Jets vs Dolphins Preview

The Dolphins are next up for the New York Jets in week 9
Michael Nania
Fri, November 1, 4:55 AM EDT

Last Game

Jets – lost 15-29 @ Jaguars

Following their embarrassing effort at home against the Patriots, the Jets went out on the road and put up a better fight against the now 4-4 Jaguars, but it still wasn’t close to enough.

Offensively, the Jets flashed brightly on a pair of drives, but were brutal otherwise. In the first quarter, the Jets moved the ball effortlessly on their first possession, scoring their first opening drive touchdown since 2017.

Then, things stalled. The horrendous offensive line was as brutal as ever, creating zero space in the run game and allowing immediate pressure on Sam Darnold.

The Jets would mount another impressive touchdown in the fourth quarter, but those two drives were all they could muster up.

Sam Darnold was sharp when kept clean, but struggled with turnovers when things did not go according to plan. He threw three interceptions and fumbled once, although the Jets were lucky enough to recover. It was a much-improved performance over the Patriots game (almost anything would have been), but Darnold needs to do a much better job with ball security.

The defense had perhaps its worst game of the season. Long overdue for an opposing offense to actually perform up to their usual standards, the Gardner Minshew-led Jaguars offense was great, mounting six scoring drives. Minshew himself drove the train, putting forth an excellent performance. The rookie phenom threw three touchdowns and no interceptions as he earned a 119.6 passer rating.

For the Jets, what was most obvious coming out of Jacksonville was the fact that the offensive line is holding back the entire team. As the first unit in NFL history to allow more than 30 sacks and rush for fewer than 500 yards through seven games, Darnold and company have almost no shot behind this group.

Dolphins – lost 14-27 @ Steelers

Even while the Jets were 0-4, the Dolphins games later in the season seemed like guaranteed wins. Miami had been outscored 26-163 over its first four games going into the bye week, an average point differential of -34.3.

That is no longer the case. Coming out of the bye week, the Dolphins have been substantially more competitive, being outscored 51-75 (average point differential: -8.0).

In Pittsburgh, Miami held a halftime lead for the second consecutive week, holding a 14-10 advantage over the Steelers. Moments earlier, they had a 14-0 lead, their first multi-score lead of the season.

The Dolphins held that 14-10 lead until late in the third quarter, until JuJu Smith-Schuster put the Steelers ahead with an incredible touchdown grab. Things snowballed from that point, as Miami turned the football over on its next four drives.

State of the Division

Jets – 1-6, 3rd AFC East, 14th AFC

Barring a nine-game win streak to close out the season, the Jets’ playoff hopes are already dashed.

After digging themselves into an 0-4 hole without a healthy Sam Darnold, the Jets needed to make a valiant run upon the return of their quarterback in order to get back into the playoff picture. After their win over the Cowboys in Darnold’s first game back, it seemed the Jets may be capable of doing that.

Two weeks later, the picture is entirely different. The Jets are incompetent once again. Darnold is struggling mightily. Trade rumors swirled around the locker room. The once-beloved Jamal Adams is now a target of vitriol following the controversial comments he made regarding his rumored request to be shipped out.

The most important goal for the Jets here in 2019 is to get Sam Darnold right. If he is truly a franchise quarterback, everything should sort itself out at some point down the road. Franchise quarterbacks are the centerpiece of any consistently successful organization.

If he is not, then the Jets will most certainly find themselves in the deepest of holes that an NFL franchise could find itself in.

Darnold having a successful final nine games is all that matters. The importance of anything else is minuscule in comparison.

If the Jets can come out of 2019 feeling great about Darnold’s second-year progress, things may not be so bleak after all.

Dolphins – 0-7, 4th AFC East, 15th AFC

Miami is already out of the playoff race, a predictable result given the franchise’s blatant tanking efforts prior to the season.

The Dolphins faithful are most certainly hoping that the team can stay the course and claim the first overall selection. It’s a crowded race, as the Bengals (0-8), Redskins (1-7), Falcons (1-7), and of course, the Jets (1-6) are all squarely in the conversation.

However, the team on the field has only gotten better. This is a group that held halftime leads on the road in back-to-back weeks, doing that in two of the league’s toughest road environments. The week prior to this stretch, the Dolphins were a two-point conversion away from their first win.

With the Jets struggling, the Miami players are smelling blood. This may be their best shot at a victory all year.

