Week 12 wrapped up November and set the stage for a wild December in the AFC East. After this week’s contests, the top three teams all have positioned themselves to make a run down the stretch. Also, thanks to the football schedule gods, the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins will all face off against each other in their final five games.
New England Patriots 5-6:
Once a weak pulse is starting to beat stronger. The Patriots found a way to pick up an ugly 20-17 win against the Arizona Cardinals. Both defenses seemed to have the perfect game-plan for the opposing quarterbacks. Kyler Murray was held without a touchdown for the first time this season. Murray finished with 170 passing yards, 31 rushing yards and an interception. Cam Newton’s stats were not any better. Newton finished with 84 yards passing, 46 rushing, two interceptions and no touchdowns. The difference was New England didn’t need Cam as much as Arizona needed Kyler.
Next up for the Patriots:
With five games remaining, the Patriots are just two back of a Wild Card spot and three back of the division. No one should count out Bill Belichick and New England just yet.
In Week 13, the Patriots will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers (3-8) at 4:25 p.m. EST on Sunday. The Chargers have lost more close games than any team in 2020. The Patriots seem to keep squeaking out close victories when they win. If that trend continues, New England could be back at .500 for the first time since Week 4.
Buffalo Bills 8-3:
The Bills defeated the Chargers 27-17. L.A. fought back in this game after being down early. Justin Herbert gave it his all with 316 passing yards on 52 attempts. The Chargers were within striking distance at the end, but poor game management by the coaching staff doomed them. This was not one of Josh Allen’s best games, but the win is all that mattered in this tight AFC East race.
Next up for the Bills:
Things do not get any easier for the Bills. Buffalo will take on the San Francisco 49ers (5-6) on Monday Night Football. The game kicks off at 8:15 p.m. EST. The 49ers have been perhaps the unluckiest NFL team this season. San Francisco has suffered a slew of injuries throughout the season and now has been banned from their home stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions in their county. Regardless, the 49ers are resilient and refuse to go away. San Francisco is in the hunt for a playoff spot just one game back from the final NFC wild-card spot. This will be a tough matchup in primetime for both teams.
New York Jets 0-11:
The Jets attempted to ride Frank Gore to a victory over the Dolphins. The strategy was unsuccessful, although Gore did have a good day rushing – 74 yards on 18 attempts. The Jets lost to the Dolphins 20-3.
Next up for the Jets:
The Jets will take on the Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) at home at 1:00 p.m. EST on Sunday. The Raiders had everyone’s attention earlier in the season with some big wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints. But now the Raiders are coming off of back-to-back losses, including being embarrassed 43-6 by the Atlanta Falcons.
The Raiders will be playing for their season. A loss to the winless Jets would crush their playoff aspirations, mathematically and mentally. Don’t expect the Raiders to let this game slip away.
Miami Dolphins 7-4:
The Dolphins continue to be one of the best defensive teams in the league this season. After an opening drive field goal by the Jets, Miami held them scoreless for the remainder of the game. The Dolphins, led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, defeated the Jets 20-3. With the win, the Dolphins remain in playoff contention as well as having a shot at the division title.
Next up for the Dolphins:
While this season is going well for the Dolphins, to be a true contender they’ll need to find answers in the running game on both sides of the ball. Miami continues to struggle to defend the run and has not been able to threaten teams with a run game of their own. If this is somehow solved this season, look for Miami’s offense to become much more dynamic. Also, stopping the run will make the defense even more dangerous, as opposing teams will become one-dimensional.
A good place for the Dolphins to try to find answers will be against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1). The game is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EST on Sunday. This was supposed to be the game featuring Tua Tagovailoa versus Joe Burrow. However, neither of those guys may see the field, with Burrow already out for the season and Tua game-to-game due to a thumb injury.
Instead of a rookie marquee matchup, the focus will be on if the Dolphins can generate a good game on the ground against a team that is in the bottom three in stopping the run. If the Dolphins can get 80 yards from a running back or 150-plus rushing yards by committee, plus a win, they would be set up nicely to compete in some key December games.