Miami Gardens, FL: Nearly one month ago, the Jets opened their home slate at 0-2 with a bruised ego against the Miami Dolphins. Their opponent that September afternoon was picked by some to repeat their success of a season ago and beat New York down in all facets. That wasn’t the case. The Jets dominated and out classed their division rival, 20-6.
Now, its Round Two: Jets vs. Dolphins in Miami, Florida. Two teams in the thick of a division race go head-to-head on Sunday. Last time they faced, the Jets bottled up Miami’s running back, Jay Ajayi, to the tune of 16 yards on 11 carries. Since then, New York’s rush defense has allowed over 100 yards rushing in three straight. Can they Jets stop Ajayi again?
Here’s what you should watch for:
WHEN: Sunday, October 22, 2017, 1:00 EST
WHERE: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
D-Line Deja-Vu vs. Ajayi: The NFL is strange. The adage: “Any given Sunday” applies this season. We’ve seen winless teams beating undefeated teams, great defenses collapsing in final minutes and missed calls or bad penalties impacting final scores. Expect the unexpected. What has been unexpected is the lack of success the Jets defensive line has had this year. The talent is there. On paper, Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon and Kony Ealy are skilled enough to sack quarterbacks and bring down running backs in the backfield. That hasn’t been the case. Aside from the Jets stuffing Ajayi at the home opener four weeks ago, the rush defense has struggled. With pressure mounting on the shoulders of this unit after another sackless performance, the Jets defensive line must be up to the challenge to stop Ajayi one last time.
No Mor’ Catches for Landry: Morris Claiborne has been a pleasant surprise for the Jets, both through his play and his leadership. He’s been a lockdown cornerback and has provided moral support for rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. The biggest factor: Claiborne is healthy – something he hasn’t been much of in his career. His next challenge: Jarvis Landry. In Week 3, Landry caught just six passes for 48 yards. Since, Landry has had two touchdowns. With an inconsistent Jay Cutler under center, players like Claiborne, Adams, Maye and Buster Skrine should be aware a pass could go in their direction and taken the other way. Just don’t drop it like last week.
Show a Consistent Two Dimensional Attack: The offensive line hasn’t been bad in 2017. It just hasn’t been good, either. Because of the lack of success, the run game has suffered. For the first time in weeks, the Jets will have three (or four, if you count Travaris Cadet) running backs in Matt Forte, Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire. That should help Josh McCown and the offense establish different looks to throw off players like Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. However, against a stout Miami defensive front, expect McCown to rely heavily on the air attack.
In Todd Bowles’ ideal world, the Jets would have a two dimensional attack – run and pass. In reality, the Jets offensive line hasn’t done enough to support a struggling running game. The green and white need to establish the run game early and adjust if it struggles. They haven’t shown a full 60-minute effort, offensively, yet. Against Cleveland, it took three quarters. Against New England, the Jets started out hot, struggled, found their game and struggled again.
TErrific Performances: Last week, Austin Seferian-Jenkins could not be stopped by the Patriots secondary. It took a bizarre reversal of a call that nobody understands to slow him down. The Jets found their tight end for years to come. Seferian-Jenkins has been a monster for McCown and the offense. Since being suspended, he leads all NFL tight ends in catches with 23. Miami’s secondary isn’t anything special but they do get back linebacker Rey Maualuga, who has been injured and should help against the tight end. Look for a heavy dose of the McCown-Seferian-Jenkins combination that has worked well the last few weeks.
X-Factor(s): I have three this week: Robby Anderson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kony Ealy
- Anderson seems to play his best against the Dolphins. Maybe, it is because he is from Fort Lauderdale. Against Miami in Week 3, he had three catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.
- Seferian-Jenkins seems to be having big games every week now. Look for more of the same on Sunday.
- Ealy represents the entire defensive front. He has been a steal since being claimed off waivers from the Patriots. He and the unit need to stuff Ajayi. If they can bottle him up, the Jets will win.
Prediction: Jets 17-13
I think the Jets have shown the entire league they’re not some team to walk over. They’ve shown heart and passion since starting the season 0-2. The Dolphins are an inconsistent team and McCown has played better than Cutler all season, thus far. My main concern is Ajayi. If he rails off 100 yards rushing, the Jets will be in trouble. Seferian-Jenkins and Robby Anderson both have touchdowns and Chandler Catanzaro nails a 30+ yarder to get the scoring started. This’ll be low scoring. By the end of the day, the Jets should be 4-3. Wow.
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28Joebarone) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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