Can they take advantage?

Statistical strengths

Jets – Run defense

New York allowed Jacksonville to take the game’s first lead on the strength of a 66-yard Leonard Fournette run on the second play of the game, setting up a touchdown.

After that, however, the Jets completely shut down the Jaguars run game. Sans the 66-yard run, Fournette picked up 10 rushing yards on 18 carries (0.6 per attempt).

The Jets are allowing the second-fewest yards per rush attempt (3.3) and are ranked third in both run defense EPA (estimated points added) and DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).

In addition, the Jets have stuffed 32 percent of opponent runs for no gain or less, the best mark in football.

This team is not good at many things, but you can count on them to contain the opponent’s rushing attack with ease.

Dolphins – Pass defense

Let me be clear – it is very hard to find a strength for this Dolphins team given the way they started the season.

Prior to the bye week, Miami’s pass defense was historically awful. They allowed a 137.6 passer rating over their 0-4 start, the highest passer rating allowed over a team’s first four games in NFL history.

However, the Dolphins have gotten a lot better against the pass since the bye week. They’ve faced a trio of lesser quarterbacks in Case Keenum, Josh Allen, and Mason Rudolph, taking full advantage of the easier slate.

Over their last three games, Miami has yielded just 196.7 passing yards per game and 6.8 yards per pass attempt.

Sam Darnold seems to be more talented than all three of those quarterbacks, but that has not shown up in his production over the past couple of weeks. He also had a nightmarish game in Miami as a rookie, tossing four interceptions at Hard Rock Stadium.

Will he be able to flip the script in his second trip to South Florida?

Statistical weaknesses

Jets – Offensive line

The offensive line is not solely responsible for every statistic attributed to them, but they do a play a huge part in metrics such as sacks and rushing yards. When a team’s numbers in these departments are as historically awful as the Jets’ are, then it probably means the offensive line is historically awful as well.

The Jets have allowed 34 sacks and rushed for 447 yards. They are the first team in NFL history to allow more than 30 sacks and run for fewer than 500 yards over their first seven games.

Let’s add to it. The Jets have also lost 216 yards through sacks. They are only the second team in the Super Bowl era to run for fewer than 450 yards and lose over 200 yards through sacks over their first seven games. The only other team to do that was the 1991 Indianapolis Colts, who finished with a 1-15 record.

Dolphins – Turnovers

Miami has improved in a lot of areas over the past three weeks, but one thing they have not done a better job of is winning the turnover battle.

The Dolphins have eight turnovers over the past three weeks, while they have only taken the ball away one time. That gives them a -2.3 turnover margin over this span, which is actually worse than the -1.7 mark they posted over their first four games.

It is remarkable the Dolphins have been so competitive over the past few weeks with a turnover margin that poor. If Miami can just figure out how to get that fixed up, they should be in a great position to defeat the Jets this week – and potentially a few more teams going forward (to the chagrin of Dolphins fans).

Matchup of the Game: Gregg Williams vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams deserves a lot of credit for his management of the Jets defense this year. The unit has battled injuries, suspensions, and drastic underperformance, but Williams’ unit has still managed to find a way to 11th in defensive DVOA.

However, one area where the Jets defense has struggled a bit is taking the football away. The Jets swiped the ball from the Bills offense four times in Week 1, but since then, generating turnovers has been an issue. Since Week 2, the Jets defense has taken the ball away on just 5.6 percent of opponent drives, the third-lowest rate in the league over that span (better than only the 0-7 Dolphins and 1-7 Falcons).

Ryan Fitzpatrick is as turnover-prone as they come at the quarterback position. With seven interceptions across 139 pass attempts, Fitzpatrick owns an interception rate of 5.0 percent, third-highest among qualifiers. He has also lost a fumble.

The entire league knows that Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger who plays with no regrets. He won’t take a sack. He won’t throw the ball away. He’s going to take a shot down the field and give his teammates a chance to make a play – for better or worse.

Williams needs to get highly aggressive and take full advantage of Fitzpatrick’s play style. It may lead to the Jets getting burnt now and then, as Fitzpatrick does have the wherewithal and improvisational ability to make a lot of plays against the blitz, but giving up a few chunks of yardage is no big deal if those yards are washed away by a turnover.

Fitzpatrick has had two games this season in which he turned the ball over three times. If the Jets can make it happen a third time, they should have a great chance at winning the game with ease.

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