Like all of you, I’m still trying to get my wind from the barrage of gut punches we took on Monday Night. The loss was bad enough, but the fashion in which it came and the injuries sustained by the Dolphins have had me in a funk all week. The bottom line is that instead of sitting at 10-3 with an iron grip on the AFC East crown, Miami is now 9-4, looking shaky and the Buffalo Bills can be seen gaining ground in the rear-view mirror.
The loss also ran horrendously contrary to my prediction of a blowout win, dropping my season record for straight-up predictions to 9-4, mirroring the Dolphins:
driftinscotty’s 2023 Straight Up Predictions
|My Straight Up Season Record
|My Straight Up Season Record
So now on a slightly short week, the Dolphins have to regroup and get back on the winning track against the Jets, whom they handled with ease several weeks ago. What might be different about the rematch?
Tale of the Tape
Here is where the two teams’ key stats lie on the season:
Dolphins & Jets Key Team Stats
|Stat Per Game
|Stat Per Game
|15.5 (tie 28th)
|Pass Yards Allowed
|Run Yards Allowed
|-5 (tie 23rd)
|Against Penalty Yards
The stats, not surprisingly, aren’t terribly different from what they looked like three weeks ago, when the teams played the Black Friday game in the Meadowlands. Great offensive numbers and solid defensive numbers for Miami, awful offensive stats and strong defensive stats for New York. At this point in the season, though, season totals can be missing more recent trends and other details. This is the case with these two teams, for a few reasons.
Before we dig into those, let’s take a quick look at what the Jets have done in their last two games.
New York Jets’ the Last Two Weeks: vs Falcons and Texans
Week 13 vs Atlanta: I’m not going to get into much detail on this one, for two main reasons: first is that it was a miserable game to watch, and second is that it featured Tim Boyle under center for the Jets. Boyle was so bad in this game (in conjunction with the other two games he played) that he was cut shortly after it ended. His playing in this game just hammered home the theme of two defenses - one good and one very good - both playing against poor to awful offenses. There were 17 total penalties for 126 yards. There were tons of stoppages for injuries, and things got chippy towards the end. Once the Falcons clawed their way to a 13-8 lead towards the end of the 3rd quarter, the remaining 15-plus minutes of the game went like this: two punts, Jets interception, five punts, Jets fumble, punt, and finally (mercifully) a Jets turnover on downs. Jets drop to 4-8, and Tim Boyle toggles his Linkedin status.
Week 14 vs Texans: On the heels of Tim Boyle’s dismissal, Zach Wilson was reinstated as the starter at QB for the Jets. Unlike the Atlanta game, this one did not follow the expected script. Under a chilly, steady, light rain, Houston star rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud had the worst game of his young but thus far excellent career. Neither offense had anything going in the first half, with neither team scoring a single point. The Jets offense, though, came out revived in the second half. While Stroud and the Texans’ offense continued to sputter, the Jets rode a solid performance by Zach Wilson to a pair of touchdowns. Houston responded with a TD (and missed the PAT) at the end of the 3rd to put the score at 14-6. Then the wheels came off for Houston. C.J. Stroud had to leave the game early in the 4th and enter concussion protocol, leaving former backup QB folk hero Davis Mills to take over. Mills didn’t have any more success against the Jets’ defense than Stroud, coming up short on 4th-down attempts deep in their own territory on three straight drives. This left the Jets short fields to work with, and they capitalized well enough by tacking on another TD and three more field goals. Jets win, 30-6 for their first real bright spot in several weeks. They get to 5-8, improving their shot at a Wildcard spot from roughly 0.5% to around 0.8%.
My takeaways from these two games:
- I so wish the Jets had just kept running Tim Boyle out there at QB. He was a disaster. I wouldn’t normally worry all that much about Zach Wilson either, but he did actually look fine last Sunday against Houston. While his passing yards total was helped quite a bit by YAC, he looked more poised than I’ve ever seen him - staying in the pocket much better and avoiding the really dumb decisions that have been the hallmark of nearly every previous start.
- The Jets O line is still abysmal. Despite having good running backs (more Breece Hall than Dalvin Cook), this team still can’t get any kind of run game going. Pass protection isn’t much better, allowing plenty of QB pressures, hits, and sacks.
- The Jets defense is still what it’s cracked up to be. No real change from three weeks ago. Apply plenty of pressure up front, and the DBs will rough up your pass catchers with extreme prejudice.
- Don’t let a game with them come down to a field goal battle, since Greg Zeurlein is in the zone right now.
