And just like that, it's Jets week again. Not even three weeks ago, our Dolphins went up to the Meadowlands and got a slightly nerve-wracking win over a Joe Flacco-led Jets team. We followed that with another closer-than-comfortable victory over the Giants, then the bye week, and now host the Jets.
I watched the Jets two previous games, to see if there have been any changes of note, and to get a sense of what to expect this week.
Tale of the Tape
Here are the two teams' key stats, as per pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, and nflpenalties.com:
As you would expect, no massive changes in the three weeks since these teams played each other. The only general trend worth noting is that while the Jets have stayed the same or gotten slightly worse in most categories, the Dolphins have improved in nearly every category. The only areas where the Jets don't rank in the bottom-5 in the entire NFL is passing yards and penalty yards against. The penalty yards average does speak to a certain amount of discipline, but the passing yards can be attributed to the fact that the 3-10 Jets are nearly always trying to overcome large deficits late in games, and therefore throwing it a lot out of desperation.
But how did Gang Green look in their two games since losing to our Fins?
Jets versus Philadelphia & New Orleans
Two Sundays ago, the Jets hosted the Philadelphia Eagles. The first quarter featured some actual, competitive football, with the Jets posting two touchdowns (with a super Jetsy two missed extra points) on short Zach Wilson passes, with the Eagles responding with their own touchdown on a 36-yard pass from everyone's favorite redneck uncle, Gardner Minshew Two. The two teams continued to find a bit of success in the pass game through most of the second quarter, trading touchdowns (Jets failing on a 2-point conversion) to make the score 18-14, Jets with 9:22 left before halftime. Then, the Eagles got the memo that the Jets are horrible against the run, and basically pounded them into submission for the remainder of the game. 184 rushing yards and four field goals later, and the Eagles got the 33-18 win. Minshew probably could have put up even better numbers than his 20-25 for 242 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs, but why? Philly did the smart thing by keeping it safe and just body blowing their way to a somewhat dull victory. Zach Wilson started out looking OK - even decent at times - but eventually wilted when he had to throw the ball in a comeback attempt. He looked confused and shaken at times, leading to some highly inaccurate passes. His pass-catchers didn't help him much, either.
The following week, the Jets hosted the Saints, quarterbacked by Taysom Hill and featuring the second game back from injury for Alvin Kamara. Honestly, there was very little that was enjoyable about watching this game, even the 20-minute "Shortcuts" version that I watched on the NFL Sunday Ticket app. The two teams fumbled around for a full three quarters, an Alvin Kamara 16-yard TD run being the only rousing moment. The score was 13-6, Saints at the end of three. Then, much like the Eagles the week prior, the Saints decided to hit the ground game hard. And, also much like the week before, the Jets got steamrolled. A whole bunch of Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara ground yards and 17 fourth-quarter points later, the Saints had the 30-9 victory. New Orleans ended up with 41 rushes for 203 yards and 3 TDs on the ground. Meanwhile, Zach Wilson managed to look even worse than he did against Philadelphia, going 19-42 for 202 yards and no touchdowns. Some of his passes were dropped, but plenty more were wildly off-target and nearly intercepted.
Miami Dolphins versus New York Jets
Obviously, the glaring difference between this game and the previous meeting is at the quarterback position for the Jets. I think many of us were loath to admit it, but backup Joe Flacco actually did a serviceable job taking advantage of the Dolphins defense's soft spot in the middle of the field, and made a game of it. Ultimately, the Fins offense did enough to put up 24 points, while the defense cracked down and kept Flacco and the Jets offense within its very modest limits.
Will Zach Wilson make a difference? Yes, but not in any way that will make Jets fans happy. If what I saw against the Eagles and Saints is anything to go by, then Wilson is in for a really rough Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium. Philly and New Orleans boast decent but not great pass defenses, while the Dolphins pass defense has only gotten better in the past six games. In those six, they're averaging only 204.2 yards surrendered per game. Weirdly, the most yards they've given up in that span is the 278 to Joe Flacco. This paints a picture of a much lamer version of the dilemma that the Fins were in last season, where Joe Flacco is the "Fitzpatrick" who gives the team the better chance to win over the fresh young rookie. Fortunately for Miami, Wilson is no Tua. I see the Jets passing offense having far more trouble moving the ball through the air than they did three weeks ago. The Jets running game is one of the few in the NFL that is nearly as bad as the Dolphins, and I can't see them changing that against a Fins defense that has developed into one of the best run defenses in the league.
What about our offense? It looked solid against the Jets defense in the first game, and I have little reason to think it won't be at least as successful this time around. DeVante Parker wasn't on the roster that time, and he showed against the Giants that he hasn't lost a step. While the Jets defense looks like they've continued to give it their best effort, they still looked out of place at times against the Eagles and Saints, which our pass-catchers should be able to take advantage of. Our run game? I'll get into that shortly, but let's face it - the run game hasn't been a featured part of this offense at any point this season. And against the Jets, I don't think it really needs to be.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the COVID situation. As I write this, the majority of the Dolphins running backs room is on the Reserve/COVID list and considered "OUT" for Sunday's game. Essentially, this makes Duke Johnson the only RB currently on the active roster. Now, the Fins will fill out those slots one way or the other, with practice squaders Gerrid Doaks and Dexter Williams, if need be. It looks like Malcolm Brown may return from Injured Reserve, as well. More glaring is that do-it-all, uber rookie DB Jevon Holland is also currently on this list, and I expect his potential absence to have a greater impact. There is still a chance that one or more of these players - who have all been fully vaccinated - can be eligible to play on Sunday.
Looking at other elements, the special teams nod goes firmly towards the Dolphins. Yes, Jason Sanders still looks weirdly off, but every other aspect of special teams has looked great in the last few weeks. The Dolphins and Jets are both generally good with penalties, so that's a rub. I'm giving the coaching nod confidently to the Dolphins, seeing as how they've turned this thing around and seem to be hitting all the right buttons that they couldn't even locate earlier in the season. Meanwhile, the Jets continue to flounder and lose games, growing harder and harder to watch.
If we're missing key guys due to COVID, this game could be close for a quarter or so, but I think we see a much more solid win over the Jets than we saw three weeks ago. The Fins will still have some issues on the O line, and yards on the ground will be hard-fought, but I think they do more than enough. I think Miami's defense torments Zach Wilson into one of his worst games as a professional, and we get a far more definitive victory this time.
Dolphins 27, Jets 13
I initially had the Fins scoring 34 here, but with the absence of Waddle and with several running backs having missed a lot of practice, I shaved it a bit. I won't be surprised if they surpass 30 on a defensive touchdown, though, given Zach Wilson's propensity for bad decisions and our defense's ability to sniff out the ball.
How are you all feeling after this roller-coaster of a week? Will the Dolphins snag an easy W here, or will this be far tougher than we think? Get busy in the comments section!