As the all-time great Jason Taylor always said, “its Jets week ladies and gentlemen.” And the typical optimism that comes with playing the Jets as of late has gone by the wayside after their week 1 dismantling of the Detroit Lions. Their defense looked stellar going up against rookie head coach Matt Patricia, racking up four interceptions against Pro Bowler Matthew Stafford, then adding another interception against his backup Blaine Gabbert.
As we all know, the Dolphins did pull out a win against the Tennessee Titans in the longest game in NFL history. And for all of you who were with me in attendance for the entire contest, it felt like a marathon. And just like a marathon, it felt great to make it to the end, especially considering we came out with the win. It was cool that everyone who stayed was invited to the lower level to watch that crazy fourth quarter. Miami’s defense did pretty much the opposite of what many predicted, including me. They were stout against the run, holding that mammoth of a running back Derrick Henry to 2.6 yards per carry, but generated virtually no pass rush.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Jets secondary
You can really throw their linebackers into this as well considering they, well Darren Lee in particular, contributed two of the Jets five total interceptions on Monday. Their defense looked much better against a good Lions offense than many of us expected. They said after that they knew exactly what was going on, from the audibles to the signals, and formations in whichever down and distance situation they were in. While some of that feels exaggerated, I do have to give credit to former Dolphins coach Todd Bowles, who put together an excellent game plan opening the season on prime time.
Tannehill played well, exactly like he always has over the past 6 years. He was efficient, played it safe on roughly 75 percent of his throws, took a couple gambles which looked great at times (75-yard TD to Kenny Stills was a dime) and awful at times (Interception in the red zone on a horribly underthrown ball). Unfortunately, he does not seem to play well against the Jets, amassing a 4-5 record over his career with just a 72.0 passer rating. And that’s typically against a Jets team that isn’t riding the wave of momentum that this team is currently on. I don’t see them having as good of a game as they did against the Lions, but I don’t see Tannehill having a great game either. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
Who wins: Jets secondary
Sam Darnold vs. Dolphins secondary
Sam Darnold started off his career in typical Jets fashion, with a pick six on his first pass. The upside to that, well its hilarious as a Dolphins fan. The downside, people like Brett Favre did the same thing. Now, we all know that Darnold is no Brett Favre. You may say it’s too early too tell, but just look at his demeanor. Favre was a child in a gunslinger’s body, he simply loved the game and wore his heart on his sleeve every Sunday. Darnold’s emotional range looks closer to Chad Henne than Brett Favre, and we can all agree that we hope his career looks more like the former than the latter. That being said, he did have a good game against the Lions. He didn’t let the interception deter his confidence and went on throw for two touchdowns and finish the game with a 116.8 passer rating.
The Dolphins secondary had a good game against the Titans. And while Marcus Mariota, and Blaine Gabbert, aren’t exactly perennial Pro Bowlers, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that the unit racked up 3 interceptions. Yes, I understand Kiko isn’t a part of the secondary, but I threw the linebackers interceptions in earlier, and it’s all about consistency. Anyway, Reshad Jones is playing like he always has, being aggressive around the line of scrimmage and even coming away with a couple of interceptions. Minkah Fitzpatrick is looking like our best first round rookie since Jake Long. The kid is a stud, and he proved it on Sunday. I see Fitzpatrick and X having a good day against a pedestrian Jets receiving corps. While their top 3 all have the size, the shortest being 6’2”, they haven’t been able to convert that talent into production over the course of their careers. I think the experience of the Dolphins secondary accompanied by the fact that Darnold should come back down to earth after his excellent debut leads to the Dolphins defense having a good day.
Who wins: Dolphins secondary
Dolphins run game vs. Jets front seven
The Jets front seven has traditionally been, and still is, the strength of their defense. The Lions, although a team not exactly known for a potent rushing attack, averaged just 2.6 yards per carry against their front 7. Last year the Jets allowed an average 4.0 yards per carry, tied with five other teams for 10th in the league. Even with the loss of Mo Wilkerson, they are a solid unit led by Leonard Williams and Darren Lee.