Obviously, the big potential difference here over the previous matchup is the QB spot. Maybe it was just a fluke of that second half of the Texans game, but Wilson did look markedly better than I’ve ever seen him. Could that potentially be enough for the Jets to balance the scales against Miami? Let’s look at the units.
Unit Matchups: Dolphins vs. Jets
Dolphins Offense vs Jets Defense: Injuries, man. They have changed the whole complexion of this thing. With a mostly healthy offensive unit three weeks ago, the Fins offense got nearly everything they wanted against the Jets. It’s a different story now, with a devastated Miami offensive line and several key skill players battling through mounting injuries. The Dolphins are pulling in dudes off the street - including former Fins flame-out Matt Skura - to try and patch together some semblance of a line. Meanwhile, Tyreek Hill, Raheem Mostert, and Da’Von Achane are all dealing with injuries. The Jets' defense, on the other hand, is relatively healthy, and they’ve continued to be a solid top-10 unit in the NFL. Advantage: NONE
Dolphins Defense vs. Jets Offense: We know for sure that the Fins will be missing starting linebacker and unit captain Jerome Baker for at least another couple of weeks. No Jaelen Phillips either, obviously. On top of that, Jevon Holland, Deshone Elliot, and Xavien Howard are still questionable for this game. That is a ton of top-flight talent either missing, potentially missing, or not at 100%. It still would have been enough against the Jets offense for most of this season, but if Zach Wilson carries over some of his success from the second half of their game against Houston, this thing could get worrisome. Slight advantage: Dolphins.
Special Teams, Coaching, and Other Factors
Special Teams: Miami’s special teams are still a below-average bunch. The Jets, though, are among the league’s best. A lot of this is Greg Zuerlein as a place kicker, but punter (and former Fin) Thomas Morstead is also having a great year, and the Jets are very solid in coverage. Major Advantage: Jets
Coaching: We Dolphins fans are now at an all-too-familiar crossroads question: is our head coach that good? I’m not quite as convinced as I was just two weeks ago. For all the good he’s done, Mike McDaniel still seems thoroughly addicted to the passing game, even in obvious run situations with a crew of excellent running backs. It’s the kind of blindside that will lose you games against hard-nosed, desperate, and nasty teams like the Jets. I’m not super impressed with Robert Saleh, but he does know how to press the advantage in situations like this, and I expect him to have his defense fired up for revenge and continuing to play inspired in this one. There’s not enough evidence that Saleh can oversee a sustained improvement on offense, but he at least will try to keep the offense from committing too many errors in a close game. Slight advantage: Jets (blech)
Locale: It’s in Miami, where the forecast is calling for heavy rains and cool temperatures in the 60s. I hate this. These are just the kinds of conditions that favor a defense-forward, offensively conservative team that wants to muck things up and turn the game into a wrestling match. That’s what the Jets want, and it’s probably what they’re going to get. Oh, and it wasn’t like the Dolphins faithful showed up in droves and brought the enthusiasm on Monday night. I won’t be surprised if the Jets fans are there at Hard Rock, making more noise than the Fins fans. Advantage: Jets
X-Factors: Maybe this is just me projecting, but I think the intangible boxes are ticked by the Jets. They have almost nothing to lose in this game, while the Fins have so much to lose. The Jets have almost zero to play for except pride and revenge, and for this team, that seems like ample fuel. It’s what kept them playing hard against Houston and running away with victory last week. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have been hearing nothing but “Yeah, but can they do it when it really matters?” and “Will they collapse in December this season, like they did last year and so many years prior?” Well, last week, they fell way short of providing hopeful answers to those questions. I find it hard to believe that this hasn’t crept into the backs of their minds and caused at least a slight tightening of their collective sphincters. And even the most talented, professional teams can only take so many injuries to key starters before everyone else starts to buckle under the weight of additional responsibilities. Oh, and the Fins are playing one day’s less rest than New York. Advantage: Jets
Prediction: Dolphins 17, Jets 20
Writing this article has been a trial, with the punctuation mark being this prediction. I so hope that I’m wrong, and that the Dolphins rebound for a win here. But I just see way too many things stacked against them in this. Most of it really is the insane number of high-level starters who have either been lost for the season, are still out for another week or more, or are battling through one or more nagging injuries. It just seems like too much to overcome against an opponent that, while flawed, still has a strong defense and a sense of purpose. That purpose is to take all their frustrations out on a division opponent that’s been getting all the headlines for most of the season but is now hobbled.
Please, fellow Fins fans, tell me that I’m wrong and that our guys will rally for the win here. Whatever the case, let us know how you’re feeling in the comments below. We’ll get through this together, win or lose.