The Jets have the distinct privilege of being forced to go to England for one of their games this year. While most teams are usually not big fans of having to fly to another country, adjust to a new time zone, play a divisional match, and then fly home like it has no impact on the team, the Jets at least get to take it as a road game. The Dolphins have to waste a home game playing in a foreign country while reeling after 2 conference losses in their first 3 games, including a divisional loss. Tough luck ducks.
Where We Are
After skyrocketing in power rankings around the world after beating the Colts, the Jets experienced engine failure and came crashing back down to earth in week 3. While the box score indicates a close game, the Jets were thoroughly outplayed for the majority of the game. The Eagles led by a score of 24-0 at one point and the Jets likely would have been blown out if Chip Kelly hadn't taken his foot off the gas pedal. While the loss was clearly demoralizing, the Jets are still considered serious playoff contenders by most pundits and boast one of the most statistically impressive, and physically impressive, defenses in the NFL. One loss is hardly a death sentence.
Where They Are
The Dolphins are not doing so hot. After entering the season with sky-high expectations, the Dolphins sit at 1-2 and dead last in the division. To make matters worse, they barely beat a weak Washington team before losing to a Jacksonville team that was simply dismantled by New England a week later. But then they had their home opener, so things must have gotten better, right? Buffalo 41, Miami 14: And this palindromic score doesn't even tell the whole story. Miami looked terrible on both sides of the ball. Now they must go to London and play a "home" game against a Jets team that matches up quite well against them position by position. It's so rough in Miami right now that coaching jobs very well could be on the line. Considering the amount of talent on the team and the unsustainable cap conditions, the team's performance on the field is nowhere close to where it needs to be this year.
Jets Injury Report (name, position, injury, practice participation, designation)
|Carpenter, James||G||Low Back||FP||FP||FP||probable|
Dolphins Injury Report (name, position, injury, practice participation, designation)
This week, the Jets X-Factor (or maybe I should call it Pop Idol in England) is tough to choose. The battle between our defensive line and their offensive line will be a big one. Both sides have struggled to live up to expectations. It will also be interesting to see how Marshall bounces back from a game in which he managed to top ESPN's "Not top 10 plays" list while also dropping a ball that resulted in a game-clinching interception for the opposition. I have to make Nick Mangold my X-Factor for the game, though. Suh has not lived up to his contract and has failed to put much in the stats book, but these things have a way of evening out. Queue a match up with a Jets that are likely to be forced to play Brian "some Jet just totally blew his blocking assignment" Winters. Mangold is going to have to be able to slide protection to help Winters (and likely Carpenter as well) to ensure that Fitzpatrick has time to make plays. Both teams are featuring underperforming DLs and weak OLs. The winner of this battle should win the game.
The Dolphins have had a lot of issues this year with players not living up to expectations. Suh has gotten the most press, but it has seemed to me that it hasn't been his fault. He has been constantly double teamed and his frustration shows. Cameron Wake was expected to go wild with Suh eating up double teams, but he's been limited by injuries. Olivier Vernon, on the other hand, has been a major disappointment. Tallying only 2 tackles in 3 games, Vernon has been unable to set the edge in the run game and has provided nothing in terms of a pass rush. While average to above average defensive ends (which Vernon is often assumed to be) should be able to feast against a distracted offensive line facing Wake and Suh, Vernon has been pretty much useless. Considering he's played against Washington, Jacksonville, and Buffalo (3 teams with some of the worst offensive lines in football), it's an understatement to say that Vernon has played terribly. He has the opportunity to go up against an offensive line that features Brian Winters and Breno Giacomini on the right side this week, though. If he can beat these two All-Pro turnstiles and disrupt the Jets' offense, he will be the X-Factor that delivers the Dolphins their first home win.
Keys To Victory
This game will be the opposite of the battle in the trenches that fans expected against the Browns. Instead of an elite offensive line facing an elite defensive line, this game features two talented, but underperforming defensive lines trying to change the headlines against two weak offensive lines. If Tannehill is given time in the pocket, he has proven that he can win games. Some people have questioned his play this year, but I think he's been pretty impressive considering how much turf he eats per game. This is a big game for both teams, but the Dolphins are definitely more desperate. Both teams will have their bye week following the game (likely planned by the NFL because the teams have to travel to London), and the Dolphins can't afford to be 1-3 and 0-2 in the division after the break. After facing a couple of weak AFC South teams (which ones? take your pick!), the Dolphins have all of their toughest opponents remaining. A loss wouldn't doom the season, but it would be pretty close. Meanwhile, a win would put them tied with the Jets with a better divisional record, and tied with the Bills should they lose to the Giants. The Jets would love to keep pace in the AFC East by going into the bye week 3-1 (having faced several of their more difficult opponents already), but a 2-2 record with the Titans, Jaguars, Redskins, Giants, Texans, and Raiders remaining is far from ruining any playoff hopes.
The Bottom Line
It's a really hard game to predict because the Jets have a lot of injuries and the Dolphins have a lot of wasted talent. While I would like to argue that the Jets have a much better overall team, the Dolphins are far ahead at the most important position in sports. While I'm somewhat afraid of extending my 2 game streak of being irredeemably incorrect, I think the Jets are the better team right now and I expect them to win this game. The Jets' giant receivers match up well against the Dolphins' tiny corners. The Jets' front 7 should dominate the Dolphins' beleaguered offensive line. Fitzpatrick should do just enough to win the game and avoid the looming sword of Damocles. Though if the Dolphins come away with a win, it would not be overly surprising either.