Four things we learned from Week 17

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
8:07
PM ET
1. Patriots improved chances for deep playoff run

The Patriots needed some good fortune and a good performance Sunday to land a first-round bye. Both things happened, and as a result New England will skip the wild-card round.

The Indianapolis Colts beat the Houston Texans (12-4) in the early game and New England subsequently beat the Miami Dolphins to land the No. 2 seed in the AFC. The Patriots, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Houston, will have a bye and a home game at Gillette Stadium in the divisional round.

These are much better circumstances than playing next week and going on the road in the second round. New England has aspirations of making another Super Bowl run, and the road got a lot easier. The Patriots can rest their players and await their next opponent. They will not have to leave Gillette Stadium unless it's in the AFC Championship Game against the top-seeded Denver Broncos (13-3).

2. Changes coming in Buffalo and New York

The disappointing New York Jets and Buffalo Bills played a meaningless game Sunday. The Bills won at home, 28-9, and both teams finished 6-10.

There are a lot of questions surrounding the futures of the coaches and front offices in New York and Buffalo. After the game, Bills head coach Chan Gailey didn't want to talk about his future with the team.

"Let's talk about today," Gailey said in his postgame news conference.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the Jets will fire offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who failed to lead New York to a touchdown against Buffalo on Sunday. Schefter also reported head coach Rex Ryan is safe and New York hasn't decided what to do with general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

Buffalo’s situation is more up in the air. The Bills have offered no indication if they will make a coaching change, a front office change, or no change at all. That decision will be up to Bills owner Ralph Wilson.

3. Mark Sanchez looks finished

It looks like Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez could be a very expensive clipboard holder in 2013. New York will pay Sanchez a guaranteed salary of $8.25 million in 2013 and most likely keep him on the roster.

But Sanchez's play and confidence looks completely finished after the worse year of his career. His body language and performance just weren't right. That means the Jets cannot enter the offseason assuming Sanchez is the starter.

Sanchez, who was benched twice this year, had one final chance to redeem himself in the regular-season finale against the Bills. Instead, Sanchez threw for 205 yards, one interception and lost a fumble.

Sanchez could use a change of scenery but probably won't get it due to his high salary that makes him virtually impossible to trade. Sanchez has a lot of work to do in the offseason. But New York needs to do everything it can to find a better replacement.

4. Miami has work to do

Miami viewed its regular-season finale as a measuring-stick game to see how close they are to the Patriots. It turns out the Dolphins still have plenty of work to do. New England shut out Miami, 28-0.

Miami finished 7-9 and in second place in the AFC East. I predicted the Dolphins to finish 6-10. So this should be considered a successful season with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback.

But it was further evident Sunday that Miami is still a long way from catching the Patriots in the AFC East. New England swept Miami this season.

The great news is Miami has a ton of cap space and plenty of draft picks to improve. Miami first must decide which in-house free agents to keep, such as left tackle Jake Long, tailback Reggie Bush and No. 1 receiver Brian Hartline.

The trio of Miami, Buffalo and New York all finished with losing records this season. But of the three teams, Miami has the most promise heading into 2013.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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