows.

On paper, the Raiders should be a good matchup for the Jets, but the Jets have been wildly unpredictable this year. That being said, an inexperienced quarterback like undrafted rookie Matt McGloin will need to get rid of the ball quickly on his dropbacks against a defensive front like the Jets have.

 

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 pm ET, Sunday

The Dolphins (6-6) and Steelers (5-7) are still in the middle of the AFC playoff race, and a 9-7 record may be enough to clinch that final playoff spot. For the Steelers, that means they’ll have to win out to have a chance, and it starts with a big matchup this week against Miami.

It’ll be the first time in Mike Wallace’s career that he’ll face the Steelers, after the wide receiver bolted Pittsburgh for a big five-year contract with the Dolphins this offseason. It’s been an up-and-down season for Wallace, but no doubt he’d love to have a big game against his former team in this homecoming.

With their backs against the wall, I expect the Steelers to put everything they’ve got into this game, and if they can win the battle at the line of scrimmage, they can win this game and keep their season alive. It should be a competitive game that goes down to the wire, and it’ll be a fun game to watch.

 

Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 pm ET, Sunday

It’s a battle of rookie quarterbacks in Tampa Bay, as EJ Manuel and the Bills take on Mike Glennon and the Bucs. After an 0-8 start, the Bucs have won three of their last four games, and the third-round pick Glennon has quietly emerged as the cream of the rookie quarterback crop in 2013.

The Bucs were never as bad as their record said they were, but nevertheless, they’ve clinched a losing record. Now, they are just playing for pride, and possibly Greg Schiano’s future as Tampa Bay’s head coach. They have a lot of talent on their roster, and it shouldn’t have taken nine games to get a win.

Both teams have pretty strong running games, and I think whichever team can bottle up the run better will be able to come away with a win. The running games will try to take pressure off the rookie quarterbacks, and whichever defense can force some mistakes will put themselves in a good chance to win.

 

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

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