The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are both within one game of the AFC East lead as the season nears its halfway point. It's a position both teams would have probably gladly accepted if it was offered to them during training camp.
Miami returns from a bye week it would have likely preferred to push back for a couple weeks. The Dolphins had won two straight games prior to the week off and now must find a way to regain that momentum, which isn't always easy.
In contrast, the Jets have their bye immediately following this week's game and, judging by the team's stacked injury report, it comes at a perfect time. They have to make sure they focus on the Dolphins before letting their minds drift away, though.
What team will earn the key division victory?
No matter how you slice it, Sunday's game is crucial for both teams as they look to keep pace with the struggling New England Patriots. Here's a look at viewing information for the clash followed by some predictions.
Where: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Jets -2.5 (via Vegas Insider)
When these two teams met in Week 3, the Jets won by three. It's a common theme that's developed between the Jets and Dolphins with eight of the last nine meetings being decided by a single score one way or the other.
It's not a major surprise because both teams have been built from the same mold for quite some time. Both have struggled to fine any type of consistency on offense and have only gone as far as their defenses have carried them.
The same is true this season, although New York's normally dominant defense has slipped a bit without star cornerback Darrelle Revis. Given those trends and the fact that Miami has a solid chance to win outright, take the points.
Over/Under: 40.5 (via Vegas Insider)
The Dolphins' offense has made progress thanks to improved play from rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the Jets were able to put up 26 points last week thanks to a balanced attack. That said, it's still tough to trust either unit.
Reggie Bush hasn't been providing the same type of playmaking ability over the past couple of weeks, which limits the upside of Miami's attack. He hasn't broken the 100-yard barrier since Week 2 and gained just 17 yards on 12 carries in the last game.
And last I checked, Mark Sanchez is still the starting quarterback of the Jets. Whenever he's under center it's impossible to know what to expect, as the team's fanbase knows better than anyone. With that in mind, under is the wise selection.
Key Injuries (via CBS Sports)
Dolphins: Jimmy Wilson (questionable, ankle), Richard Marshall (questionable, back), Daniel Thomas (probable, concussion) and Koa Misi (probable, hamstring)
Jets: Bart Scott (questionable, toe), Bilal Powell (questionable, shoulder), LaRon Landry (questionable, heel), Jeremy Kerley (probable, finger) and Calvin Pace (probable, shin)
Fantasy Big Plays
Miami: Reggie Bush
Fantasy owners should view this week's game as Bush's last chance to prove he deserves a guaranteed spot in the starting lineup. His recent struggles have made him a much riskier play than he was expected to be when the season began.
He has scored more than six fantasy points just once in his past four games after totaling 41 in the first two weeks. And the USC product hasn't showcased his usual level of explosiveness since a monster game against the Oakland Raiders six weeks ago.
Bush has a favorable matchup on Sunday. The Jets rank near the bottom of the NFL in run defense, giving up an average of nearly 150 yards per game. They have also allowed eight rushing touchdowns. So the Dolphins star should bounce back.
New York: Dustin Keller
Keller was slowed by a hamstring injury to start the season and his lackluster production led a lot of fantasy owners to give up on him. He finally looked healthy last week en route to seven catches for 93 yards and a touchdown.
At a weak fantasy position like tight end, which has just four players averaging more than eight points per game, Keller's production should immediately make him a popular waiver wire target. So owners will have to act fast to get him if he's available.
The best thing is the fact that New York's group of receivers is among the worst in football. That should open up more chances for Keller to make plays, including this week against a Dolphins' defense that ranks 28th in passing yards allowed.
Keys to Dolphins Win
The most important thing for the Dolphins is slowing down New York's running game early. The Jets have shown a tendency to abandon the run and the quicker Miami can make their offense one-dimensional (and led by Sanchez) the better its chances will be.
Since the Dolphins rank third against the run at less than 80 yards against per game, it's a task they should be able to accomplish. It helps that Shonn Greene has only cracked the 100-yard once this season and is averaging less than four yards per carry.
On offense, Miami has to find ways to get the ball in the hands of Bush and Brian Hartline. They have both struggled a bit since big games earlier in the year and the team's offense needs them to make plays in order to succeed.
Which is more important for the Jets this week?
Keys to Jets Win
While it's easy to understand how losing Revis hurt the Jets' defense, the unit needs to elevate it's level of play if the team has any chance of keeping pace in the playoff race. The offense certainly isn't good enough to carry the load.
Right now, New York ranks 19th in yards allowed after finishing fifth last season. That's a huge drop off and will eventually catch up with they Jets if they are unable to find a remedy soon. It starts with stopping the run more effectively.
The Jets also have to strive for balance on offense. They can't be successful by airing it out 50 times or simply trying to ground and pound. They have to find the right mix between the two to keep Miami's defense on its toes.
Dolphins 17, Jets 14