Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:
No love lost: There have been some heated words this week between the rival New York Jets (3-4) and Miami Dolphins (3-3). Both teams enter this big game needing a win to keep pace with the first-place New England Patriots (4-3). Much of it has been between Dolphins running back Reggie Bush and the Jets defense. New York injured Bush’s knee in the first game and Bush thought it was intentional. Bush later said the Jets got what they deserved with Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis’ season-ending knee injury. Both sides have been testy leading up to this big game. Keep an eye on Bush, who will be heavily targeted.
Air Sanchez? New York quarterback Mark Sanchez had a lot of success last week through the air. He completed a career-high nine passes of 15 yards or more in an overtime loss to the New England Patriots. Will the Jets continue to trust Sanchez? Miami’s run defense is fourth in the NFL, allowing 78.2 yards per game. It may be up to Sanchez to win the game with his arm. Sanchez has a career-low 53.2 completion percentage but may be gaining momentum after last week.
A second look: Speaking of quarterbacks, the Jets expect a better version of Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill the second time around. The Jets got the best of the rookie a month ago in an overtime win. Tannehill threw for just 196 yards and an interception, which was returned for a touchdown. But Tannehill has gotten better each week since. His passer ratings in his past three games are 86.5, 92.3 and 112.0. Miami is 2-1 in that stretch.
Brady's protection improving: The Patriots have figured out their pass-protection issues. New England quarterback Tom Brady has been sacked just twice in the past two games. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has made the adjustment of keeping more blockers in on passing downs. Sometimes that comes at the expense of Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, who also is a good blocker. But the results have been good. New England’s pass blocking will be put to the test Sunday against a good defensive line of the St. Louis Rams. St. Louis is tied for fifth in the NFL with 21 sacks.
Screen game working for Bills: It has been a rough bye week for Buffalo after its embarrassing loss at home to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. So I want to leave Bills fans with some good news. Buffalo’s screen game is one of the best in the league, and it may be something the team wants to incorporate more into its game plan. The Bills lead the NFL with 228 passing yards on screen plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has completed 31 of 35 screen passes, and they have accounted for a pair of touchdowns.