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Game Preview: Jets (7-8) at Dolphins (8-7)


The Jets might not have a golden ticket to the promise land, but they do have a hand in deciding who gets one. Their opponents on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins, need to defeat the Jets (and get some help) to secure their spot in the playoffs, leaving the Jets in the unique position of being able to ruin their division rivals’ season in their own stadium.

Rex Ryan, downplayed the motivational factor of ending the Dolphins’ playoff chances this week, stating that Miami “[is] not your archrival like New England is.” But the opportunity to end their divisional rivals’ season won’t be lost on the Jets players, nor, I’m sure, will it be forgotten in Ryan’s pre-game speech.

However, the chance to play the role of spoiler is not the Jets only motivation for Sunday’s game. Add to it a chance to finish the season at 8-8 and avoid consecutive losing seasons. Add to it a final chance to fight for their head coach’s job. Add to it a chance to win their first back-to-back games of the season. Add to it if a chance to prove to the front office that they belong in green in 2014.

The Dolphins defeated the Jets 23-3 in their first meeting this season, a game to forget for the Jets’ rookie quarterback. Geno Smith had his worst outing as a professional in the loss; he completed 4-of-10 passes for 29 yards and 1 interception before he was benched at halftime. Smith has since began to show some slight progression, the Jets are 2-1 since the loss, and Smith has scored 6 touchdowns (4 passing, 2 rushing) and only turned the ball over twice.

As has been the case all season, the keys to the game are with Smith. The rookie has been a catalyst for the Jets all season; the Jets go as he goes. If he can move the ball, put points on the ball early, and avoid a killer turnover, the rest of the team, and the defense, will rally around him. If not, the Jets will be looking at another losing season, and perhaps a new rookie quarterback in 2014.

Defensively, the script to beat the Dolphins remains the same as in their first meeting: Get after Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has been sacked more times (58) than any other starting quarterback in the league this season– 12 more than the next nearest (Joe Flacco) and 15 more than the Jets’ Geno Smith. On paper it sounds like an easy task to get to the most sacked player in the league — everyone else seems to have managed it — but the Jets barely touched Tannehill in their previous meeting, only bringing him down once.

Tomorrow’s game features enough motivation for both teams, and could easily go either way. However, motivation to reach the playoffs trumps anything the Jets can draw upon. Dolphins win 24-17.

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