There are many things the can’t do this season. Make the playoffs. Save Rex Ryan’s job. Force turnovers. Cover opposing receivers. But one thing Gang Green can do is single-handedly spoil any shot the hated Miami Dolphins have at grabbing a wild card ticket to the postseason.
Monday night, the Jets face off against the Fins at MetLife Stadium, in the first of two games between the longtime rivals over the next four weeks.
At 6-5, Miami still has a chance to make the playoffs, but a split with the Jets would severely hamper their prospects, and a Gang Green sweep would put the Dolphins out to pasture, although that’s a pretty weird visual.
Derailing Miami’s playoff hopes would surely be a much-needed salve for the Jets’ faithful, many of whom remember Dan Marino’s fake spike play from 1994 like it was yesterday. But it won’t be easy to get one win off of the Dolphins, let alone two.
Miami’s defense has stepped recently, holding opponents to less than 20 points in five of the past six games.
Meanwhile, third-year QB Ryan Tannehill, who appeared on a one-way road towards clipboard duty a few weeks into the season, has played at a Pro Bowl level over the last two months.
Tannehill is the anti-Geno Smith. While Smith started for three full seasons at West Virginia, racking up ridiculous numbers in the process (98 career TD passes vs. 21 INTs), Tannehill is best known as the QB who came before Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. The Fins’ signal-caller only started for one full season in college—after beginning his college career as a receiver—and, as such, was widely viewed as a reach when Miami drafted him 8th overall in 2012.
However, while you rarely hear Tannehill’s name mentioned when talk turns to the NFL’s best young QBs—notoriety is hard to come by when you’re in the same draft as Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson—his play of late speaks for itself.
Who would you rather have right now: Tannehill, or the 2nd pick in that same draft—RG III? And remember, Miami didn’t trade half its team to land its QB.
The key to stopping Miami is getting pressure on their quarterback, but that task will be much tougher without Muhammad Wilkerson, who’s sitting out tonight with a toe injury.
On the other side of the ball, Smith is back under center for Gang Green, following several weeks on the bench while Michael Vick started.If it were up to Ryan (and not similarly embattled GM John Idzik), Vick would probably still be starting, and it’s hard to blame him, given Smith’s play to date. He’ll need to be much better to beat Miami, and give Jets fans a reason to smile when there have been so few of those in 2014.