The New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins fly across the pond this weekend for the first ever divisional game in London. The Jets and Dolphins share one of the NFL's richest rivalries, having played a total of 98 games beginning with a 19-14 Jets victory on September 9th, 1966. The Jets and Dolphins have always resided in the same division, first in the AFL Eastern division, and then of course the AFC East. This is the primary reason why the rivalry has prospered over the years and why other rivalries, such as the one with Indianapolis, have fallen off with the adjustments in divisions. While the Dolphins own 14 division titles to the Jets 4, New York currently leads the all-time series, 51-46-1.
The most important game the two teams have played on paper was the 1982 AFC Championship, otherwise known as the Mud Bowl. The reason being that the Dolphins simply did not cover the field after an ongoing torrential downpour. Jets quarterback Richard Todd threw five interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. The Dolphins won the game 14-0, but lost in the Super Bowl to the Washington Redskins, 27-17.
The following year's draft would turn out to be a pivotal turning point for the ensuing success of these two franchises. Although John Elway was the consensus #1 selection, there was buzz about Dan Marino competing for the top selection. However, some character questions, including a drug rumor caused Marino's draft stock to plummet. With the Jets 24th selection, Marino was there for the taking. Instead, the Jets went with Ken O'Brien out of California-Davis and the Dolphins landed the Hall of Fame signal caller 3 picks later. Marino led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl in just his second season, shattering nearly every single season passing record along the way, but Marino would never hoist the Lombardi trophy during his 17-year career.
O'Brien and Marino competed in numerous critical games that displayed the deep arm talent of the 1983 draft. On September 21, 1986, O'Brien connected with Wesley Walker on a 21-yard pass as time expired to tie the Dolphins and force overtime. Just a few minutes into OT, O'Brien and Walker hooked up again, this time on a 43-yard pass that would seal a 51-45 Jets victory. O'Brien and Marino combined to set NFL single-game records of 884 net passing yards and 10 touchdown passes.
5 years later on December 22,1991, the Jets and Dolphins would meet with the final wild-card spot on the line. The Dolphins took a 20-17 lead with 44 seconds remaining, but O'Brien got the Jets in field goal range to tie it and force overtime. After the Dolphins went 3 and out on their first possession of OT, Raul Allegre kicked a 30-yard field goal to give the Jets the playoff birth.
Perhaps the most famous of Marino's 420 touchdown passes was his 1994 game winning fake spike that defeated the Jets 28-24, booting the Jets from first place in the division. The Jets would go on to lose 32 of their next 36 games until Bill Parcells arrived in 1997. The ultimate highlight for Jets fans in this rivalry is the 2000 Monday Night Miracle game in which the 5-1 Jets defeated the 5-1 Dolphins after a 23 point 4th quarter comeback. Scott detailed a recap of that game last year, which can be found here. The 23 point 4th quarter comeback is the second largest in NFL history and the largest in Jets franchise history.
What's happened since then?
No question why this rivalry has been quiet of late. However, in yet another Jets-Dolphins quarterback wrinkle, the 2008 AFC East title came down to the season finale at the Meadowlands between the Jets' Brett Favre and the ex-Jet Chad Pennington. Favre looked every bit of 39, throwing 3 interceptions, while Pennington boasted a "Division Champions" hat in what was the visiting locker room for the first 8 years of his pro career.
What can we expect this Sunday when the 2-1 Jets and 1-2 Dolphins meet again? The Dolphins are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills, while the Jets fell victim to a classic trap game against the Philadelphia Eagles. I do feel obligated to mention that the last time the Jets played the Dolphins, Geno Smith threw for the only perfect passer rating of the 2014 NFL season. Fitzpatrick's watch isn't nearly up, but it's ticking. No game this early in the season is truly a "must win", but the importance of this game cannot be understated.