Week 4 Preview: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (in London)
…and around NY sports
Following their first loss of the 2015 NFL campaign, the New York Jets (2-1) traveled to London and will take on their long-time AFC East rival, the Miami Dolphins (1-2) this Sunday, at famous Wembley Stadium. Without starting RB Chris Ivory and starting WR Eric Decker, the Jets were unable to move the ball offensively in the first half, trailed 24-0 at halftime, and after fighting back, eventually fell to the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-17. The Dolphins were completely outclassed at home by another AFC East rival, the Buffalo Bills, losing 41-14.
How to watch the game: This is the first of three Sunday “breakfast” games during the NFL’s International Series in 2015. CBS will broadcast this game nationally, starting at 9:30 am Eastern. Viewers can also watch the game streaming live on CBSSports.com, on Xbox One, and on Apple TV, as the NFL reaches out across other platforms to maximize viewership.
Dolphins Update. Entering the season with high expectations, the Dolphins have stumbled out of the gate in 2015. After a 17-10, Week 1 win at Washington, the Dolphins have lost their last two. In Week 2, they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road, 23-20. And, last week, during their 50th home opener, the Dolphins were routed by Buffalo, sustaining their worst ever home opening loss. The enduring themes in the early season for Miami: 1) slow starts; 2) a sputtering offense; 3) the inability to stop the run defensively; 4) organizational turmoil and rumors. All have hampered once-proud Miami.
Slow starts and the sputtering offense. In the first three games of the season, Miami has fallen behind its opponents by 10, 11, and 27 points, respectively. Last week vs. Buffalo, the already-suspect, and injury riddled Miami offensive line was overmatched by the Bills’ relentless pass rush, leading to QB Ryan Tannehill’s 3 first half INTs, including one for a TD. Behind so early and often this season, the Dolphins have only run the ball on 29 percent of their offensive snaps, and are one of 3 NFL teams without a rushing TD through the first 3 weeks. The Miami passing attack has yet to click on all cylinders, either. QB Ryan Tannehill is completing 61.3 percent of his passes, with 5 TDs and the aforementioned 3 INTs vs. Buffalo. Tannehill’s WR corps has been led by surprising 4-year veteran Rishard Matthews (University of Nevada) who has 16 receptions, for 262 yds and 3 TDs. The more notable playmakers for the Dolphins – WR Jarvis Landry, rookie WR DeVante Parker (Louisville), TE Jordan Cameron – have 0 combined TDs.
Ndamukong Suh and the Dolphin D. Opponents are rushing 35 times per game against the Dolphins for 4.18 yds/ per attempt. While the yards per rushing attempt figure is not horrible, the number of attempts is alarming. Teams know they can run on the Dolphins, and there are no secrets in the NFL. The Dolphins have allowed 30 first down rushes of 4 yards or more; only Tampa Bay (31) has allowed more – the league average is 18. Opponents have outgained Miami 482-107 in the 1st quarter of play; teams are running and controlling possession consistently against the Fins’ Front Seven. In 3 games, the DT Suh (FA – Lions) has 7 total tackles, and 2 for losses. It’s early, but he’s not yet been the difference maker that a) he’s known to be, and b) the Dolphins are paying $60M in guaranteed salary for.
Organizational Turmoil. Rumors continue to swirl about the job security of Miami Head Coach Joe Philbin and his staff. Entering the season, Philbin was 23-25 in his 3 years with the Dolphins, and many are surprised he has stayed in the job this long. There have been a lot of questions raised about Miami’s offensive and defensive play calling, and there is the potential of a shakeup with the Dolphins if they do not perform well, or win in London vs. the Jets…especially with the Bye Week looming.
Jets’ Update and Week 3 Recap vs. Philadelphia. We were concerned here last week about the injuries to RB Chris Ivory and WR Eric Decker, and it proved valid against Philadelphia. The Jets were “3 and out” on their first 5 drives against the Eagles, keeping the Jets’ D on the field for a long time. Forcing 2 first half turnovers and a Darren Sproles 89 yd punt-return for a TD, the Eagles had the Jets down 24-0 before a restless Met Life Stadium crowd. Early on, and without Chris Ivory, the Jets were not able to generate a rushing attack against the Eagles, only gaining 2.9 yds / per attempt. Once behind, the Jets were compelled to abandon the running game, with QB Fitzpatrick throwing 35 for 58, 283 yds, 2 TDs, 3 INTs. WR Brandon Marshall caught 10 passes for 109 yds and a TD, but his bizarre lateral and fumble in the first half contributed to the Jets’ woes. In the second half, the Jets’ D did not allow the Eagles to score, while Ryan Fitzpatrick and company battled back. With 7:23 remaining in the 4th Quarter, and the Jets down by 10, Jet LB David Harris forced Eagle RB Ryan Mathews to fumble, recovered by Jet LB Demario Davis. Three plays into the ensuing drive, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw his 2nd INT of the day, on a deflected pass snared by Eagles’ DB Jordan Hicks. Eagle CB Walter Thurmond sealed it for Philadelphia with 3:28 remaining, picking off the embattled Fitzpatrick for a 3rd time.
