It's taken a while to get to our first game against our AFC East rivals, the New York Jets, but it's finally upon us.
We've all now had a solid week for the bliss of beating our perpetual tormentors, the Ravens, last Thursday night. That win has allowed us to feel that maybe, just maybe, there is a faint heartbeat in this Dolphins team that I had left for dead at 1-7. Two wins later, the team still sits at an underwhelming 3-7, but the needle is pointed in the right direction and three of the next four games are against definitely weak teams. First on the list is our despised rivals up I-95.
Tale of the Tape
The numbers bear out what we all know. The Jets are horrible. Maybe not quite as horrible as the Texans team the Fins beat two Sundays ago, but close. They're dead last in points allowed and net turnovers, highlighting a truly dreadful defense. The offense is only marginally better, making for the worst point differential in the entire NFL - yes, even worse than the 1-8 Texans and the winless Detroit Lions.
BUT...the Jets have actually managed to win two games. Not only that, but they were against two decent teams in the Titans and the Bengals. Clearly, as bad as the Jets are, they can snipe your team if they're sleeping. New York's two wins both came at home in the Meadowlands, and that's exactly where our Fins will be playing them this Sunday.
The Recent New York Jets
Let's look at the Jets' last two games.
Two weeks ago, coming off an upset overtime win against the Bengals, the Jets went into Indianapolis to face a semi-resurgent Colts team. I didn't get a chance to watch this game, but a close look at the box score and recap is pretty telling. The game was actually tied 7-7 at the end of the first quarter. That was as good as it got for the Jets, as the Colts then proceeded to outscore them 21-3 in the 2nd quarter, then tacked on two more TDs in the middle of the third. Now sitting on a 42-10 lead with about six minutes left in the third quarter, the Colts relaxed enough to let the Jets offense do some garbage-time stat padding that resulted in a deceptive final score of 45-30. A 15-point loss is a bad loss, but this game was far worse than even that. During the relevant times in the game, the Jets could do absolutely nothing on either side of the ball.
This past Sunday, the Jets went back home to Jersey to see if they could salvage some dignity against the AFC-leading Buffalo Bills. The Bills, as you probably recall, were reeling a bit. They had actually looked vulnerable for the better part of their win over our Dolphins two games earlier, and then got completely blindsided in losing to a bad Jaguars team the week before. How would Buffalo respond?
Well, the Bills responded the same way Bruce Banner responds when he slapped in the mouth. They Hulked out. When the rubble was cleared away, the final score was 45-17. I did actually watch this game using the Sunday Ticket Shortcuts, and the Bills actually took a while to really get rolling. They were "only" up 10-0 at the end of the first, and 17-3 at halftime. The third quarter was the absolute death sentence, though, as Mike White completely fell apart and the Bills proceeded to drop 21 unanswered points on them in under nine minutes of game time. White threw two interceptions, got yanked for Joe "Yes I'm Still in the League" Flacco, who then promptly threw a pick of his own. The only area I saw the Jets have any success when it meant anything was their defensive line putting some pressure on Allen and stopping runs to the middle. But there were plenty of yards to be had running outside the tackles, and through the air over the middle. The Jets linebackers often looked slow, lost, or both. Their DBs actually covered well at times, but also had a few breakdowns of their own, which Allen and his deep well of receivers exploited repeatedly.
Them Versus Us
It's no secret that the Dolphins offense has been bad this year. There's no gussying up a running game that is dead last in rush yards per game. The pass game isn't going to be mistaken for the Bucs or Chiefs any time soon, but they have shown more life recently. It's also been markedly better when Tua has been healthy and under center. I don't think we'll ever see anything come easy for this offense in 2021, thanks to poor offensive line play and head-scratching coordination. Against this Jets defense, however, they should find some success. No, the Dolphins offense is nowhere near the caliber of the Bills, but the Jets defense I saw had very little going for it. The one area that they show some strength is the defensive line, and they did manage to get some pressure on Josh Allen, while also making running up the middle tough for a time. An offense like the Dolphins will likely not make much hay up the gut, and we will probably see Tua under some pressure. However, Tua has shown to be fairly adept at sensing and avoiding pressure. As long as he keeps tabs on his check-downs and the OCs throw in an extra blocker or two, the ball should move well enough to put up more than the 17.7 points per game that they've averaged thus far. in fact, I think there's a solid chance that we see the team finally eclipse the 30-point mark for the first time all season.
The other side of the ball is where we can be even more optimistic. While the offense has taken a few smaller encouraging steps in recent weeks, the defense has taken Usain Bolt strides. Their performance over the Ravens was like seeing Will Munny at the end of Unforgiven - a long-dormant killer break out the ol' shotgun and lay waste to everything in sight. It's not currently clear who will start at QB for the Jets yet, but if it's Mike White, then he may be in for a really rough day. I don't see Joe Flacco faring any better, given how he looked against a very similar Dolphins defense last year (186 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT). And if they throw rookie Zack Wilson out there, coming off injury? Yikes. Wilson has looked every inch the inexperienced rookie in his six starts this year, and I don't see going against a well-rested Dolphins defense as any kind of remedy for that.
The other elements of the game all tilt in Miami's favor. Maybe Robert Saleh will develop into a good head coach, if and when the Jets manage to identify and draft good players more consistently. For now, though, Brian Flores has the edge. With wasn't as clear a few weeks ago, but Flo seems to have found his groove again, at least on the defensive side on the ball. That's one more side than Saleh has discovered. Flores' team has also been trending in the right direction for a few weeks in special teams, penalties, and turnovers. The Jets are league-bottom in the latter two areas, which a talent-deprived team can hardly afford.
An important point remains worth a second look, though: the Jets have won two games. A closer look at this puts my mind at ease. The first win was a narrow overtime affair against the Tennessee Titans back in Week 4, with the Titans coming off two wins, including a win on the road against a Seahawks team that most people still considered strong. The Jets second win was three weeks ago against Cincinnati, who was coming off two decisive wins on the road against the Lions, then their division rival Ravens. These two Jets wins, especially the victory over the Bengals, reeked of letdown games in which two strong Jets' opponents were feeling good about themselves, looking past the the Jets, and got sniped. While the Dolphins are coming off a really nice win over Baltimore, they're still sitting at a rather lame 3-7 and still struggling in certain elements of the game. This Miami team is far less likely to be looking past any opponent, even a lowly Jets squad.
I'm not at the point where I'm super confident in any prediction with this Dolphins team, but I really like their chances in this one. This is a chance to redeem their earlier loss to an awful team - the Jaguars - roughly a month ago. Too many aspects of this game favor our Fins.
Dolphins 27, Jets 13
My October self would be slapping my current self for predicting any kind of two-score win, even over this Jets team. Still, I can't ignore what these two teams have put on film the last two weeks. Our Dolphins have looked their best since their week 1 win over the Patriots, while the Jets have been stuck in some deep, funky mud. I think our guys get to 4-7 and send the Jets to 2-8, where they can start dreaming of once again having a top-3 draft pick that they'll squander.
Let me know what you think about it. Do the Fins take another step away from being an utter joke, or do we see them undo the gains made in the last two weeks? Bring it up in the comments section.