This Sunday, the Jets Week comes to a head as the Miami Dolphins host their long-time divisional rivals in a showdown for first place in the AFC East.
Earlier this week I highlighted how a victory for the Dolphins could lead to setting the table for a successful 2012 campaign. I highlighted how Miami's schedule following that game was a shade easier than New York's schedule despite the fact that Miami plays two out of their next three on the road while New York plays three out of their next four at home prior to their rematch on October 28th.
So will Miami come away with a season-changing victory? Before I get to that, here's some quick (and not too bold) predictions with the score coming at the end.
Prediction number one: Miami's running game will be productive, but not at the level of Week 2 against Oakland.
The Jets pride themselves on stopping the run. However the irony in that is that in the game they dominated against Buffalo in Week one, they allowed C.J. Spiller to run for 169 yards on 14 attempts, then in the game they lost to Pittsburgh in Week 2 they shut down Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer for a combined 53 yards on 24 attempts.
Which Jets run defense will show up? Well, you have to remember that Buffalo is heavily reliant on the run, while Pittsburgh has become a more pass-oriented team. Miami finds themselves somewhere in the middle, which actually helps the Dolphins against the Jets.
Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller will all be available on Sunday, and combined will rush for about 150-175 yards. Yes I said combined, although Reggie will lead the team in rushing with about 90-100 yards of his own (he'll get the majority of the attempts). Will it be enough to beat the Jets? Keep reading.
Prediction number two: Ryan Tannehill won't be as bad as he was against Houston, but he won't be as good as he was against Oakland.
My predictions for Tannehill's numbers? I see him going 15-of-32 for 210 yards, a touchdown, two sacks, and two interceptions. Why two interceptions? He will be under constant pressure, the Jets line will bat down his passes (leading to one being picked off by one of their linebackers), while Darrelle Revis will get another one as he tries to force a pass to Hartline.
I don't want to predict this (and I know most of you will vehemently disagree with this prediction), but you have to remember that he is still a rookie quarterback and he is facing a defense that will throw things at him that he's never seen before. Add Miami's problems catching the ball (expect at least two passes to Legedu Naanee), and you have the recipe for a game that's not as efficient as we saw last week, but nowhere near as bad as the first game.
The important thing is how he bounces back. Already Tannehill has impressed me with how he bounces back, and I see most of these problems occurring in the first half (including both picks). In the second half he will throw his first touchdown pass, and get the Dolphins closer to victory.
Prediction number three: The Jets offense will sputter.
Ryan Tannehill will also end up the best quarterback on the field on Sunday. Tim Tebow's wildcat plays will be shut down by the Dolphins defense. While Tebow won't turn the ball over, he will be stopped. This is a proud Dolphins defense who still feels embarrassed by last year's debacle against the Broncos, and it will be Tebow who will pay.
As for the Sanchize, I don't see things looking good for him either. Mark Sanchez will get hit by the freight train known as Cameron Wake quite a few times, both before and after he throws. His chemistry with Santonio Holmes will still show itself to be a work-in-progress, leading to Jets offensive coordinator to emphasize running the ball and giving Shonn Green the rock.
This also won't work against Miami's tight running defense, anchored by Paul Soliai, who will have another great game.
Prediction number four: Special teams and turnovers will decide the game.
These teams are so evenly matched that regardless of who I pick to win this game, I'd write up the same exact predictions.
While I do see the Dolphins scoring one offensive touchdown, I don't see the Jets scoring any. But special teams will help the Jets cause, as will turnovers—mainly in the first half.
While Brandon Fields is a punting machine who can get 50 yards per kick with four and a half seconds of hangtime at the drop of a hat, Miami's punt coverage leaves a lot to be desired. This will give New York fantastic field position that even Mark Sanchez' miscues can't negate. This will be worth six points for the Jets.
The Revis interception I predicted will be worth another seven points, as he will likely take it into the end zone (thus far he only has three for his career, Sunday will be number four).
The only score the Jets offense will have a big hand in getting (as in not a three-and-out or a stalled drive in between Miami's 35 and 20-yard line) will be a field goal, likely on New York's first offensive drive.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: New York Jets 16, Miami Dolphins 13.
Those two numbers have flip-flopped in my mind in one form or another all week. This game was hard to predict, but the scenarios stayed the same.
The Jets defense will have problems stopping the run, but will do just enough to keep the New York victory. The Dolphins offense will show growing pains, but will do just enough to keep them in the game and show us some hope. Yes, I have them screwing up in spades in the first half as they will get a little too pass-happy, but once they start running the ball well and opening up the passing game, they will do fine.
Tannehill will bounce back from one half to the next, but will fall just a bit short. Yes, this is the type of game where a dropped pass from a wide open receiver in the end zone will decide it, and while I won't tell you the name of the wide-open receiver who drops the ball, I'm sure it won't be hard for you guys to figure out, as it further exposes Miami's need for wide receivers.
I said earlier this week that a win will set up success for the Dolphins, but even a so-called "moral victory" can do the same thing. That's what this game will be in the end because it will start off pretty bad, but then end with hope.
Unlike what Pretty Little Liars character Spencer Hastings seems to think, Miami's hope will not breed eternal misery, but a stepping stone for success.