Playoff road jammed in AFC East

Week 11 In Review

November 23, 1999|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

In a year when anything goes, the best division race to watch is in the AFC East, where even the last-place New York Jets suddenly have designs on a postseason berth.

After a 17-7 Week 11 win over the Buffalo Bills, Jets coach Bill Parcells didn't rule out a playoff run by his team. Don't count on it, though. The Jets have the hardest path to the postseason of any team in the division. They must play four of their last six on the road, and their remaining opponents have a combined record of 42-18 (.700).

All but one of the last six weeks of the season feature a showdown between AFC East teams, starting with Sunday's battle between the Bills and New England Patriots. Last year, four East teams made the playoffs.

Here's how the stretch run shapes up in the NFL's best division: Miami (8-2): Technically, the Dolphins lead the Indianapolis Colts by virtue of their 34-31 Week 5 win, a game marred by a controversial replay reversal. The teams meet again in Miami in Week 13. The Dolphins have the softest finishing schedule (31-29, .517) in the division, with three games against losing teams. And they likely get quarterback Dan Marino back for Thursday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Indianapolis (8-2): The Colts have four division games left, plus nondivision affairs against Washington and Cleveland. Their opponents are 33-29 (.532). Starting with the Jets this week, they play three of their next four games at home, where they are 4-1.

Buffalo (7-4): The Bills have just two road games -- at Arizona and New England -- among their remaining five. They get a much-needed bye after this week's game with the Patriots. Their remaining opponents are 29-21 (.580).

New England (6-4): The Patriots face the Bills twice and must travel to Indianapolis. But the rest of their schedule -- against the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Ravens -- looks favorable. Their opponents are 34-29 (.540).

New York (4-6): Back-to-back wins have the Jets talking playoffs again, but it would take a miracle. They must play the Dolphins twice, the Colts on the road and Seattle at home.

Winging it again

With his injured right thumb as healthy as it has been all season, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre riddled the Detroit Lions for 309 passing yards in a 26-17 victory. It was his fourth game over 300 yards this season. Interestingly, all came at home and all produced wins.

Counting playoffs, Favre has thrown for 300 yards or more 26 times in his career, winning 16 of those games. When he throws 40 passes in a game -- as he did Sunday -- the results are less favorable. He is 12-23 then.

Going down hard

Two aging warriors who are locks for the Hall of Fame were disgruntled employees in Week 11. Wide receiver Jerry Rice doesn't like his limited role with the fading San Francisco 49ers, and running back Emmitt Smith didn't care for the play-calling in the Cowboys' 13-9 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Rice, 37, has been reduced to a cameo role in the 49ers' collapse. He had three catches for 23 yards in a 23-7 loss to the St. Louis Rams. He has just two touchdowns in 10 games and no catch longer than 19 yards.

Rice hinted he might prefer to finish his career with another team rather than in frustration with the 49ers.

Smith, meanwhile, helped the Cowboys open a 7-3 halftime lead by rushing 18 times for 83 yards, despite playing with a broken hand. He got the ball just twice in the third quarter, though, when the Cardinals took control.

Although Smith, 30, finished with 29 carries for 127 yards, he was clearly perturbed that the Cowboys abandoned the run in the third quarter, when they passed on seven of nine plays.

High-rise district

It used to be that dome teams had no shot at the Super Bowl. Then last year, the Atlanta Falcons became the first team that played in a dome to make it, knocking off the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings.

This year, at least four dome teams have a reasonable shot at the Super Bowl (which will be played in Atlanta's Georgia Dome): the Vikings and Rams in the NFC and the Colts and Seattle Seahawks in the AFC.

Of the seven teams that play in a dome, five lead their division or are tied for first. The overall record of dome teams this season is 40-30. Take away the Falcons and New Orleans Saints and the record is 36-14.

By the numbers

In two starts for Chicago, quarterback Jim Miller has thrown for 779 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 9.06 yards an attempt and 389.5 a game. In quarterback Drew Bledsoe's past two games for the Patriots -- both losses -- he has completed 42.9 percent with three touchdowns and eight interceptions. The 31 points the Seahawks scored against Kansas City were the most the Chiefs have allowed at home since 1988. J. J. Johnson's 106 rushing yards ended a Dolphins drought of 15 games without a 100-yard rusher.

Two-minute drill

Questions

Why does the NFL tolerate the throat-cutting taunt that has become so prevalent with players and reduces the league image to a row of thugs?

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