New England Patriots (8-3)
And the Brady-Belichick juggernaut marches on and on and on. Love them or hate them, quarterback Tom Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick are not letting up on the accelerator.
There sits Brady at No. 2 in the league in passing rating, behind only Aaron Rodgers. Brady has 24 TDs and only 3 INT. It’s just the normal noises in here.
Is there a weak spot? Well, opposing passers have racked up more yards per game against the New England defense than any teams except Washington and Tampa Bay (289 yards per game allowed). Will Manning or Schaub or Flacco or Roethlisberger be able to take advantage? Maybe.
Playoff Snapshot: They are a sure thing to win the East, and will be engaged in a close race with Baltimore and Denver for the other first-week bye (Houston ought to lock up the first one). Obviously, you can never count these guys out, and playing the extra week hasn’t derailed the last two New York Giant championship squads.
Miami Dolphins (5-6)
Yes, the Dolphins have kept themselves on the fringe of the playoff race, but they have to face the Patriots twice and the formidable-looking 49ers in the last five weeks. Good luck with that.
Ryan Tannehill has the distinction of keeping presumptive Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel on the bench and redshirted last year at Texas A&M, but he doesn’t have much distinction in the NFL, with only seven TDs and 12 INT.
Reggie Bush, a former Heisman winner himself, has had something of a renaissance with 662 rushing yards, but it’s not enough to make the Dolphins realistic contenders.
Playoff Snapshot: It would take a remarkable turn of events for the Dolphins to sneak in, but the AFC is lacking depth this year, so at least one unremarkable team is going to get in. It just looks like it will be the Colts and not the Dolphins.
New York Jets (4-7)
The whole soap opera about whether Mark Sanchez should be replaced by Tim Tebow is just a distraction. Regardless of who the quarterback is, the Jets are just not that good. Their only impressive win is a 35-9 triumph over the Colts, but otherwise they’ve had uninspiring wins and ugly losses. The running game is all right, with Shonn Greene getting 702 yards on the ground, and the pass defense has held up well despite the loss of Hall of Fame talent Darelle Revis to a torn ACL. But, on the whole, the Jets are just mediocre.
Playoff Snapshot: The Jets have a weak enough schedule that a late blitz and 9-7 record are not completely impossible, but don’t count on it. But that may need to happen to save Head Coach Rex Ryan's job. Even if they somehow snag a wild card, they won’t last long.
Buffalo Bills (4-7)
Buffalo has two of the top runners in the league in nominal backup C.J. Spiller (830 yards) and oft-injured starter Fred Jackson (314 yards), and that is one major bright spot. But, on the whole, the Bills don’t have much to offer, and their rush defense has been among the league’s leakiest (31st in the league in running yards allowed per game).
Ryan Fitzpatrick has proven to be a solid, middle-of-the-pack quarterback, but not a guy who can lift a mediocre team to the next level by himself.
Playoff Snapshot: The Bills would have to win out to get to 9-7, and, despite a weak-ish schedule, their date with Seattle would seem to make that outcome very unlikely.