Remember when everyone thought the Jets were going to run away with the AFC East after pulling out a gutsy, overtime win in New England? Funny how two disappointing losses in two weeks can change everything. Suddenly, after a shocking 24-14 loss to the woeful 49ers, Brett Favre’s Jets are in a tie atop the AFC East with the Patriots, who rallied just when it looked like they were dead for a 24-21 win in Seattle. Oh, and just to make things more difficult, the Dolphins won, too, which puts all three teams at 8-5, in a dead-even tie at the top.
(Don’t ask Brett who’s going to win. He’s got no idea what’s going on.)
Before you get optimistic that the division might work itself out, realize that the Jets, Patriots and Dolphins really could be headed toward a Big 12 South-style finish. The Jets play the Bills and Seahawks — two teams they should beat — before facing off with the Dolphins in the final game of the season. Of course, the Jets should have beaten both the Broncos at home and 49ers on the road, so a loss wouldn’t be shocking. Miami, meanwhile, gets the red-hot 49ers (a potential loss) and the fairly-horrendous Chiefs before the Dolphins and Jets finish the season with each other.
What’s significant about that? Well, if the Jets win the next two weeks and Miami loses once, a Dolphins victory in the season-finale would put the teams level in victorious and in head-to-head matchups; in that scenario, Miami, New England and New York would all be 1-1 against each other.
For that to happen, the Patriots would also have to lose one of their three final games, and that might be where the buck stops. New England’s final three are at the Raiders (laugher), against the Cardinals (think those two teams will score some points?) and at the Bills. The Cardinals game could definitely be a loss, and finishing the season in Buffalo might seem worrisome, but it’s hard to argue that the fighting Matt Cassels have a tougher road than the Dolphins or Jets.
(Don’t laugh, this man could be coaching in the playoffs.)
So which AFC East team is going to pull it out? Good luck figuring that one out. Convential wisdom seems to be swinging toward New England, though that’s been worth absolutely nothing the past two weeks for the Jets. Really, as shocking as it may seem, it’s pretty hard to argue against the Dolphins. That may not seem right, but little about Bill Parcells ever is. At least he’s finally found his way closer to Del Boca Vista. He can probably commute back for the early bird specials from South Beach, right?
If Parcells hits the buffet in January, he might have to do it without Tony Sparano. He might have a few more games to coach.