By Abe Gutierrez
In the midst of a huge playoff push, the Miami Dolphins must rely on a backup quarterback to lead them into the postseason. That’s because starting signal-caller Ryan Tannehill suffered a left knee injury in last week’s (26-23) win over Arizona, leaving the Dolphins with Matt Moore to lead the way with just three games remaining on the 2016 NFL schedule.
First up, Miami must go into a frigid and hostile environment to take on a Jets team that’s notorious for spoiling Miami’s postseason hopes over the years. Not only does Gang Green come into Week 15 leading the overall head-to-head series 53-48-1, but New York has also been victorious in three of the last four meetings against Miami.
New York Jets record: 4-9-0
After finishing 10-6 a year ago and barely missing the playoffs, the 2016 New York Jets will have to dig deep just to avoid a double-digit losing season. After putting an end to their 4-game skid last week in San Francisco, Gang Green comes into Week 15 with a 4-9-0 record.
As strange as it may seem, this ball club seems to play better on the road than in the comfort of MetLife Stadium. This is evident by the fact that the Jets are 1-5 at home, 3-4 on the road, 1-2 against divisional opponents, 3-6 against the AFC, 1-3 versus NFC and 1-4 in their last five games played.
Jets on offense
Even though Chan Gailey has been the Jets’ offensive coordinator for only two seasons, he’s been coaching at the NFL level for two decades. That type of experience comes in handy, not only when dealing with the turmoil the franchise is currently in, but also given the quarterback situation in the Big Apple.
After benching Ryan Fitzpatrick for the remainder of the season, the Jets must now determine whether Bryce Petty is capable of competing at this level.
Entering Week 15, the Jets offense is among the worst in the league in three of the four main statistical categories. They rank 29th in points per game (17.6), 26th in passing (222.5) and 22nd in total yards per game (333.8). However, Miami’s defense must contend with the 10th best rushing attack in the NFL, as Gang Green comes in averaging 111.4 rushing yards per contest.
Jets on defense
Kacy Rodgers is Bowles’ defensive coordinator, as he enters his 14th season in the National Football League and the second at the helm of the Jets resistance. Under his tutelage, New York’s “D” ranks 17th against the rush (102.5), 19th in total yards allowed (355.5), 22nd in passing yards per game (253) and 24th in points per contest (24.9).
Last week against the Niners, the Jets defense allowed an eye-popping 248 rushing yards on 27 carries for an average of 9.2 yards per touch. This has to be a concern for Rodgers in Week 15, as Miami features a running back with big-play ability in Jay Ajayi. With Tannehill injured and Moore making his first start of the season, the Jets can expect Miami to hand the ball over to their bruising back at least 25 times Saturday night.
Jets players to watch: Bilal Powell, Leonard Williams
With veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick riding the pine and starting halfback Matt Forte’s future uncertain (knee injury), the Jets offensive player to watch is second-string running back Bilal Powell. Last week against the Niners, the sixth-year man out of Louisville carried Gang Green to victory, rushing for 145 yards—four yards shy of his career-best—on 29 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
On the opposite side of the rock, Gase and his staff must gameplan to contain defensive tackle Leonard Williams. In his second season out of USC, the Bakersfield, California native leads the team with seven sacks to go along with his 53 tackles (32 total, 21 assist) and two forced fumbles. Williams has recorded a half-sack in each of his last two games and will be looking for a third against the Fins.
According to NFL Week 15 oddsmakers, the Miami Dolphins will be the team to beat when they invade MetLife Stadium for a clash with the New York Jets Saturday night. Opening point spreads have the Dolphins (-3) listed as three-point favorites, which means the Jets (+3) will have a field goal to play with against the spread.
Also worth noting is the OVER/UNDER, which in this instance is set at a combined total of 38½ points, hinting that defense will decide the outcome of this rivalry game. Opening kickoff for this intriguing contest is scheduled for Saturday night at 8:25 p.m. ET.