It's Win Or Go Home For The Dolphins, Jets
By Joe Scumaci
Sunday's Week 13 matchup between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey is essentially a playoff game. Both teams are 5-6 and a loss to either team will dramatically hinder any chances of making the playoffs.
The Jets have been the model of “consistently inconsistent” so far this season. They win one week, they lose the next.
Wash … Rinse … Repeat.
After trading off wins and losses since Week 1, the Jets finally lost two games in a row when last week they barely mustered any offense in a 19-3 defeat in Baltimore against the Ravens. As bad as the Jets have been the last two weeks, they have shown they can beat good teams. They own home wins over the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints to their résumé. The Jets have played their best football in East Rutherford this year as they have 4 of their 5 wins at home.
That being said, they've also been blown out a handful of times. A 49-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a 37-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills and a 19-6 home loss back in Week 6 to the Pittsburgh Steelers are all examples that this team just isn’t very good. The greatest evidence to the claim is point differential.
The Jets are -101 in terms of net points. They have forced 186 points and allowed 287. Only Jacksonville is worse in terms of point differential in the NFL (-182) and points forced (142). However, it’s a testament to good coaching in close games and a bit of luck that the Jets have 5 wins so far this season.
Rookie Geno Smith showed flashes of being a competent NFL quarterback early in the season, but as more teams have watched the tape on him, the worse he has played. The Jets have a team quarterback rating of 63.7, which is good enough for dead last in the NFL. They have scored 17 points combined their last two games, albeit on the road, but it shows the struggles this offense can have at times.
So how in the world do the Jets have 5 wins?
Well, one thing they do real well is stop the run. They are ranked 1st in the NFL in terms of rushing yards allowed per game at a shade under 80 yards per game. With the strength of their defensive line anchored by Sheldon Richardson and Muhammed Wilkerson, the Jets have been stout against the run and it has made opposing offenses one-dimensional for the most part. Those two lineman rank 5th and 6th respectively at their positions, according to Pro Football Focus.
As we all know, the Miami Dolphins cannot run the football effectively. An offensive line that has been revamped from a bullying scandal, illnesses(C Mike Pouncey missed last two games) and mid-season trades, the Dolphins running backs were only able to gain 16 yards in their loss to Carolina last week. To make matters worse, Daniel Thomas left the game with an ankle injury and the team’s medical staff fears that he suffered ligament damage and will most likely miss the rest of the season.
How will the Dolphins win this game?
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Plain and simple. The Dolphins must run the ball with Lamar Miller and now, Marcus Thigpen, enough to keep the Jets defense honest. However, the Jets’ defensive weakness is the secondary and Tannehill must exploit it. The Jets rank 25th against the pass, giving up just over 250 yards per game. Despite having an interception last week against Joe Flacco, cornerback Antonio Cromartie hasn’t had his best season. He’s given up 666 yards and 5 touchdowns in coverage this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Tannehill is off a solid game, despite the loss against Carolina. He completed 28 of 42 passes for 310 yards, ran for another 36 yards and most importantly, hooked up with Mike Wallace for completions of 53 yards and 57 yards, the first going for a touchdown. This is something Dolphins fans have been begging for and the coaching staff hoping for all season long and it finally happened.
The Dolphins have to take some shots against this less-than-average Jets secondary. Center Mike Pouncey is back at practice, but needs to add weight back on after suffering an illness that didn’t allow him to keep food down the past few weeks. He will be a nice welcome to an offensive line still struggling to keep Tannehill upright.
Miami’s offense was shut out last week in the second half after putting up 16 first half points and was unable to put the game away in the fourth quarter, allowing Cam Newton and the Panthers to orchestrate a game-winning drive. The Dolphins offense needs to be better against the Jets this week as 21 points or more could be enough to beat the offensively-inept New York Jets.
The Dolphins are 2-3 on the road this year and they have a chance to take the lead in the race for the 6th and final playoff spot. This is a must-win game against a team that is not as talented offensively. The weather shouldn’t be a major issue as the forecast for East Rutherford, New Jersey looks like 47 degrees and a small chance of rain. No reason for the Dolphins newly found vertical offensive attack to continue.
Division games are always dogfights and with the Dolphins being 0-2 in the division and needing this win badly, we should expect an all-out effort to beat the Jets on Sunday. A win would all but send the Jets’ playoff chances packing and vault Miami into the lead for the final wild card spot with four games to go.