With real football in the AFC East taking a break this week, we turn our attention to the next most interesting matchup in the division with the New York Jets traveling south to take on the Miami Dolphins at Hard Luck…uh…I mean Hard Rock Stadium. Realistically, there are no playoff implications here…more like a battle of who gets to settle into the basement of the division and, from a longer perspective, which division team will get the higher draft pick in 2017.
This is a long storied division rivalry with these two teams meeting for the 102nd time since 1966. The Jets hold the 53-47-1 all time advantage over the Dolphins. Surprisingly, these teams have only met one time in the Playoffs in 1983 in the now infamous Mud-Bowl. In that game, the Godfather of Rule Breaking, Don Shula, famously told the grounds crew not to cover the field during torrential down pours leading up to the game thus reducing the field into mud pit. The abysmal field conditions negated the Jets running game and thus propelled a much inferior Miami team to Super Bowl XVII where they were promptly crushed by the Washington Redskins 27-17.
Both teams head into this matchup on big two game winning streaks. For the Jets, back to back wins against the Ravens and Browns hasn’t covered the stench that is emanating from their quarterback position nor does it hide that fact that once All-Pro Derrelle Revis looks like a Patriots 2nd Round Cornerback draft pick bust these days. For the Dolphins, after a horrid 1-4 start (0-5 if you count barely beating the Browns in Overtime at home), wins against the shorthanded squads of the Steelers and Bills has the lube flowing again like the Salto Angel Falls in Venezuela.
Though success for these franchises resides in the history books when the pictures were in black and white and 60% of the World’s population wasn’t even born yet, both fan bases are still holding out a glimmer of hope that the playoffs are still a possibility in what already seem to be lost seasons. So in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – Dolphins: There are very few matchups in the NFL where the Dolphins would get the edge in a quarterback comparison. However, with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing interceptions at the rate that Ryan Tannehill takes sacks, the slight advantage goes to Miami.
Running Backs – Dolphins: The Dolphins have discovered that the key to their recent success has been to take the ball out of the quarterback’s hands as much as possible and let the running game carry the team. Though Miami’s Jay Ajayi has benefited from that in recent weeks, it is still unknown if he will be able to sustain his performance over the rest of the season. For the Jets, they raided the local nursing home for Matt Forte but have little else behind him at this point.
Wide Receivers – Push: From a raw talent perspective, the Dolphins duo of Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker have the opportunity to become break out stars if Miami ever addresses their quarterback situation and find an upgrade. For the Jets, losing Eric Decker for the season has been a significant blow but the combination of Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa are out performing their two Miami counterparts statistically.
Tight Ends – Dolphins: Miami has a putrid group of tight ends that have combine for 19 Catches and 245 Yards…..They get the edge over the Jets who don’t seem to have an NFL caliber player on their roster to play that position for them and would probably like to have
Offensive Line – Push: While Miami has a slight edge in average rushing yards per game, the Jets have a slight edge in protecting the passer.
Defensive Front Seven – Jets: Though both teams are relatively even at getting to opponents’ quarterbacks, the Jets have done a far better job stopping running games then their much overpaid Miami counterparts.
Secondary – Dolphins: Though we are yet to see the net result of the loss of the Dolphins’ Reshad Jones, Miami is holding opponents to less passing yards per game than the Jets.
Special Teams – Jets: Both offenses have given each teams’ punter plenty of opportunities this season and they are relatively even in that regard. However, the Jets Nick Folk has the edge in the field goal kicking department versus Miami’s Andrew Franks.
Coaching – Push: The Jets’ Todd Bowles brought some quiet dignity and credibility to the Head Coaching position last year – Something that the Jets previous regime lacked by the truck load. After a promising 2015 campaign, the Jets have stumbled in the first half of the season and have fallen short of preseason expectations. Whether or not Bowles can straighten their course is yet to be seen but he is fighting a tough uphill battle with his QB situation and a secondary that can’t seem to stop anyone.
For the Dolphins, first year Adam Gase got the short end of the stick being sidled with a 1st round bust QB that he was forced to attempt to rehabilitate. Luckily for Gase, his tactics to improve head case and perennial mope Jay Cutler last season seems to be working with his new reclamation project but it may be too late to salvage the season at this point.
Interesting Note: Todd Bowles is the last Miami Head Coach (or in this case interim Head Coach) to have a winning record coaching the Dolphins.
What to Watch For:
1) The “Cutler Fix” vs. the Jets’ Front Seven: As much as Dolphins fans want to deny it, Miami’s recent success goes straight to what is called the “Cutler Fix”…Taking the ball away from the quarterback as much as possible to prevent the quarterback from making bone-headed mistakes that they are used to making. If the Jets’ defensive line comes to play on Sunday, it could make for a long day for the Miami offense.
2) Fitzmagic vs. Fitztragic: The Jets are 3-2 when Fitzpatrick throws more touchdowns than interceptions and 0-3 when he throws more interceptions than touchdowns. Depending which version of Fitzpatrick shows up on Sunday will go a long way to determine the outcome of the game.
Overall this is one of those games that only a fan can watch….and based on Miami’s attendance these day, they may not want to watch this either. On paper, Miami does have an edge offensively vs the Jets but if the Jets can force the game into Ryan Tannehill’s hands, then anything can happen.
Expect a mistake filled offensively painful to watch close game.
The Knuckles Prediction: Miami 17 – Jets 16