Following are several whispers we've heard recently from around the AFC East:
• Some people questioned head coach Bill Belichick's defensive prowess after the unit's collapses earlier this season. But the Patriots' head coach can still outsmart the best of them, using, for example, a new formation with just one defensive lineman on the field on passing downs. He also throws undrafted rookie LB Dane Fletcher and seldom-used LB Shawn Crable onto the field as part of the sub package, and both players have made solid impacts this season.
• ILB Bobby Carpenter joined ILB Erik Walden and special-teams coach John Bonamego as Dolphins special-teams casualties, getting cut after the Week Six game. Carpenter, a former first-rounder, missed a block on a partially blocked punt against the Packers, his third special-teams miscue. OT Lydon Murtha has made two of his own, missing a block that allowed the Patriots to block a Miami field-goal attempt and a holding penalty that nullified a field goal against the Pack. He could be on thin ice the way things have gone, but he's needed for OT depth.
• Second-round pick Torell Troup didn't see the field much during the Bills' first five games, registering eight tackles and no sacks before the bye week. But with the team struggling against the run, the 315-pound rookie nose tackle will see the field more often now, adding bulk to the defensive line. Opponents have rushed for a league-high 182.4 yards a game against Buffalo, as the team's 3-4 defense hasn't been able to plug holes along the line.
• The Jets have been pleased by the play of WR Santonio Holmes, who missed the first four games due to a suspension. Holmes stayed in terrific shape while he was away from the team, and he has contributed in both victories since returning, averaging more than 12 yards a catch. As Holmes and QB Mark Sanchez get more comfortable with each other, their production should increase.