The New York Jets are on their first losing streak and have slipped below .500 for the first time this season, and many observers are saying their playoff hopes are dead. The Jets head back home to take on one of their biggest rivals, fellow 5-6 AFC Wild Card contender Miami Dolphins. Both these teams desperately need a win, and this is the first of two matchups they will have in the final five weeks.
There are six 5-6 teams fighting for the final Wild Card spot, and the Jets rank 5th and the Dolphins 6th in those standings. These teams have no tiebreaker advantages over any of the other contenders, and that makes their margin of error that much slimmer. It is for that reason that this matchup is an elimination game. A seventh loss would be crippling to each of their playoff chances, as neither has an easy schedule down the stretch.
The Jets and Dolphins could need to finish 10-6 to get int0 the playoffs, and even at 9-7 they would still need a lot of help. Given their lack of tiebreakers, neither side can afford to lose, least of all to another Wild Card contender. Winning out is a major stretch for both of these teams, but they can get started with a big win on Sunday.
For the Jets, Geno Smith has to get things figured out. He has been horrible for the last month, and the Jets cannot afford anymore of his awful play. He will be on a short leash this week, and if continues to play poorly then the Jets will have to make a change. The Jets could be without running back Chris Ivory, which makes Smith’s task even more difficult. The Jets will also need to get their pass defense figured out in order to win. They have struggled to defend the deep ball all year, which is very concerning against a team that features Mike Wallace.
The Dolphins have gone 2-6 after their 3-0 start, and their offense is a mess. They lead the NFL in sacks allowed, and they have a very poor run game. Wallace has struggled for much of the year, and Ryan Tannehill simply doesn’t have the support around him he needs to succeed. The Dolphins have a solid defense however, and it doesn’t take a lot of points to beat the Jets. If their defense can pressure Smith and force turnovers, Miami will be in great shape.
The pressure is on for two teams that are fighting for their playoff lives and two coaches that are on the hot seat. The winner of this game will still have a good chance at the playoffs, but the loser will be all but eliminated. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and it should make an already intense rivalry game that much better.