AFC East Comes Down to the Final Week

Vincent JacksonCorrespondent IDecember 22, 2008

It's maybe not what the Patriots wanted to have, but they still have a chance to win their sixth consecutive AFC East championship at the expense of the New York Jets, as well as the Miami Dolphins.

Chad Pennington also has a chance to get his revenge on the team that dumped him back in August and win the Dolphins' first division championship since 2000. The New York Jets, meanwhile, are trying to avoid a colossal collapse after starting 8-3.

After Tom Brady went down in the opening seven minutes of the season, many wrote the Patriots off and declared the Jets as the favorite to take not only the divisional throne but maybe the conference title itself. 

In Brady's absence, Matt Cassel has stepped up, surpassed all expectations, and filled in more than admirably, throwing for almost 3,700 yards and 21 touchdowns, likely earning himself a very nice free-agent contract in the offseason, as well as some MVP votes.

Now he must defeat Buffalo and become an impromptu Jets fan in order to reach the postseason. 

The New York Jets spent $140 million rebuilding both their offensive and defensive lines trying to take the sting out of a 4-12 2007 season. After starting the season 8-3, highlighted by a five-game winning streak with victories over the Patriots in overtime and the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans, talk around New York was that of a Jets-Giants Super Bowl. 

But after three losses in their last four games the dream season is on the verge of turning into a nightmare, and with their old friend Chad Pennington coming to town trying to deny them a playoff berth, the Jets need to dig down deep, and even with a win over Miami, it may not be enough, because a New England win will knock out both the Jets and Dolphins. 

The Miami Dolphins needed an overtime touchdown pass to gain their first and only win of 2007. Now, they are one win away from an improbable turnaround and a division title all at the expense of the New York Jets.

Chad Pennington was practically a blessing in disguise to the Dolphins as he was dumped like garbage by the Jets during training camp. Pennington has turned into a very legitimate MVP candidate piloting an efficient, nearly error-free offense.

While the entire NFL season has been nothing short of unpredictable, the race for the AFC East (and the three-seed in the playoffs) has been the most compelling of them all and the winner will sure have earned it.