CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason  made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan and talked about the Patriots’ victory over the Dolphins, the AFC playoff picture, the Jets’ quarterback situation and more news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page .
The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 23-16 and clinched the AFC East title. Although the victory wasn’t the most overwhelming, like the past two games, Esiason said coach Bill Belichick  likely was happy with another win.
‘I would say that if I were a fan of the Patriots I would be happy about my defense getting some headlines, especially late in the season like this,’ Esiason said. ‘Because you know this offense is going to put up points. ‘¦ As Bill Belichick will tell you, and as any coach will tell you, even Rex Ryan  would say it this morning, ‘I don’t care how we win, I don’t care what it looks like, just give me one more point than the other team just so I can at least breathe a little bit easier when I wake up this morning.’ ‘
The Patriots are on the heels of the Texans and play them next Monday night. Esiason said that if the Patriots can pull out a win over the Texans next week, they put themselves in a position to capture the No. 1 seed.
‘If they can beat the Texans, go on to win the rest of their games, and the Texans somehow slip up against the Colts because they have to play them twice in the last three weeks, now all of a sudden you have a tied record, and by virtue of the fact that the Patriots beat the Texans on Monday night next week, they could be the No. 1 seed, which is really amazing when you think of all the stuff we’ve been through thus far to this point,’ Esiason said.
In Sunday’s game, the Patriots rushed for 11 yards on seven carries in the first half. But in the fourth quarter, they turned it on when they needed. The Pats  embarked on a drive of 77 yards that took 16 plays, 12 of which were runs, for a field goal that gave them a two-possession lead. Despite the loss, Esiason said the Dolphins defense played well.
‘I give the Dolphins a lot of credit,’ Esiason said. ‘They played a tough game last week against Seattle. A lot of people, including myself, thought that they would probably lose that game, but somehow they figure out a way to win. Now, all of a sudden, they come into this game knowing that they’re playing one of the best teams in football. They have to raise their level of play, they have to raise their focus during the week to get ready to go against Tom Brady . It’s a great challenge. ‘¦ For the most part, I thought the Dolphins defense supported themselves very well yesterday.
“Ultimately, what’s going to happen, the best team is going to come out and they’re going to come out and they’re going to win nine times out of 10. And put these two franchises on the field and that best team is always going to be New England, and the reason that it’s going to be that way is because of the quarterback that’s behind center for them.’
After Sunday’s games, there are three AFC teams at 9-3: the Patriots, Ravens and Broncos . Esiason said he would rank the Patriots first among those teams, but cautioned that the return of Ben Roethlisberger  could give the Steelers an edge.
‘I thought about three weeks ago that it would be the Broncos and the Texans that would be heading to the AFC championship game, now I’m not so sure,’ Esiason said. ‘Simply because, injuries start to take hold. The Texans lost two linebackers who are two of their most important players. And their quarterback in Matt Schaub is not as good as what’s going on in Denver and certainly with the Patriots. ‘¦ If Pittsburgh can get Ben Roethlisberger back and that defense can play like it has for the past three weeks, now all of a sudden you have to put them in the mix. In my estimation, how I would rank them would probably be: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Steelers, in that order. I think the Ravens are a little bit outside of that, simply because their defense is probably the worst of the four.’
The Jets finally took QB Mark Sanchez  out of a game, but with Tim Tebow  injured, he was replaced by Greg McElroy  in Sunday’s 7-6 victory over the Cardinals. Esiason said he thought McElroy did pretty well, but he doesn’t know if Rex Ryan would give him the starting job.
‘It was like football’s version of euthanasia yesterday when they took Mark Sanchez off the field,’ Esiason said. ‘Because not only did it look like Mark Sanchez was relieved, but it was the 65,000 people at that game were all relieved for him and with him. Greg McElroy came in, I’m not going to sit here and say that he lit it up, I think he was 5-of-7, but he showed a pretty good arm strength, showed some poise, and ‘¦ he actually looked better handing the ball off than Mark Sanchez. That’s how bad it has gotten down here for the Jets.’
Added Esiason, ‘I don’t know if Rex is going to give him the starter’s spot. If it was a home game, I think he probably would. But it’s a road game [in Jacksonville], so I think he has to take into account all the things that come along with that.’
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On Colts QB Andrew Luck , who led a game-winning drive against the Lions: ‘He just moved it down like a Hall of Fame quarterback. I can’t say this is going to continue forever. But all I know is that it was really, really impressive. For a guy who has really struggled his rookie year, and had no clue what the hell I was doing on the field, to watch what Andrew Luck did yesterday and what Ryan Tannehill is able to do, and of course Brandon Weeden who won a game yesterday, a lot of these rookie quarterbacks are just amazing when you think about it.’
On the 49ers and QB Colin Kaepernick losing to the Rams: ‘I think what it means for the San Francisco 49ers  is hopefully that they stay with Colin Kaepernick and they realize that not every game is going to be a perfect game and that there is a learning process that goes along for all young quarterbacks. He did some amazing things yesterday, he had a touchdown pass dropped that would have won the game for them.’
On the Chiefs playing just a day after the Jovan Belcher tragedy: ‘I don’t necessarily know that I could have went to the stadium and played the game of football. I understand why they played it. I know there are voices out there that didn’t think the game should have been played because of what had transpired the day before. Just in a football sense, it was an amazing performance. Then after the game, listening to some of the guys talk was even more amazing to me.’