Jets Notes. The Jets fell to 0-10 all-time in the regular season against Philadelphia, since the series started in 1973. Illustrating the struggles of their offense, the Jets are only averaging 4.1 yds/play on 1st down, second-worst in the NFL. CB Darrelle Revis left the game in the 2nd half with a hamstring injury; he is likely to play on Sunday, but is listed as Questionable. RB Chris Ivory (quad) suited up against the Eagles, but did not play; expect him to go against Miami. WR Eric Decker (knee) did not suit up or play against Philadelphia, and while there’s a chance for his return, I am skeptical, especially with the Bye Week ahead in Week 5. OG Willie Colon sustained a knee injury vs. the Eagles, he will not play against Miami. DT Sheldon Richardson will serve the 4th game of his 4-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy; the NFL has not yet taken additional action on his reckless driving with a minor / suspected marijuana possession event that occurred prior to training camp. Jets’ HC Todd Bowles was the interim HC for the Dolphins during the final 3 weeks of the 2011 season; his Dolphins squad beat the Jets in the season finale. The Jets lead the all-time series with the Dolphins, 51-47-1. This is considered a Dolphins home game. It is the 3rd time that the Dolphins have participated in the NFL’s International Series, since its inception in 2007. The Dolphins played the New York Giants in 2007 in the very first game of the Series, losing 13-10 at a rainy Wembley Stadium. In 2014, the Dolphins beat the Oakland Raiders in London, 38-14. This is the Jets first appearance in the Series, and apparently they packed with great detail for the trip – including extension cords to plug into power converters / adapters…and notably, Toilet Paper, which received quite a bit of media attention this week.
What to look for in Week 4, and a Prediction. In a series filled with memorable games – the 1986 Ken O’Brien-Dan Marino OT shootout, the 1994 Marino “fake spike”, the 2000 “Monday Night Miracle” among them – it’s always hard to predict what will happen in a Jets-Dolphins tilt. That said, on the surface, this looks like a game that will dominated by the Jet rushing attack and on defense, the Jets’ Front Seven. I expect the Jets to control the time of possession on the ground, supported by a controlled play-action passing attack. The Jets will be able to place pressure on Miami QB Ryan Tannehill, who will be forced to the air early and often. Jets, 27-21…as they move to 3-1 and head into their Bye Week.
…around NY sports.
1) Welcome to October baseball. The Yankees clinched an AL Wild Card berth on Thursday night, defeating the Boston Red Sox 4-1. The Yankees reached the postseason for the first time since 2012, and in the process, recorded the franchise’s 10,000 regular season victory. The Yankees are the first American League team to reach 10,000 regular season victories, and the 4th team in baseball to attain the mark. They will play in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, October 6th; the site of the game is to be determined. Entering the weekend, the Yankees needed either one win against Baltimore (they were rained out Friday, and will play a DH on Saturday), or a Houston loss to secure home field advantage for the Wild Card game. The Yankees are only 5-9 in their last 14, finished September at 14-14, and their offense has been streaky and unreliable in the 2nd half. That said, this team has overachieved all year and exceeded preseason expectations in reaching the playoffs. It received wonderful contributions from their farm system all year long, especially in August-September from 1B Greg Bird and RHP Luis Severino. Let’s enjoy the ride, as long as it lasts.
2) Mets and Dodgers – coming up. We know that starting next weekend, the Mets and Dodgers will square off in one of the two National League Division Series (NLDS). Home field advantage is still undecided. Both teams had identical 89-70 records entering Friday evening; the Mets were rained out and plan to play a DH on Saturday against Washington. The Dodgers host San Diego over the weekend. This shapes up as a wonderful series, dominated by power arms on both sides. Los Angeles will pitch LHP Clayton Kershaw and RHP Zack Greinke as much as possible, while the Mets will unveil their young staff for the first time in the postseason, with RHP Jacob DeGrom, RHP Noah Syndergaard, and RHP Matt Harvey on full display in front of a national audience. We’ll preview this series more next week.
3) Giants (1-2) and Bills (2-1) on Sunday, in Buffalo. The Giants are coming off their first win of the season, defeating Washington 32-21 back on Thursday, September 24th. With 10 days off, they’ll play a Bills team that has played well, with one of the league’s premier defensive units. This is a tough matchup for Big Blue, who will once again be without WR Victor Cruz (calf). Should be fun, but I would expect the Bills to prevail, and move to 3-1.