Here are seven notes and observations from Week 17:
Many Jets players in the locker room admitted chemistry and team unity were an issue this season. The Jets have a combustible mix of personalities, and that only heightens playing in New York, where pressure is at its highest. The Jets were close to imploding during their first three-game losing streak in early October. But head coach Rex Ryan was able to keep the team together. But as the offense continued to struggle and the Jets lost big games down the stretch, it became more difficult to keep the team together, and it showed on the field. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie hinted at a divide between the Jets' defense and offense, and receiver Santonio Holmes' benching in a loss to the Miami Dolphins highlighted more issues within the offense.
It’s difficult to get a read publicly on what the Jets will do with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer this offseason. But I think a move should be made. The Jets were ranked 25th, and the offense needs a new voice. There is too much unrest and players losing confidence in the system. Someone has to take the fall for the Jets (8-8) finishing .500. There were several reasons, but Schottenheimer's game plans and play-calling were among the biggest issues.
The New England Patriots' defense has played great football the past two weeks in the second half. That's a start. New England has allowed just seven points in the third and fourth quarters against the Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. If New England can channel that energy into four full quarters, the team will be dangerous in the playoffs. Much of it will depend on the matchup. The Pittsburgh Steelers pose the biggest threat in the divisional round. But the Steelers would be without starting running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and with a gimpy quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ankle).
A quiet but important key to New England’s playoff run will be rookie running back Stevan Ridley. He has the hot hand and is probably the team's most complete running back. Ridley rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries in Sunday's win against Buffalo. Someone needs to give the Patriots balance in the running game, especially with the quality defenses in the AFC playoff bracket.
Receiver Steve Johnson's decision to cost the Bills another 15 yards with a celebration penalty shows he’s not learning from his mistakes. That has to be concerning for the Bills, who have to decide whether to give Johnson a multi-million dollar extension this offseason. Johnson reportedly is seeking $7-$8 million per year. He's not going to get that in Buffalo, and probably increased his chances of leaving after getting benched in his final game of the season. Johnson is a good teammate and a good player. But some of his antics are perplexing.
Miami Dolphins interim head coach Todd Bowles deserves kudos for excelling in a tough situation. Bowles finished his interim stint 2-1. He nearly went undefeated, but suffered a close loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Bowles is a candidate for the job and will get an interview. But Miami wants to make a splash and is expected to chase a bigger name. Based on the team's strong finish, the new head coach might want to consider retaining Bowles and the rest of the defensive coaching staff.
Miami would be wise to pursue Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency. Miami will hold the No. 8 or No. 9 overall pick, which most likely isn't good enough to draft Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Flynn came off the bench in Week 17 and threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns against the Detroit Lions. He made himself a lot of money with that performance. Miami quarterback Matt Moore played well in spurts, but isn't the long-term solution. The Dolphins need a quarterback who get them to the next level.