Going into Week 3, not many NFL fans would’ve expected to see the entire AFC East in a four-way tie.
The New England Patriots were thought to be the class of the AFC East going into the year, and perhaps they still are. But going into the third Sunday of the NFL regular season, the division literally could not be tighter.
This week, the Jets will play another division game, when they go on the road to face the Miami Dolphins, who themselves are coming off a big 35-13 victory and are playing with a ton of confidence.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 200 yards last Sunday in his first NFL victory, hooking up with Brian Hartline nine times for 111 of those yards.
Hartline will likely see a heavy dose of Darrelle Revis this weekend, as the Jets’ superstar cornerback looks to return to the field after missing the Jets’ previous game with a concussion.
However, the Dolphins will not need to lean on Tannehill and the pass offense to move the football, as running back Reggie Bush has been reborn in Miami since he joined the team as a free agent in 2011.
After averaging just 4.0 yards per carry in five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, the 27-year-old Bush has rushed for a spectacular 5.2 yards per carry since joining the Dolphins.
In fact, Bush has looked a little bit like another former Saints running back who saw his career take off in Miami, Ricky Williams.
Williams won the rushing title in his first season as a Dolphin, and while Bush didn’t quite do that, he did have his first 1,000 yard rushing season in 2011 and has shown no signs of slowing down.
Bush rushed for 172 yards with two long touchdowns last week, and is averaging a robust 6.0 yards per carry over the first two games of the 2012 season.
While the Jets have finished ahead of the Dolphins every year since Rex Ryan was hired as head coach in 2009, the Jets are just 2-4 against Miami over that span.
However, one of the primary reasons for that now stands on the Jets’ sideline.
Former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano is now the Jets’ offensive coordinator, and it’s reasonable to expect that he’ll be able to provide some intel on his former team.
This is a game the Jets should win on paper, and a game they desperately need to win with a gauntlet of a schedule on deck in the coming weeks.
For the Jets to come away with this crucial road victory, they’ll need to find a way to slow down Reggie Bush, and force the Dolphins to air it out with their rookie quarterback.
On offense, Mark Sanchez should be able to take advantage of an unproven and banged up Dolphins secondary, and he’ll need to, as the Dolphins have done a good job defending the run this year.
No matter what the teams look like on paper, division games are not to be taken lightly. The Jets need to treat this game like a must-win game if they’re serious about contending this season.
The Jets and Dolphins kick off Sunday at 1:00 pm at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.