When the 2-3 New York Jets host the 0-4 Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, it will be a case of one team desperately fighting for playoff positioning and another, perhaps, fighting for the right to draft No. 1 overall in April.
The Jets are coming off two consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship Game and were considered among the Super Bowl favorites entering the 2011 season. They have struggled mightily, however, and are currently on a three-game losing streak, so this game is vital for them.
Miami, on the other hand, had few expectations prior to the season, and certainly haven't lived up to any they did have. The Dolphins' playoff hopes are extremely dim already and with quarterback Chad Henne out for the season, Miami may be best off tanking in order to draft quarterback Andrew Luck.
Regardless of whether the Dolphins' front office wants Luck, though, the Dolphins have NFL players that are going to compete to win. The Jets are favored at home, but the Dolphins have enough talent to make this AFC East clash interesting.
Where: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Monday, Oct. 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Spread: New York Jets (-7)
Most probably expect the Jets to bounce back with a statement win, hence the seven-point spread, but I think this will be a very close game. The Dolphins and Jets traditionally have some tough battles and there's no reason to believe this will be any different. New York will win, but only by a field goal.
A 42.5 over/under seems very accurate to me and I wouldn't touch it personally, but if I was forced to, I would take the over. New York's run defense has been awful so the Dolphins should be able to move the ball on the ground with Daniel Thomas and Miami's defense as a whole is weak, so the Jets offense should rebound. Both sides have pretty good scoring potential here.
Dolphins Key Injuries
Out: QB Chad Henne (shoulder—IR)
Probable: RB Daniel Thomas (hamstring)
Jets Key Injuries
Out: LB Bryan Thomas (Achilles—IR), DB Donald Strickland (concussion), DB Isaiah Trufant (hamstring)
Probable: RB LaDainian Tomlinson (calf)
Big Fantasy Plays
RB Daniel Thomas (MIA)
After missing Week 1 with a hamstring injury, Dolphins rookie running back Daniel Thomas stepped into Miami's feature back role and turned in a couple impressive performances. He suffered a relapse with his hamstring, but after a couple weeks of rest he should be ready to shred New York's suspect run defense.
WR Santonio Holmes (NYJ)
New York Jets No. 1 wide receiver Santonio Holmes has started the season very slowly, but he may be ready to break out against Miami. Holmes has just 224 yards through five games, however, the Dolphins are the second-worst team in the league against the pass and have been unable to contain talented opposing receivers.
Keys to Dolphins Win
With Matt Moore now under center and Darrelle Revis likely locking down wide receiver Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins will need a very strong running game in order to pull the upset. Rookie Daniel Thomas has proven injury-prone, but he can be a workhorse when healthy.
The Jets have been decimated by the likes of Darren McFadden and BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the ground in recent weeks, and Thomas must do the same. Miami will also have to tighten up its pass defense and get pressure on quarterback Mark Sanchez with Cameron Wake and Co.
Keys to Jets Win
While New York's pass defense and pass rush have been as good as ever, rush defense has been a major red flag. The Jets' opponents have exposed their suspect front seven and they have essentially been manhandled in the trenches to this point.
Head coach Rex Ryan will absolutely have to find an answer for that. On offense, because of Miami's struggles against the pass the Jets may be tempted to throw the ball at will, but they need to build on the progress that Shonn Greene and the running game made last week to keep Miami off balance.
Jets 24, Dolphins 21