We’re getting this one out much quicker than usual, seeing as how we have a short week on our hands.
Well, last Sunday didn’t exactly follow the script I had worked up in my head, but it was a win nonetheless. The offense continues to wallow a bit, mostly due to turnovers rather than any inability to move the ball. It was a game that the Dolphins should have won by more than the seven points they did, but even good teams have at least one or two “ugly” victories on their resume in a given year. While this win might not have been full-blown ugly, it certainly wasn’t as clean as one would hope. The defense continues to make excellent strides, though, thanks to the increasing familiarity with Vic Fangio’s system and Jalen Ramsey looking very much like the All Pro player he was before his injuries in recent years.
With the win, my straight up predictions stayed right in line with the Dolphins overall record:
driftinscotty’s Straight Up Predictions for 2023
|My Straight Up Season Record
|My Straight Up Season Record
On we go to the NFL’s inaugural Black Friday football game – the Fins’ first game of the season against the AFC Division rival New York Jets, who sit at 4-6 and whose hopes at a playoff berth have faded to nearly non-existent. What should we expect in the matchup?
Tale of the Tape
Key Team Stats for Miami & New York Jets
|Stat Per Game
|Stat Per Game
|Pass Yards Allowed
|Run Yards Allowed
|-2 (tie 19th)
|Against Penalty Yards
The numbers for the Dolphins are still looking strong and getting better in a few areas. Though the offense hasn’t recently been the video game juggernaut it was in the early part of the season, it’s still putting up very strong yardage totals. The points scored in recent games has been more pedestrian, thanks in part to untimely turnovers that rob them from scoring opportunities. The defense has made incredible strides in the yards allowed categories, even if the points allowed per game totals look poor. That latter number really is more on the offense and special teams, though. The penalties have continued to improve, as well.
The Jets’ stats, on the other hand, suggest a team that is remaining stuck in the mud offensively and possibly slipping a bit defensively. The offense ranks 3rd worst in the NFL in passing yards and points scored, and is only marginally better running the ball. New York’s defense – arguably a top-5 defense through the early part of the season – has stumbled in recent weeks. Though they still give up only the 5th-most passing yards, they are now 3rd worst in run yards surrendered and their points allowed per game has slipped out of the top 10.
So what’s been going on with the Jets recently? Let’s take a quick look at their last two games.
New York Jets in Weeks 10 and 11: at Las Vegas and at Buffalo
Week 10: at Las Vegas: I actually wrote a summary of this game last week, as part of my breakdown of the Raiders’ previous two games. I won’t rehash the whole thing, but suffice it to say that the Jets offense did actually manage to move the ball OK at times against a Las Vegas defense that was re-tooling a bit under interim head coach Antonio Pierce. Still, New York simply couldn’t punch the ball into and through the red zone, instead settling for 4 field goals to account for the meager 12 points they put up the entire game. The Jets defense looked solid for much of the game against a top-heavy Raider offense, but they couldn’t keep a lid on DaVante Adams or Josh Jacobs. Rookie backup QB Aidan O’Connell fed those star players the ball, guiding Vegas to the unspectacular 16-12 victory. The Jets did have a couple of chances to win the game late, but their drives were stymied by late penalties and inability to string positive plays together. Jets drop to 4-5 on the season.
