Game Preview: Jets (7-8) vs Dolphins (8-7)

Florham Park, NJ – At 7-8 the Jets have a chance to finish the season at .500 when most thought they’d be one of the worst teams in the league. A 6-10 embarrassment last season was followed by an offseason purge. David Garrard couldn’t make it out of minicamp and Mark Sanchez didn’t last through the preseason. The starter was a wide-eyed rookie taken in the second round. Overmatched doesn’t begin to describe how he looked in his first start, a preseason game against the Giants.

The offense has come to life since Jeremy Kerley returned from injury. He could be a difference maker this Sunday

Somehow this team weathered that storm early. They were in the thick of the playoff race heading into their bye. A three-game losing streak dashed those hopes upon returning. But in these last few games the team has bounced back. Head coach Rex Ryan is on the hot seat, but his players clearly want him to stay.

Now the Jets go on the road, a place they’ve only picked up one victory so far this season. They face a Miami Dolphins team that still has a shot at the playoffs. The Dolphins embarrassed the Jets at home the last time these two teams squared off. But the Dolphins are coming off an embarrassment of their own: a shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills that would’ve put them in the driver seat for the sixth seed. Now it’s the Jets turn to return the favor and officially knock the Dolphins out of the playoffs.

When: Sunday, December 29 2013, 1:00 pm EST (TV-CBS Radio-ESPN)

Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL

Injury Report (as of Thursday) –

Jets – DNP: CB Ellis Lankster (jaw), S Ed Reed (not injury related), TE Kellen Winslow (knee, illness) LMT: LB Quinton Coples (shoulder), CB Antonio Cromartie (hip), DT Sheldon Richardson (finger, shoulder), WR Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring)

Dolphins –LMT: RB Daniel Thomas (ankle), DT Jared Odrick (wrist), DT Paul Soliai(ankle), S Chris Clemons (knee, hamstring), WR Marlon Moore (wrist), LB Koa Misi (triceps), WR Brian Hartline (knee)

Game Keys:

Run the ball – Lost in the three point performance the Jets had in these two team’s last meeting, is the fact that the Jets ran the ball very well. Chris Ivory and Bilal Bowell combined for 95 yards at 5 YPC. Miami has had a pretty pedestrian run defense this season, and the Jets should be able to exploit that again on Sunday.

Get Geno moving – It’s been a game key the last few weeks, and a clear adjustment in play calling. Geno has been effective out of the pocket, and it seems to get him into a rhythm. It’s also important since the Dolphins have one of the best pass rushes in the league. They’re currently ninth in the league with 42 sacks. They gave the Jets offensive line a lot of problems the last time these two teams played.

Tackle – The Dolphins didn’t run the ball well last time, and their longest play was for 15 yards. The Dolphins held the advantage by completing underneath passes and breaking tackles. It helped them convert almost 50% of their third down attempts and stay on the field for about 25 of the game’s first 30 minutes. The Jets defense needs to get off the field this time around so they don’t get tired, and they give their offense more chances with the ball.

X-Factor:

Jeremy Kerley – This matchup was the last of the three straight games Kerley missed due to injury, all three were losses. Whether coincidence or not, the offense has turned itself around since Kerley has been reinserted into the lineup. He’s been a dependable option for Smith on third downs, and had a big game last Sunday against the Browns.

The Pick – The Jets are finishing the season strong. Even the loss against the Panthers was closer than anyone thought it would be. The Dolphins are not 23-3 better than the Jets. New York will prove that Sunday.

The players are clearly still fighting for Rex to keep his job, so even though the Dolphins are fighting for a playoff spot, the Jets might feel they have more to play for. Even with how bad the Jets played last time, the game was still just 6-0 at halftime.

The Jets will get their second road win of the season and improve to 8-8. It’s not enough for the playoffs, but that should be enough to see the season as a success; especially if Geno, Milliner and the other young guys continue to improve.

Jets win 27-21

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