Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2nd Half AFC East Playoff Preview

Halfway through the season, the best teams are beginning to distance themselves from the pack. For the Jets, 6-2 is impressive, but remember, the Jets were 8-3 in 2008 and failed to make the playoffs, so there's still a long way to go. However, it's not too early to start looking at the playoff picture for the Jets, starting with the AFC East.

New York Jets (6-2, 3-0, 4-1)
Remaining Opponents: @CLE, HOU, CIN, @NE, MIA, @PIT, @CHI, BUF
4 games home, 4 games away
Combined Record: 30-34  

Six of the remaining eight Jets games are very winnable. Cleveland, Houston, Miami, and Chicago are average teams that have enough players to be competitive, but the Jets are better than all of them and should be able to win at least three of those matchups. Buffalo and Cincinnati have combined for two wins all year. While both teams have been playing hard, the Jets need to sweep those teams, considering both games are at home. That leaves two road games against upper echelon NFL teams that the Jets should be battling with for the division and for seeding purposes. If the Jets can split those two games, it would go a long way towards ensuring the Jets not only make the playoffs but also have a bye in the first round.

Projection: 12-4 (6-2 last 8 games). This is somewhat on the optimistic side, but I'll pencil in losses to New England and Pittsburgh for now.

New England Patriots (6-2, 2-1, 5-2)
Remaining Opponents: @PIT, IND, @DET, NYJ, @CHI, GB, @BUF, MIA
4 games home, 4 games away
Combined Record: 34-31

The Patriots have three games I would term very difficult games, but luckily, two are at home, and the Colts are so banged up, it's hard to say if they're an elite team like usual. Their opponent this week, Pittsburgh, certainly is, and on the road, that will be a very tough game. Normally, I'd mark Detroit as an easy game, but on the road at Ford Field, that could be a tough game for the Patriots, even without Matthew Stafford. This is a harder schedule than the Jets. Both teams face each other, Pittsburgh, Miami, Buffalo, and Chicago, but the Jets face Cleveland Houston, and Cincinnati while the Patriots battle Indianapolis, Detroit, and Green Bay. From New England's perspective, that game against the Jets on Monday, December 6th will probably determine the division. If the Jets win, they own the tiebreaker, and given the two team's schedules, it will probably be difficult for the Patriots to make up 1.5 games.

Projection: 12-4 (6-2). I'm marking down losses to Pittsburgh and Detroit. New England hasn't lost at home since 2008, so I think they'll have just enough to beat a banged up Colts team. I just think that the Lions' offense matches up well with the Patriots' defense, and Ndamukong Suh will be a force.

Miami Dolphins (4-4, 1-2, 2-4)
Remaining Opponents: TEN, CHI, @OAK, CLE, @NYJ, BUF, DET, @NE
5 games home, 3 games away
Combined Record: 32-33

Miami needs to start winning games soon. They do have five of their last eight games at home, but right now, the Dolphins are 0-3 at home, so that might not be that important. If the Dolphins can beat a tough Titans squad at home this week, they'll have a chance. If not, having 5 losses with road games still to come against the Jets and Patriots will be too much to overcome. However, a win this week, and the next three games are winnable. Flying across the country to Oakland isn't easy, but the Dolphins have dug a hole for themselves where they must win games like that. Miami must go 6-2 minimum on this schedule to have a chance, and that means going at least 3-1 in their next four games. The December 12th game against the Jets will probably be do-or-die for Miami. However, if the Dolphins can get a win, the next two games are not difficult. That could possibly set up a week 17 Dolphins-Patriots game where the winner gets into the playoffs and the loser is out.

Projection: 8-8 (4-4). This Dolphins team is a notch below the elite in the AFC. As a result, I'm marking down losses to the three teams better than them: Tennessee, New York, and New England, as well as a road loss to Oakland on the west coast.