The New York Jets blew out the Houston Texans in their finest performance of the season last Sunday to bring their record on the season to 5-8. Zach Wilson played the best game of his career, the Jets defense and special teams were superb, and the Texans had no answers in the second half as the Jets turned a scoreless first half into a 30 - 6 laugher. Now the Jets travel to Miami to take on the first place Miami Dolphins for the second time in less than a month.
The Dolphins started the season with the easiest schedule in the NFL, and they took full advantage. The Dolphins cruised to a 5-1 record early on, their only loss coming against the Buffalo Bills . Since then the schedule has gotten tougher. The Dolphins have dropped games to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans, while beating four of the worst teams in the NFL, taking their record to 9-4 and making them 1-3 against winning teams this season. The Dolphins’ only victory over a winning team this season came in an early blowout of the Denver Broncos when the Broncos were lost in translation with their new coaching staff. Now the Dolphins take on a Jets team that has one of the worst offenses in the NFL, notwithstanding last week’s anomalous offensive explosion. The Jets will need something approximating a repeat performance from Zach Wilson and the offense if they are to have much of a chance to upset the Dolphins this Sunday.
Previewing this matchup, Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2023 Miami Dolphins.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. The Dolphins offensive line has been hit with a lot of injuries lately. Which offensive linemen are likely to miss the game this Sunday, which backups will replace them, and how much will this hurt the Dolphins’ offense?
I really wish I could give you a straightforward answer. Last week, the Dolphins found themselves with one starter on the offensive line, right tackle Austin Jackson. Now, Jackson is also on the injury report and questionable for the game. Left tackle Terron Armstead continues to deal with multiple injuries and is also questionable. Right guard Robert Hunt has been ruled out of the game with a hamstring issue that will not go away and starting center Connor Williams sustained a torn ACL last week and is now on injured reserve. Liam Eichenberg, who is essentially the primary interior reserve lineman who has played at both guard positions and center this year, is questionable with a calf injury.
The Dolphins signed Jonotthan Harrison to the active roster and Matt Skura to the practice squad a couple of days ago and they may both wind up playing in this game.
If I were to simply guess, I would say Jackson starts at right tackle and Armstead returns at left tackle. The interior three positions may be a combination of Robert Jones, Jonotthan Harrison, Lester Cotton, or Matt Skura. If Eichenberg is able to play, and Harrison or Skura is able to pick up the offense fast enough, he might play at right guard or else he will be the center.
The offensive line seems like it may be anyone’s guess at this point.
2. Are there other key Dolphins players that are likely to miss Sunday’s game? If so, who are they, who will replace them, and how much will these injuries hurt the Dolphins?
The Dolphins’ injury report is just a mess. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill has been held out of practice all week after sustaining an ankle injury during last week’s game. Based on what we have seen from Hill during his career, he will likely do everything he possibly can to get back on the field. Miami’s coaching staff has been very conservative when it comes to player injuries this year, preferring to hold a player out if they think he could re-aggravate the issue, leading to an extended absence. That could mean Hill is sidelined, which would be disastrous for Miami’s offense. Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert give the Dolphins weapons still, but so much of the Dolphins’ offense goes through Hill that there would have to be a major gameplan adjustment.
Running back De’Von Achane is questionable with a toe injury, an injury that is often a major issue for running backs, which could limit what Miami wants to do, especially if both Hill and Achane miss the game.
On defense, the injuries could be just as damning for the Dolphins. Safety Jevon Holland, cornerback Xavien Howard, and linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel are all questionable. Holland has been dealing with strains to both knees, keeping him on the sideline last week and making it seem like he will also miss this week. Howard has a hip issue and Van Ginkel has an oblique injury. Any of the three missing the game could be a massive loss for the defense. If more than one of them have to sit out, the defense will have to make major adjustments.
The Dolphins did sign Melvin Ingram to the practice squad this week, bringing him back to Miami. He could be an elevation for the game if Van Ginkel is not able to play.
3. After the Jets game, the Dolphins face a brutal schedule to close the season. Home for the Cowboys, away for the Ravens, then closing at home against the Bills. How do you think the Dolphins will do the rest of the way? Are you concerned the Dolphins have only beaten one winning team all year, and are the Bills still a serious contender to beat out the Dolphins for the AFC East crown?
I am not really concerned about the winning record storyline. Miami can only play who is on the schedule and, other than last week against the Tennessee Titans, they have taken care of the games they should win. Losing to the two teams who were in the Super Bowl last year and the Bills, all of those games not in Miami, should not be a surprise as those are all really good teams.
But, you are not wrong, Miami is definitely facing a gauntlet of opponents to close out the season. Having two of those games at home is an advantage, but those are three really tough teams to face. If Miami can come away with two wins, it should be seen as a huge accomplishment. If they can beat the Ravens in Baltimore, it could be a game that determines the top seed in the AFC playoff picture. If they do not win this week and at least once more against the Cowboys and Ravens, Week 18 could be for the AFC East title against the Bills. There is a lot riding on a tough stretch to end the season.
I was someone who fully believed the Dolphins needed Buffalo to beat the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago, knowing Kansas City holds the head-to-head tiebreak over Miami so they need to be behind Miami in the race for the top spot in the conference. But I was not exactly counting on the Dolphins looking like they did against the Titans. There is definitely some concern now that the Bills are hitting their stride while Miami is struggling with health and execution on the field. That said, Miami just needs to keep winning to make none of that matter.
And, they could really use a Dallas win over Buffalo this weekend. Go Cowboys!
4. What are the key matchups for this game, and how do you see them playing out?
With all of Miami’s injuries, it is hard to say for sure where the best head to head contests will be on the field. How well will Miami’s offensive line hold up to the Jets pass rush? Will Hill play and how will Hill and Waddle matchup against cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II? Can Miami’s pass rush, whoever it is that is healthy and playing, get after quarterback Zach Wilson?
There are a lot of matchups that could be great to watch, but not knowing exactly who will be playing for the Dolphins, and how effective they can be if they are playing, makes it hard to predict just which ones will be the best.
5. If you were a betting man which team would you bet on winning this game, and why? Will the Dolphins handle the Jets as easily as they did a few weeks ago?
I have to think Miami, playing at home, can fix whatever happened last week that let the Titans come back from a 14-point lead with about three minutes to play. They need this win and they should come out looking to prove last week was a one-off poor performance.
That said, it is a Dolphins-Jets rivalry. Those are always tough games and I would not be surprised if this is closer than expected. I believe the line, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, opened with Miami favored by 12, but it slid down to 8.5, now bouncing back up to nine. That probably feels about right, but if you wanted to say it was a seven-point spread, I would say that feels right as well.
The Dolphins are a better team than the Jets this year and I do not trust Zach Wilson to repeat his strong performance last week. This might be close, but I think Miami gets the win.