By Danny Cox
For over a decade, CBS Sports’ Tracy Wolfson has roamed the sidelines or enjoyed a spot in the studio to talk sports of all kinds, but it’s her NFL knowledge that stands out above the rest. This week, she took time to speak on three big AFC contests that could have a serious impact on the playoff picture. Two undefeated teams are involved in divisional match-ups and hope to escape the weekend unscathed, but the New York Jets are looking to rebound against the rejuvenated Oakland Raiders.
New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins, CBS – Oct. 29 at 8:25p ET
The Pats are now 6-0. With their remaining schedule, are we looking at another undefeated regular season?
Tracy Wolfson: “With their schedule, it’s a very likely possibility, but this week could pose a hiccup. With the way the Dolphins are playing, it could be tough. Yes, they’re on the road and Gillette Stadium is a very hard place to win in, but the short rest for Thursday Night Football could work against them. This is a challenge for the Patriots and we all know Bill Belichick likes to play on tendencies. Dan Campbell only has two games as coach of the Dolphins, so there are not a lot of tendencies to play off of yet.”
The Dolphins have looked incredibly different since Joe Philbin’s firing, what happened?
TW: “A change sometimes brings a spark and ignites a fire. I can’t speak on Joe Philbin’s relationship with the players but having spoken with Dan Campbell and the players, it’s different. Campbell has brought a physicality to the team that wasn’t there before.
Ndamukong Suh took a while to get adjusted to the team and playing on that line, but now he’s doing much better. Lamar Miller was not used much in the early part of the season, but now he’s been unleashed. Dan Campbell has reinvigorated this Dolphins team.”
Has Ryan Tannehill turned a page toward rising up to be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL?
TW: “Going into this year, I thought he was turning a page. He’s right up there with some of the top quarterbacks in the league. He’s not top tier yet, but he’s young and progressing and getting better all the time. Things are really clicking with the Dolphins now and they are all working together and that’s making it easier for him to get even better.”
Cincinnati Bengals vs, Pittsburgh Steelers, CBS – Nov. 1 at 1p ET
Landry Jones has now moved ahead of Mike Vick on the depth chart, do you feel as if Vick is likely done in the NFL?
TW: “I do see it coming to an end. Desperate teams may take a chance on a player like Vick as he is talented and exciting and sometimes, injuries and lack of wins make teams want a change. He’s getting up there in age and he understands that. Earlier this year, he told me he takes every game like it could be his last. He was given this opportunity with the Steelers and takes each game as it comes.”
Big Ben is ready to return from injury this week and some say an injured Roethlisberger can outplay a 100-percent Andy Dalton – do you feel that’s true?
TW: “Having Ben Roethlisberger as the leader of your team, just having him out there and back and his presence and his talent is a huge advantage for the Steelers. It ends up posing a very big challenge for Andy Dalton and the Bengals, but this game with these two teams is always important. Every year, it can go either way.”
New York Jets vs. Oakland Raiders, CBS – Nov. 1 at 4:05p ET
Ryan Fitzpatrick has the Jets playing really well right now and they’re 4-2. When Geno Smith is ready to return, who should the Jets go with at QB?
TW: “They stay with Fitzpatrick. I don’t have any insider knowledge on that, but why change? It’s working and they are playing well. He is the leader of this Jets team and with success under that guy, there is no reason to change. That’s especially true if he started the season as your quarterback.
Oakland is looking better than they have in years, what is the biggest reason?
TW: “I love this Oakland team. The joy and the excitement they show after victories is a big thing and shows they are happy to be playing. There is a huge upside to these Raiders and the future looks very bright for them. I don’t know if they make the playoffs this year, but next year of the year after? There’s a great possibility there.
Derek Carr and Amari Cooper are building together. Their defense needs to improve a little bit, but it’s coming around. The Raiders still have a ways to go, but the future is very bright for them.”
The Jets almost took down the mighty Patriots, do you think it will be different in their second game come December?
TW: “It’s really fun with all the undefeated teams at this point. After this week, the Packers or Broncos won’t be one of them any longer. I think there will be just one undefeated team at the end of the season, but even that will be hard to do. I just don’t see there being more than one, but wouldn’t it be exciting if there were?
The Patriots have the best shot at it with their schedule and the way the AFC is, but the Jets still have one more game with them and that first one was close.”
Thursday Night Football moves over to the NFL Network next week beginning with the Cleveland Browns-Cincinnati Bengals game. This Week 9 matchup will only be available for viewing on NFL Network.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.