New York Jets (10-4) at Chicago Bears (10-4)
— Here’s the latest on QB Mark Sanchez: He underwent an MRI on his right (throwing) shoulder on Monday and the results were “negative” according to head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan didn’t offer any specifics about the injury; he did say that Sanchez’s shoulder was “sore” but gave no indication he’d miss the Chicago game.
— Safety Dwight Lowery, a former cornerback making his first start at safety Sunday because of injuries, played well for the depleted Jets secondary. It’ll be interesting to see how Lowery can fill in given the season-ending injury to Jim Leonhard and the relative lack of depth at the safety position. Lowery is a three-year veteran that played quite a bit at CB in his rookie season, but hasn’t seen much action since.
— The Bears had their bye in Week 8, and one of the major issues they looked to solve at that time was how to balance out the offense. Coordinator Mike Martz was relying on a lot of deep, intricate passing routes and multi-step drops for QB Jay Culter, but the strategy wasn’t working. So kudos are in order, then, because Martz done an amazing job of balancing his play-calling between run and pass ever since. From Week 9 to Week 14, the Bears’ offense had 178 rushing attempts and 179 pass plays. Balance. It works.
— That said, the running game could still use some work. Backup RB Chester Taylor hasn’t emerged as a reliable option to starter Matt Forte and the numbers reflect that. Over his last 50 carries, Taylor has just 87 yards and his longest run went for 11. He’s turned into a plugging short-yardage back, not the role Chicago envisioned for him.
New England Patriots (12-2) at Buffalo Bills (4-10)
— Don’t look now, but the Patriots might have finally developed a good running game. Not that they didn’t have one before — the Pats could always run the ball effectively — but now it’s become a real weapon. Danny Woodhead is averaging 5.3 yards per game while BenJarvus Green-Ellis has 190 carries for 824 yards (a 4.3 average) and 12 rushing TDs. Green-Ellis looks like he’s got a great shot at his first career 1,000-yard season, and Woodhead should crack the 500-yard plateau (he currently has 435).
— Crazy to think (especially how the position looked coming into the season), but this has been one of the better quarterbacking years in Buffalo Bills franchise history. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown 23TD passes this year, a career high for him and eighth all-time club history. To put things in perspective, Hall of Famer Jim Kelly’s career high was 33 TD passes in 1991; while it seems unlikely Fitzpatrick will throw 10 over his final two games to match that mark, he could match the second-highest total of the Kelly era. That would be 25 TD passes, a mark Kelly hit in the 1989 season.