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Jets vs. Dolphins Week 7 Preview & Things to Know

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What to keep in mind as the Jets aim for a season sweep over the Fish

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Jets are surprisingly in the thick of a packed AFC playoff race, but could drop out of the crowd quickly with a second consecutive divisional loss this week. They’ll to try to avoid that and go back above .500 as they head down to Miami.

Injuries

For the Jets, Bilal Powell (calf) will return after missing last week’s game. His last three games have been as volatile as it can get: 37 yards, 163 yards, and 5 yards (did leave due to injury.) Will the staff realize that Powell is one their best weapons and feed him the ball?

Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder, toe) is questionable and has been called a game-day decision. It sure seems like he’s been playing with multiple injured body parts. Perhaps a week off would do him and the team some good. Jordan Leggett’s (knee) NFL debut will be postponed yet another week.

Dolphins WR DeVante Parker is doubtful and will likely miss the game. He would be a huge loss for Miami. Parker is the only player on the team to have above-average efficiency numbers as a target in the passing game, both by DVOA and yards per target. C Mike Pouncey, CB Xavien Howard, CB Byron Maxwell, and DE Andre Branch are all questionable.

Key Numbers

11-0 - Miami’s record when Jay Ajayi carries the ball 18 times or more. Since Ajayi’s first game as the team’s lead back in game six last year, Miami is 1-4 with four straight losses when Ajayi has fewer than 18 carries. The Jets need to establish themselves early and take Miami’s run game away before they can lean on it.

0 - Qualified quarterbanks ranked below Jay Cutler in both yards per attempt (5.2) and yards per completion (8.5). The big passing play has not been there for Miami. Their six passing plays of 20+ yards is tied for the fewest in the league, while the 161 yards they’ve gained on such plays is by far the fewest. It’s clear who the Jets are going to try and force to beat them on the Dolphins offense.

Jets Offensive Plan

As mentioned, it’s key to force Miami out of its comfort zone offensively as early as you can. In Week 3, the Jets did take a 10-0 lead into halftime, but they need to start quicker this time around. They didn’t score until there were 7 minutes to go in the second quarter and didn’t find the end zone until under 2 minutes in the first half. The defense dominated in that game. The offense needs to do its part in deepening the early hole.

The Jets had a lot of success in the intermediate to deep ranges against Miami the first time around. Miami is 28th in opposing quarterback rating allowed and 4th in rush yards per game allowed. With the Dolphins battling some injuries at cornerback, they might want to look to throw the ball in the middle of the field some more, especially with the emergence of Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Then again, you never want to put the game on the arm of Josh McCown. The Miami game was his best as a Jet, and not coincidentally he threw a season-low 23 passes. Though only for 3.0 yards a carry, the Jets stayed loyal to the run with 30 attempts in Week 3. They need to stay committed to the run to maximize their chances of having an efficient passing attack down the field, even if it isn’t working all that well.

Jets Defensive Plan

In the Week 3 win, the Jets executed the formula for beating the Dolphins to perfection. They held Jay Ajayi to 1.5 yards per carry, forcing Jay Cutler to throw 44 passes and limiting Ajayi to just two carries in the second half. The offense got off to a slow start, but it was the shutdown D that allowed the Jets to take control before halftime.

As we know, it’s hard to expect a lot from the Jet offense. They haven’t gone over 20 points in regulation yet. However, you can call them consistent. They’ve been between 12-20 points at the end of the fourth in every single game so far. With that in mind, as the Jets face a team that is talented but unproductive and inconsistent on offense, I think the Jets defense will be the single most important unit in this game.

It will all come down to stopping Jay Ajayi and the run game. When the Jets did it back in Week 3, it was because Demario Davis experienced an internal renaissance and played like a superstar shutting down the middle gaps. The Jets will absolutely need more of that from both Davis and Darron Lee this week. Muhammad Wilkerson’s potential absence could open up more playing time for someone like Mike Pennel or Steve McLendon, both known for their run-stopping. They need to live up to that.

In the secondary, I’m looking closely at Jamal Adams. Cleveland and New England exposed him in 1-on-1 matchups with tight ends. Will Miami look to get Adams matched up with Julius Thomas this week? Back in Week 3, Adams had a phenomenal playmaking festival. If the Dolphins are smart, they’ll test Adams against Thomas to see if he’s adjusted. If he hasn’t, then Miami might have a way to get their passing game going.

Jets X-Factors

Offense: Wesley Johnson

As the offensive line has continued to struggle, Johnson has begun to see the limelight of criticism shift in his direction. He needs to play better, put simply. The Jets are limited at quarterback. The less McCown needs to throw, the more efficient he will be and the less opportunities he will have to make backbreaking mistakes. In a huge game for the Jets’ aspiring postseason chances against a strong run-stopping front, there isn’t a much better time for Johnson to start taking a step up.

Defense: Demario Davis

Appearing in this section yet again is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL, Demario Davis. When the Jets nearly shut out the Dolphins four weeks ago, a primary reason was the beastly play of Davis, shutting down lanes with shattering force. Conversely, when the Jets have been run all over by the Bills, Raiders, and Patriots (all losses), Davis has struggled. If he can play the way he did in the first Dolphins game, the Jets will have a great chance of winning. If not, the Dolphins’ most explosive and essential weapon will have the daylight to run wild.