Miami’s rushing attack was good against the Titans, racking up just over 4.6 yards per carry if you take away Ryan Tannehill scrambling when the pocket was breaking down. Frank Gore had a great game last week, making the most of his 9 carries. His day was highlighted with a 21 yard rush after a holding penalty by Laremy Tunsil forced the Dolphins into a 1st and 20, knocking them out of the red zone. The Miami native looks to be just as effective at 35 as he was at 25. Kenyan Drake was kept in check for the most part, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. We need to get him closer to 25 touches this week, he has the ability to take it to the house on any play. The Dolphins would’ve gotten the edge had I posted this on Thursday, but with the news of Josh Sitton tearing his rotator cuff and being out for the season, I don’t have nearly as much confidence in the unit with Ted Larsen as our starting left guard.
Who wins: Jets front seven
Jets run game vs. Dolphins front seven
This is going to be the matchup to watch on Sunday, as I believe whoever wins this matchup will have a huge advantage over the course of the game. The Jets rushing attack looked very good against a Lions defense that ranked 20th against the run last year. Now if it was more because of the Jets rushing attack or the Lions swiss cheese defense remains to be seen, as the Jets were in the bottom half of the league last year rushing the ball, coincidentally average 4.0 per carry as well. Regardless, this is a new year, and a new team. And as of now, the Jets currently rank number three in the league in rushing yards per game.
Fortunately, the Dolphins defense had a great game stopping the run last week against the Tennessee Titans. I projected the Titans to run the ball all over Miami’s defense, and they did a good job holding their two headed monster of a backfield in check. Although, they did catch a break after Derrick Henry’s 62-yard touchdown run was called back for a holding penalty. The Dolphins look to contain the Jets defense by limiting the stretch runs with Wake and Quinn setting the edge, forcing them to run the rock up the middle. Kiko is solid in the run department, while Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker will need to improve. That should come with game experience though. Our defensive tackles will have to play well for us to get the edge, but I believe the deciding factor in this matchup is our safeties. I know this is more about the front seven, but Reshad Jones is the best run stopping safety in the league. Not arguably, he just is. And you can take it to the bank that he will be a factor in stopping the run on Sunday. He led the entire NFL in tackles out of all defensive backs last year and is consistently in the backfield on run plays. Being accompanied by T.J. McDonald and Minkah Fitzpatrick, who are also adept at stopping the run, I think this will be the deciding factor in the matchup.
Who wins: Dolphins front seven
Dolphins special teams vs. Jets special teams
The Jets had a good day on special teams against the Lions. They returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown and limited the Lions to zero kick or punt returns on the day, while also going 2 for 2 on field goals. They only punted three times, and twice pinned the Lions back behind their 20-yard line. Miami had a much more up and down day on special teams. While they did return a kickoff 102-yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, currently the longest play in the NFL this year, they also gave up the second longest play in the NFL this year when the Titans returned a kickoff 94-yards just minutes later. Miami also gave up two long punt returns, one of 18 and 26-yards, last week. While the Dolphins rookie kicker did go 2 for 2 in his professional debut, his long was just 30-yards. Matt Haack also had touchbacks on two of his four punts, but did average a whopping 53.8 average. Overall, I think the Dolphins were uncharacteristically inconsistent on special teams in week 1, and will need to improve that against the Jets.
Who wins: Jets special teams
All in all, I think this is going to be a much closer game than many of the experts are expecting it to be. While the national media is all over this Sam Darnold hype train, I do believe he comes back down to earth a bit going up against a better Dolphins secondary and pass rush than they faced last week. Add that to the fact that it is a big rivalry game, pitting two teams that know each other very well against each other very early in the season. The Jets may be playing at home, but if you’re at all familiar with the “Met-Life Takeover” you’ll know that the Dolphins tend to have a very strong fan base that goes to the Jets away games. In the end, I see Darnold drinking a little bit too much of his own Kool-Aid and making some unnecessary throws, leading to an interception or two. Tannehill will be Tannehill, playing it safe for the majority of the game, while taking maybe half a dozen shots down the field. It should come down to the run game, and who can pound the rock and win the time of possession battle. Even with Sitton out, I believe the Dolphins still have the slight edge in this game because of their talented backfield. I also don’t see how theirs any way the Jets will be able to play as well as they did in their season opener.
Score: Dolphins 31 – Jets 24