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NFL Week 16: Previewing the AFC East Matchups

With two weeks left in the 2013 NFL season, two AFC East teams are fighting to clinch playoff berths, while the other two have been eliminated.

The New England Patriots enter Week 16 as the second seed in the AFC, while the Miami Dolphins are tied for the final playoff spot.

The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Entering Week 16, here the clinching scenarios for the Patriots and Dolphins:

New England clinches AFC East division with:

1) NE win or tie OR
2) MIA loss or tie

New England clinches a first-round bye with:
1) NE win + CIN loss or tie + IND loss or tie OR
2) NE tie + CIN loss + IND loss

New England clinches a playoff spot with:
1) CIN loss or tie

Miami clinches a playoff spot with:
1) MIA win + BAL loss + CIN loss

Here are the AFC East matchups in Week 16:

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, 1 pm ET, Sunday

Miami has won four of their last five games and five of their last seven, but this week they’ll be looking to avenge an earlier loss when they face the division rival Bills in Buffalo. The Bills beat the Dolphins in Miami back in October, and they’d certainly love to play spoiler this week.

The Bills won’t have rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, who is out again in what’s become an injury-plagued rookie season. Thad Lewis will get the start for Buffalo. Lewis was Buffalo’s quarterback in the previous matchup, and threw for over 200 yards as the Bills upset the Dolphins on the road.

The Dolphins have done an admirable job getting back into the playoff race after the off-the-field distractions threatened to derail their season. Coming this close only to come up short would be very disappointing. Ryan Tannehill has stepped his game up, and he’ll look to keep it going in Buffalo.

Cleveland Browns at New York Jets, 1 pm ET, Sunday

The Jets and Browns are both eliminated from playoff contention, but the Jets still have a lot to play for. As we discussed on NGN’s “Press Coverage” podcast this week, many Jets players are still playing for the right to return to the team next year, and they’re not the only ones being evaluated.

Head coach Rex Ryan and various members of his coaching staff have no guarantee of returning next season, and the Jets will be looking closely at these final two games as part of the overall evaluation of Ryan’s job as head coach. I’d like to see Ryan return, but there are valid arguments for both sides.

The Jets may have overachieved in the first half of the season, but it’s concerning that Ryan’s teams have struggled in December under his watch, even when they were winning games in January. For general manager John Idzik, there’s still a lot to evaluate as the Jets head towards this offseason.

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens, 4:25 pm ET, Sunday

In a game that will have massive playoff implications, the Patriots and Ravens square off in Baltimore in one of the Sunday late games. The Ravens are tied with the Dolphins with identical 8-6 records, and Baltimore enters Week 16 with the tiebreaker for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.

The Ravens can clinch a playoff spot in Week 16 if they beat the Patriots, the Dolphins lose to Buffalo, and the San Diego Chargers lose or tie their game as well. The defending Super Bowl champions have a tough road to the postseason, with the Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals in their final two games.

New England is still in the running for a top two seed and a first-round bye, and both teams will be treating this Week 16 matchup in Baltimore like a playoff game. It should be one of the better games on the NFL schedule this weekend, with stakes as high as can be in the regular season.

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

 

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