Week 11: at Buffalo: This past Sunday, the Jets went to Orchard Park for a game that amounted to a virtual do-or-die for both AFC rivals. The winner would come away with a reasonable chance for a playoff push, while the loser would see their playoff odds drop to single digits. With that as the context, the Jets took this opportunity, threw it on the ground, and lit it on fire. The score through the 1st half didn’t really indicate how one-sided this contest was in the Bills’ favor. It was 6-0 Buffalo after the first quarter, with the Bills adding another field goal early in the 2nd to put it at 0-9. A few series later, Buffalo added a touchdown to make it 16-0. With their backs against the wall and in full desperation mode, the Jets actually executed a successful fake punt deep in their own territory, and then put together a TD drive thanks to a bit of actual offensive cohesion and a few Bills penalties. They missed the 2-point conversion attempt, though, putting the score at 16-6 at the half. The second half was when New York completely disintegrated. The Bills scored a TD a few minutes into the 3rd quarter but missed the PAT. It didn’t matter, though, as the Jets offense was a complete mess. Buffalo tacked on another TD to get the score to 29-6. This was when Robert Saleh finally gave up the ghost, benched Zach Wilson, and put in journeyman backup Tim Boyle. As you might expect, Boyle fared no better than Wilson, getting mercilessly harassed by the Bills defensive front. Buffalo went into full win conservation mode, put up another field goal in the 4th, and iced the 32-6 win to get to 6-5 on the season and stay in the playoff chase. The Jets dropped to 4-6, putting any playoff hopes they had in a full coma with little chance for recovery.
My takeaways on the Jets from these last two games:
- The Jets defense is still pretty good, despite the number of points the Bills posted on them. The problem was that they’re constantly having to clean up the nuclear-grade messes that the offense leaves for them. Aside from the short fields that they have to defend, they just get exhausted from having to play so many snaps (70 in Buffalo).
- The Jets offense? Yes, it’s as bad as what you’ve read, heard, and seen when looking at the numbers. See the next three points:
- The main culprit is the offensive line, which is atrocious. Pass blocking. Run blocking. You name it – they rarely win the battles against defensive fronts, which torpedoes any chance at the offense getting any sort of flow going.
- Zach Wilson was bad enough to (finally) get benched for a 29-year-old mystery man backup QB who is on his fourth team in five years. While Wilson looked OK against a questionable Raiders defense, in Buffalo he was in full-on, Sam Darnold “I’m seeing ghosts out there” mode. Bad interceptions. Throwing the ball into the dirt. Running for his life even when he didn’t have to (though he did have to often enough). He was a mess.
- The Jets just have zero depth in terms of pass-catchers. It’s Garrett Wilson and that’s it. As great as Wilson is, he’s just one guy, and good backfields can minimize his impact while snuffing out the rest of the Jets’ receiving corps.
- Jets running back Breece Hall is still a legitimately good player, but even he has no shot at getting any kind of rhythm behind this offensive line and with no other weapons to take the pressure off of him.
So the Jets are in bad shape right now. Do they pose an upset threat to Miami?
Unit Matchups: Miami vs New York Jets
Dolphins Offense vs Jets Defense: It’s time to get real about our Dolphins’ offense. They’re not as good as their overall numbers suggest. The numbers point to an offense that is #1 or #2 in the entire league, which one would believe could have its way with any but the most elite defenses. However, we know that this is not really the case. Against good-but-not great defenses, Tua and the offense have looked very pedestrian. Some of this is injuries to starting offensive linemen and skill players like De’Von Achane and others. However, it’s looking more and more like it’s due to certain limitations that Tua has, which are somewhat compounded by Mike McDaniel’s (admittedly few) blindspots in play calling. In particular, McDaniel still hasn’t shaken his infatuation with calling pass plays on 3rd-and-short and 4th-and-short, despite having a strong runner in Raheem Mostert and a reliable fullback in Alec Ingold. As far as Tua, as much as I hate to admit it, he actually is not good at improvising or getting past his first two reads. If those plays are there (and they often are), he’s excellent. He’s also outstanding against obvious blitzes. But if those quick-strike plays aren’t there? He tends to try and force it anyway, leading to interceptions or near-interceptions. Good defenses have figured this out, and they know not to bite on those “performative look-offs,” as I’ve heard them described. The Jets defense is good at this type of thing, so this matchup is far more even than that stats would suggest. And if we don’t get at least one of the starting guards – Wynn or Hunt – back this week, it could be a struggle to move the ball. Advantage: NONE
