Preview: Jets (5-6) vs. Miami Dolphins (5-6)
FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Mired in their longest losing streak of the season (two games), the Jets have just five games remaining in the 2013 season to right the ship, prove they belong (or don’t belong) in the playoffs, or start preparing for next year.
Quarterback Geno Smith has been under fire all week. So have the secondary, offensive line, receiving corps, and coaches Marty Mornhinweg and Rex Ryan. But a cure for all those ills would be a win against the division rival Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
After building a reputation as road warriors under Ryan, the Jets are struggling away from MetLife this season (1-5), so a return home should do them some good. But then again, this team has been wildly unpredictable.
With a six-team logjam forming for the final AFC playoff spot, Sunday is perhaps the most important test in determining whether the Jets are indeed contenders or pretenders. A loss would set them back significantly. A win would keep them right in the thick of the action.
When: Sunday, December 1, 2013, 1:00 p.m. EST (TV-CBS Radio-ESPN NY, 98.7 FM)
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Injury Report (as of Thursday)
Did not practice: DB Antonio Cromartie (hip), WR Santonio Holmes (foot/hamstring), TE Kellen Winslow (knee)
Limited: RB Chris Ivory (ankle), WR Jeremy Kerley (elbow), OL Nick Mangold (wrist), LB Garrett McIntyre (knee)
Full practice: OL Willie Colon (calf), DL Kenrick Ellis (back), WR Stephen Hill (knee), DB Dee Milliner (wrist), WR Greg Salas (finger), DL Mo Wilkerson (wrist)
Did not practice: S Chris Clemons (knee/hamstring), CB Dimitri Patterson (groin), RB Daniel Thomas (ankle), CB Jamar Taylor (hamstring)
Limited: C Sam Brenner (knee), WR Rishard Matthews (back)
Full practice: LB Koa Misi (knee), WR Marlon Moore (hamstring), DT Jared Odrick (knee), RB Marcus Thigpen (wrist), S Jimmy Wilson (adomen)
What to watch for:
‘Sons of Anarchy: Along with having one of the coolest nicknames in sports, the Jets defensive line must have a major impact on Sunday’s game for the Jets to have a chance – and they should. The Dolphins are infamously missing two fifths of their offensive line (Richie Incognito and Jonathon Martin) and have allowed a league-high 44 sacks. The Dolphins running game is 26th in the NFL and the Jets run defense is 1st (by a lot) in the NFL. You do the math. Expect the defensive line, especially Mo Wilkerson, to have a big day. They should be able to keep steady pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and hopefully take some pressure off a struggling secondary. Speaking of …
Secondary blues: From 2009-2011, Football Outsiders had the Jets pass defense ranked in the top four of the NFL, holding the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in ‘09 and ‘11, respectively. Even without All-Pro Darrelle Revis for much of 2012, they were ranked in the top 10. But this season, they’re ranked 16th, giving up 11.33 yards per pass, which is well below the league average. Cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner have struggled mightily and the acquisition of Ed Reed has yet to pay any real dividends. Making matters worse, Cromartie may not play with a hip injury. The deep ball has plagued the Jets all season and, although he has been quiet for much of the year, Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace had a breakout, 127-yard receiving game against the Carolina Panthers last weekend. Something has to give.
Marty ball: The Jets have run a league-high 32 wildcat plays this season, a testament to their trust or lack thereof in their young quarterback. If Ryan and Mornhinweg don’t want to make the move to Matt Simms or David Garrard they need to take the leash off Geno and see how he fairs. The only reason to play him at this point is to see what you have moving forward. But that evaluation is incomplete if he’s split out wide, catching passes for six plays a game or handcuffed and unable to take chances down field. At this point, the Jets seem ready to live or die by Geno, so let’s see what he can do.
X-factor: It’s no secret that Geno Smith has struggled this season, but he’s not the only one to blame on offense. The pass protection has not always been up to snuff and the receivers, especially Stephen Hill, aren’t doing their jobs. If the team wants Geno to succeed, everyone has to contribute.
Prediction: If we’ve learned anything about the Jets this season, it’s that when everyone is counting them out they turn around and prove us all wrong. They’ve had success at home this season, the defensive line should wreak havoc, and the Dolphins haven’t scored more than 23 points all season. Jets win, 17-13.