Welcome back to Trends to Track, a weekly look at some of the developing trends shown by the upcoming opponent and/or the Jets. Here we foolishly go where smarter people fear to tread and try to establish some trends which might influence the outcome of this week's game. This is the inaugural Trends To Track article for the 2015 season, for the simple reason that we need at least a few games to try to establish any meaningful trends at all. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, or even necessarily the most important trends and matchups to focus on. Rather, it is a highly idiosyncratic look at trends which caught my eye this week and might prove interesting in this week's game. Please feel free to supplement this article with any trends you've noticed. Now, let's get to it.
A funny thing has happened to the Jets recently. They've managed to generate turnovers on defense at a prodigious rate. After generating just 13 turnovers all last year on defense, this year's team has generated 11 turnovers in just three games to start the season. For the first time in what seems like forever the Jets have been winning the turnover battle, having a +5 turnover differential to start the season. To add to the turnover frenzy, the Dolphins have generated just two turnovers on defense while coughing the ball up four times on offense for a -2 turnover differential. So this week, as far as turnovers go, the trend is our friend. How long has it been since the Jets could say that?
Ryan Tannehill has developed over the last few years into an above average NFL quarterback. However, when Ryan Tannehill plays the Jets, he generally crumbles. Against the Jets Ryan Tannehill has a career passer rating of just 70.4, the lowest passer rating by Tannehill against any team he has played more than once, and more than 16% worse than his NFL career average of 84.1. He has just four TD passes and six interceptions in six games against the Jets, games in which he faced, for the most part, mediocre to terrible secondaries. Now he faces a very good Jets secondary. If the trends hold, look for Tannehill to crumble. Tannehill is coming into his own, but thus far the Jets have had his number.
There's No Place Like Home
As much as Tannehill has struggled against the Jets, he has been at his worst in home games against the Jets. Tannehill is 0-3 in home games against the Jets, and has put up an average of only 17 points per game in those losses. While Sunday's game is not actually in Miami, technically it counts as a Miami home game. London becomes Miami, England on Sunday. If the trends hold, the Jets should feel very welcome indeed.
Remember the Jets' home loss to Miami last year, when the Jets chose to abandon the pass and just run the ball down Miami's throat? The Jets lost that day, but they bullied Miami's smaller defense and racked up a ridiculous 277 yards rushing while exposing Miami's inability to stop a power rushing attack. Not much has changed in that respect in 2015. Miami has faced three big power running backs, and the Dolphins have not fared well. 220 pound Alfred Morris ran for 125 yards. 220 pound T.J. Yeldon ran for 70 yards. 225 pound Karlos Williams ran for 110 yards. In three games three power backs had 62 carries for 305 yards against the Dolphins, an average of 4.9 yards per carry. Big backs have been dominating the Dolphins. If Chris Ivory plays look for a very liberal dose of him running the ball on Sunday.
Speaking of size, the Dolphins also struggle against big receivers. Miami starts two smurf cornerbacks in 5' 9", 185 pound Brice McCain and 5' 10", 180 pound Brent Grimes, and the Dolphins' defensive backfield has been getting torched by bigger receivers this year. The Redskins' two leading receivers against the Dolphins, 6' 0", 210 pound Pierre Garcon and 6' 3", 236 pound Jordan Reed, combined for 13 receptions, 137 yards and a TD. The Jaguars' two leading receivers against the Dolphins, 6' 3", 220 pound Allen Robinson and 6' 3", 195 pound Allen Hurns, combined for 10 receptions, 223 yards and two TDs. The Bills' 6' 3", 245 pound Charles Clay and 6' 1", 220 pound Chris Hogan combined for 8 catches, 124 yards and two TDs. Combined these six big receivers, combined for 31 catches, 484 yards and 5 TDs in three games against Miami's undersized backfield. Look for Brandon Marshall to have a field day on Sunday, and Eric Decker should also be able to exploit the matchups if he plays. If Decker is out, the Jets may choose to heavily target Quincy Enunwa.
Mediocre Quarterbacks Rule!
It is never a good thing to be starting a mediocre quarterback in the NFL. However, so far this year Miami has proven to be a pretty friendly opponent for flawed quarterbacks. To date Miami has faced Kirk Cousins, Blake Bortles and Tyrod Taylor - not exactly a murderer's row of quarterbacks. Nonetheless, those quarterbacks have combined for six TD passes and only two interceptions, an average of 243 passing yards per game, only one sack on the year, and a combined passer rating of 101.8. The Dolphins have been generous to a fault against less than stellar quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick fits right in with this group. In fact, he is arguably better than any of them, or at least more accomplished. If the trends hold, look for Fitzpatrick to bounce back against a suspect Miami pass defense and have himself a banner day on Sunday.
The Dolphins going into this season were supposed to be a better team than the Jets, at least if you pay attention to most of the pundits. They were supposed to challenge the Patriots for a division title. It hasn't worked out that way so far. Many trends in this young season point to a possible Jets victory on Sunday. With only three games in the books, trends can be fickle. We should hesitate to draw any firm conclusions on the evidence of only three games. Still, it's nice to see the early trends in the Jets' favor in London. We'll shortly see how those trends play out