Dolphins Defense vs Jets Offense: My, how times change, at least when it comes to Miami’s defense. After the first six weeks, I was as worried as anyone about the defense. Since the second half of the Eagles game in week 7, though? Different story altogether. The defense is fully healthy, and Vic Fangio’s complex system seems to be well in place. They’ve surrendered less than 300 total yards in each of the last three games, and they’ve forced 5 turnovers. The run defense has developed into one of the best in the NFL, and the backfield is truly terrifying with Jalen Ramsey already back to his All-Pro form. Even before this recent evolution, they did pretty well against an excellent Eagles offense and then performed even better against the Chiefs two weeks later (fun fact: the Fins defense held KC to its lowest yardage total of the season, and far less than the Eagles allowed Monday night). Against this Jets offense? I’m salivating to see what they do to this O line and the third-tier QB they’ll be running out there. Major Advantage: Dolphins
Special Teams, Coaching, and Other Factors
Special Teams: The Dolphins special teams were already below average, and they took a few steps backwards last week. A missed field goal (a long one, admittedly). Another bad punt. These were as much a reason that Vegas was able to hang around in that game as the two fumbles and the interception. The Jets, on the other hand, have very good special teams in virtually every aspect. Major advantage: Jets
Coaching: I’m a little down on Mike McDaniel at the moment, as I wait to see if he figures out how to progress his offense beyond just being able to beat up on bad defenses. Still, he continues to get his team in good enough shape to beat the teams they should, despite the questionable play calls on short yardage. Jets head coach Robert Saleh? I have to give him credit for making sure that his defense keeps its head up and continues to play good ball, despite the offense being insultingly awful. The state of this offensive line and receiving corps, though, is mind-boggling. It would take an absolute savant to get them anywhere close to serviceable, and Robert Saleh isn’t that guy. Slight advantage: Dolphins
Injuries: We’re all flying pretty blind on this one, with the short week and little injury info to go on. The lingering questions right now are on the offensive line for both teams. For the Fins, left guard Isaiah Wynn is still listed as on IR, while right guard Rob Hunt is still questionable after not practicing at all last week. Then there were the inactives this past Sunday: tight end Durham Smythe, wide receiver and kick returner Braxton Berrios, along with recently-returned running back De’Von Achane. That’s a lot of questions about offensive starters. For the Jets, the main concern is for starting left tackle Mekhi Becton, arguably the only bright spot on a poor offensive line. Becton was injured in last Sunday’s game against Buffalo, which could weaken that beleaguered unit even further.
Location: This one is up in the Meadowlands, where it should be a chilly 50 degrees, but otherwise clear. Being in Jersey, I do expect the Jets faithful to be out in decent force. Despite their teams’ playoff chances now sitting right around 1%, according to several number crunchers, the fanbase is likely to take the opportunity to try and rally their team, or at the very least scream at them while getting hammered on overpriced tallboys on Natty Light. Thing is, McDaniel’s teams with Tua at QB have done just fine on the road, especially against inferior teams.
Potential X-Factors: There’s not a lot here, aside from the standard division rival element. This is always a wildcard that can keep a game that should be a blowout on paper much closer than we would expect. It wouldn’t shock me to see this happen, but I’m not going to bet on it.
Prediction: Dolphins 24, Jets 10
Two weeks ago, the Dolphins held a good Chiefs offense to 21 points (7 of them on a pick-6), and then a flawed but talented Raiders team to 14 points. This Jets offense is nowhere near as good, but I’ll give them the benefit of putting together one TD drive, along with a field goal chaser. I expect the Dolphins offense to once again look mortal against a good defense, especially if they’re still missing key blockers like Wynn, Hunt, and Smythe. Still, they should be potent enough to get the points needed to salt this one away. They may once again benefit from the defense handing them a turnover or two to give them short fields to work with, as well. An inexperienced QB like Tim Boyle is exactly the kind of guy the Dolphins’ formidable pass rushers and DBs can feast on.
How are we feeling, Fins fans? Solid win? Blowout victory to get to 8-3? Or do the Jets snipe our guys in a desperate effort to save some pride? Spill your guts down below.