Miami Dolphins (-6.5, 41.5) at New York Jets
Tonight on Monday Night Football, the Miami Dolphins (6-5) will look to hold serve in the AFC Wild Card race by handing the struggling New York Jets (2-9) another loss.
Yesterday, five other AFC teams moved to 7-5 and into a tie for the second Wild Card spot. One team got their with a win (Buffalo), while four others got there with a loss (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Kansas City).
Though division rival Buffalo picked up a win (over the Browns), the Dolphins have to consider themselves extremely lucky that Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and K.C. all lost, as all three were playing at home and the Steelers and Ravens were both favorites.
Now, all Miami has to do tonight is beat the lowly Jets to make it a six-way tie.
New York, meanwhile, is on pace for its worst season ever under head coach Rex Ryan, who is likely to be shown the door at the end of the year. (Their previous worst was 6-10 back in 2012-13; at 2-9 on the year, the Jets will need to win out to avoid double-digit losses this season.)
Most recently, the team was embarrassed by the Buffalo Bills, 38-3, last Monday. The Bills were the nominal home team, but the game was played on a neutral field in Detroit after massive snow storms in upstate New York.
Unlike the inclement weather, the entire Jets team failed to show up.
The offense managed just 218 total yards and the quarterbacks (both Geno Smith and Michael Vick saw action) were sacked seven times by the Bills vaunted pass rush. The defense and special teams weren’t much better. Kyle Orton efficiently shredded the Jets’ secondary, going 24/32 for 220 yards and two TDs, while Manny Lawson blocked a punt in the Jets’ endzone for a major.
While there is little reason for optimism in East Rutherford these days, the Jets might actually match-up well with Miami.
The Dolphins rely heavily on the run; they average 124.5 rushing yards per game (ninth in the NFL), but just 220.6 yards through the air (22nd in the league). Stopping the run is one of the only areas where the Jets have excelled this season; they surrender just 86.2 yards per game (third-best in the NFL). And that’s not just a product of teams ignoring the run game in order to capitalize on a weak Jets secondary, as New York gives up just 3.2 yards per carry (second-best in the NFL).
On offense, the Jets have run the ball well, averaging 136.5 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry, while the Miami run defense has been good, but not on par with New York. The Dolphins give up 104.2 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry.
Of course, the numbers above do not account for turnovers, which have been the bane of New York’s season.
The Jets are -12 in turnover margin, second-worst in the NFL, while Miami is a solid +3. And Geno Smith, who has been an interception mill all season, will be back under center for the Jets tonight. Smith has thrown ten INTs on just 245 attempts. (To put that in perspective, Blake Bortles leads the league with 15, but has thrown nearly 100 more pass attempts.)
If the Jets can hang onto the ball, pound RBs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory up the middle, and limit the Fins’ rushing game, they should be able to keep it close tonight. However, if they’re inclined to give Miami extra possessions – especially early – expect the Fins to run away with both the ball and the game.
(Photo credit: June Rivera (flickr) “MIA_vs_OAK_004” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)