So the Jets are at home playing a divisional game with a chance at a winning record plus at least sole possession of 2nd place in the division if they win. They would be tied for 1st place with a win combined with a Buffalo loss. It’s an early season HUGE game for the Jets. They need to start winning divisional home games at a high percentage rate if they want to compete for division titles. Winning needs to be expected, especially at home so the Jets are facing a very important game this Sunday.
Wins at home against a team like the Dolphins are stepping stones to respectability as a viable playoff team. I know the Jets are a team building their roster yet many glaring deficiencies do remain. A lot of their best players are young and unproven. Still they have more talent on their roster today than in any day in the last 5 years so that talent needs to start being expected to win. You need to win a high percentage of home games; with divisional games highlighted if you want to be competitive in the NFL.
So what are the odds of the Jets winning this game? The Jets are 3 1⁄2 point dogs at home which should be bulletin board material for Robert Saleh. The Jets should feel disrespected being underdogs at home against a team using a backup QB against them. In fact the Jets should feel they are being disparaged by the media and/or the pundits for the mock.
I get it, the Jets are not a finished product with well established hierarchies in their position groups, most noticeably on offense. Yet that can be an asset to your team with an opponent needing to prepare for every offensive player on the Jets roster. RB Michael Carter has a completely different skill set than Breece Hall. Which one will be the dominant back on Sunday. Sure if the Jet run a vanilla offense then Breece Hall will be the target, but what if the Jets open it up? Use Hall as a decoy then run play action or go 5 wides with Carter in the slot, he could always shift back to RB.
The variations are endless so lets hope Mike LaFleur has a surprise for the Dolphins on Sunday. He needs to be more dynamic instead of running many of the same sets but then throwing in a few wild plays off them. Let’s see a variety of plays run off the same formation so the defense doesn’t know who to prioritize.
So how do the Jets win on Sunday?
The short answer is to unleash Zach Wilson. It may seem a bit worrisome to lean heavily on Zach after he only returned to the lineup last week. I realize he missed a lot of reps in preseason because of his injury so throwing caution to the wind could be a recipe for disaster but he expects to be the driving force to the Jets future, so let’s see it.
The idea here is to build on confidence he began to build last week. He had two 4th quarter drives for touchdowns to win the game; when is the last time a young Jet QB did that? Plus he did it against a pretty good defense so the players are starting to really believe in Zach as a playmaker. He dodged constant pressure, hung tough and made the plays to give the Jets the win; that is how you build belief in a team.
The Dolphins are far more stout against the run than they are against the pass. Adding to that the Dolphins best cover man Xavien Howard is questionable to play with a groin strain. Even if he plays he will be not at 100% and could reaggravate the injury at any time.
The Dolphins have allowed the 10th least yards rushing so far this year giving up 4.2 yards a rush. On the other hand the Dolphins rank 31st in passing yards allowed, with a 68.2% completion rate but also 7.8 yards per completion which is also ranked 31st in the NFL.
If the Jets bring Duane Brown off IR to start at left tackle it would be a boon for the offense. If Zach has time to survey the defense before needing to escape the pocket he could carve the Dolphins apart with the new assets he has. If the offensive line could just be average, it would be a test to see how well the offensive skill players perform.
The Dolphins are limping into the New York area for the game with numerous players very iffy to play. The Dolphins are already without Tua Tagovailoa, the Jets should have some insight on QB Teddy Bridgewater even though he wasn’t with the Jets during the Saleh era. I’m sure there isn’t a lot of questions about Teddy’s game.
Also injured and “questionable” are OT Terron Armstead, WR Tyreek Hill, RB Salvon Ahmed, WR Jaylen Waddle with TE Cethan Carter and CB Byron Jones have been ruled out.
So how does it look?
As I stated earlier the Dolphins are 10th in rushing yards allowed, giving up 4.2 yards a play with only 2 rushing TDs. The Dolphins are 31st defensively in allowing receiving yardage (1,197 yards in 4 games) plus are 31st in allowing 7.8 yards per attempt with only a single INT. You could see the likes of Nik Needham and Kader Kohou starting at CB for the fish. WRs Garrett, Davis and Moore need to win against those matchups.
Helping the Jets even more is that the Dolphins are hurt on the offense. Tua out plus Tyreek Hill is very questionable, Jaylen Waddle is also not near 100%. Add to that LT Terron Armstead is very questionable plus as well.
So the Jets could be facing a team missing their top two corners plus their two top receivers. QB Teddy Bridgewater is reliable as a player but has no exceptional abilities. He doesn’t run much and he has limited arm strength; otherwise he is solid.
What the Jets shouldn’t do
The worry here is the Jets look at the Dolphins diminished squad and play to “try not to lose.” By that I mean play it safe by trying to play close to the vest; run the ball, play the field position game. That shows zero confidence in your team, you need to punish teams who come to your field as a limited opponent.
Winning teams play to their strengths and expose their opponents weaknesses. You dominate teams who limp into your town. You don’t play soft. You have to start establishing an attacking type mantra to your offense. Winning teams play to win always and they force their will on other teams.
I realize the Jets haven’t been that type of team but that has to change. If you want Zach Wilson to become a top level QB you have to allow him to grow into that player. The Jets went out and brought in Garrett Wilson, Cory Davis, Elijah Moore, Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Tyler Conklin and C. J. Uzomah for that very reason. If the Jets want a dynamic offense then they better start trying to be one and Sunday would be a good time to start. There is no reason to wait; spread them out then pick them apart.
Once you start this it becomes a mindset from then on. You will always look to attack. It keeps the defense on its heels and builds your QBs confidence. The Jets have started attaining the type of offensive players who can scare a defense, now they just have to develop the confidence to use them to their potential. If you don’t want to be the “same old Jets” you need to change your outlook, change your thought process. Start attacking and let the other team play it safe. Get the team thinking about how they are going to win instead of hoping they will win. It all starts with a winning mindset.
It could start Sunday against the Dolphins.
I hope so.