Final Word: AFC East

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Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

The New England Patriots don’t need to win Sunday night, but they must beat either the Indianapolis Colts or New Orleans Saints. If the Patriots go 0-2 on the road against undefeated teams that are considered Nos. 1 and 2 in virtually every power rankings poll, Patriot Nation won't unravel. But if the Patriots want to re-establish themselves as an elite team, they should knock off either the Colts this weekend or the Saints in Week 12. Both games are in prime time, an occasion to step up.

An out-of-the blue hip injury may signal the beginning of the end for Terrell Owens' career. For those who don't believe Owens' stats are an indicator -- he's on pace to have the worst season of his NFL career -- Wednesday's news that he is suffering from a strange hip injury could be the omen. The Bills were on a bye last week. He was fine at Monday's practice, then on Tuesday (a day off) he told the Bills he was hurt. Owens will turn 36 next month.

The young Miami Dolphins' secondary will be very good in the near future. Two weeks ago, the Dolphins started three rookies in their defensive backfield, including cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis and safety Chris Clemons. Smith had a sensational training camp and has held his own during the season. Davis, in for out-of-commission starter Will Allen, has shown flashes in recent weeks, including a great interception to deny Randy Moss a long bomb In Week 9. Of course, Moss later abused Davis on the game's two biggest plays, but the experience the Dolphins' secondary is getting in 2009 will be enormous for next year and beyond.

The New York Jets must make a statement. The Jets are 4-4 and have a faint playoff pulse. They've had plenty to think about during their bye week and must emerge with a convincing victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Meadowlands to get themselves in the right frame of mind for the homestretch. The Jets' remaining opponents have a .563 win percentage. They need to back up their big words immediately. Nobody cares what a non-playoff team has to say.

Patriots safety Brandon McGowan will have a bigger role Sunday night than any other defensive player. Other players might have a more explosive game in terms of stats, but McGowan's job might be the toughest. He must make sure Colts tight end Dallas Clark has a quiet night, and I like McGowan's chances. He has been an under-the-radar performer, signed as a situational defensive back and special-teamer. But he has evolved into a remarkable defender. He has shut down Pro Bowlers Tony Gonzalez (one catch, 16 yards) and Kellen Winslow (two catches, 9 yards) so far.