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NFL Preview - Miami (6-6) at N.Y. Jets (9-3)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - After what happened Monday night, it couldn't get a lot worse for the New York Jets.
So in the wake of an embarrassing 42-point loss to one division rival, head coach Rex Ryan is actually pleased to see yet another tough AFC East foe, the Miami Dolphins, come calling this Sunday afternoon at New Meadowlands Stadium.
"We certainly know what happened on Monday," Ryan said. "It's full steam ahead against Miami."
The Jets stand second in the division at 9-3, a game behind 10-2 New England after the Patriots earned a split of the two-game season series with their 45-3 thrashing of New York on Monday.
Still, the Jets enter Week 14 atop the conference's ever-fluid Wild Card race and would at this point enter the playoffs as a No. 5 seed with a first-round date against the lowest-seeded division leader, which at the moment is AFC South kingpin Jacksonville.
Ryan drove the "Monday is ancient history" point home during a Wednesday team meeting, when he brought the Jets to the practice field, dug a hole and buried a game ball from the New England loss.
"He said we're burying the game," cornerback Darrelle Revis said.
After this week, New York goes forward with road games at Pittsburgh and Chicago before hosting Buffalo in the regular-season finale on Jan. 2. The team last won 10 games in a season in 2006, when it qualified for the playoffs as a Wild Card and lost a first-round game at New England.
"This will be a big win if we can accomplish it," Ryan said. "It would be our 10th win of the season. Swagger or not, that's who we are. We're not going to dwell on this loss the rest of the season. We got beat. It is what it is. We're moving on."
Miami, meanwhile, is in considerably more dire straits in terms of the postseason at 6-6.
The Dolphins are two games behind Baltimore, which now holds the second Wild Card position and would win a tie-breaker because of a head-to-head victory in November.
A Miami loss this week coupled with a Ravens win would eliminate the Dolphins from the race.
Miami hosts Buffalo and Detroit, then visits New England in the regular season's final three weeks.
Veteran running back Ricky Williams, a vital part of the Wildcat offense that's been largely absent from the Dolphins' arsenal this season, said Wednesday that devoting more energy to the run game could help turn things around in the late going.
"I don't think we've done it enough," he said. "Last year, we ran it for 100 yards several times, and it was because we were running the ball. Whether we're getting down in games or coach [Tony Sparano] likes the passing game plan, we just haven't run the ball enough.
"I don't think we've called it enough in games. I don't think we've run it enough and worked on it in practice enough to make it a big part of our offense."
The Jets have a 47-41-1 lead in their all-time regular-season series with Miami following a 31-23 Week 3 win, but the Dolphins have prevailed in each of their last two encounters with New York on the round. Miami dealt the Jets a 24-17 defeat in the Meadowlands in the 2008 regular-season finale and completed a home-and-home sweep with last year's 30-25 decision in New Jersey. The Jets did win both matchups with the Dolphins in both 2006 and 2007 and are 9-4 in the last 13 overall meetings against their longtime rivals.
In addition to their regular-season history, the Jets and Dolphins met in the 1982 AFC Championship, which went to Miami by a 14-0 score.
Miami head coach Tony Sparano is 3-2 lifetime against the Jets, while Ryan is 1-2 against both Sparano and Miami as a head man.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS HAVE THE BALL
By the numbers, the Dolphins are at the middle of the pack or below in major statistical offensive categories, including passing yards per game (229.9, 16th of 32 teams), rushing yards (106.6 ypg, 18th) and total yards (336.5 ypg, 19th). Not to mention their actual point-scoring average of 17.9 per game, which is only good for 29th in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Jets do well stopping the run (87.5 ypg, 3rd in the league), limiting total yardage (305.9 ypg, 8th) and keeping foes off the scoreboard (19.3 ppg, 6th). They've shown some vulnerability to the pass, however, which has their weekly average of 218.4 yards allowed through the air at just 14th-best in the league.
Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne has won two of three career starts against the Jets, completing 63.7 percent of his passes for a 101.7 passer rating in those games, and threw for a career-best 363 yards against New York the last time these teams met back in September. Running back Ronnie Brown is one 100-yard game shy of passing Larry Csonka for second-most in franchise history behind Williams, who by the way, is averaging 94 yards in his last two road starts. Dinged-up wide receiver Marshall caught 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown against the Jets in September, while outside colleague Davone Bess needs just 92 yards to surpass his career-best of 758 set last year. He leads the AFC and is second in the league with 26 third-down catches. Lastly, tight end Anthony Fasano, a New Jersey native, has four career touchdown catches against the Jets, his best against any foe.
For the Jets, ex-Dolphin Jason Taylor had a sack in the teams' meeting in September, his first since leaving Miami for New York in the offseason. Linebacker David Harris seeks a third straight game with at least one sack.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
The Jets have hardly set the world on fire with offense, but what explosiveness exists has been made possible by a run game which is fourth in the league with a 148.4-yard average per week. Their total yardage clip of 356.6 yards per game is 12th-best in the league, while their scoring output of 22.2 points is 14th and their passing average of 208.2 yards per game is 21st. Miami's defense has improved throughout the season and after 12 games, is now a top 10 unit in total yards allowed (300.8 ypg, 4th overall), passing yards allowed (201.2 ypg, 5th) and rushing yards allowed (99.6 ypg, 9th). Dolphins foes have put up an average of 19.8 points per week, giving Miami the 11th- best scoring defense in the league.
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has posted a 100-plus passer rating in three of four career home games against AFC East foes and in three games against Miami, has thrown for 693 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. Veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson vaulted past Eric Dickerson and into sixth on the league's all-time rushing list last week, reaching 13,259 for his career. His backfield mate, Shonn Greene, averages 5.4 yards per carry in December on 54 lifetime attempts. On the outside, wideout Braylon Edwards has six career touchdown catches against the Dolphins, his most against any opponent, and aims for a fifth straight game with a score against them. Counterpart Santonio Holmes has averaged 86.4 receiving yards per game over his last five while scoring four times, and tight end Dustin Keller has gone for an average of 87 receiving yards in his last two against Miami, scoring in both games. On the special teams side, kick returner Brad Smith is tops in the AFC and third in the league with a 27.6-yard kick return average.
For Miami, outside linebacker Cameron Wake seeks to add to his league-best 12 sacks with a fourth straight game of at least one. Elsewhere, linebacker Karlos Dansby leads the team with 83 tackles.
The Dolphins figure to get most of their fantasy production through the air, so Marshall, Bess and Fasano are solid plays along with workhorse kicker Dan Carpenter. The story is similar for the Jets, who'd likely get the most mileage from Holmes, Edwards and Keller. The New York defense is the better of the two options and worth a play for those with ownership.
This is a heated AFC East rivalry, which at least somewhat diminishes the Dolphins' recent woes and the Jets' Monday night meltdown. Based solely on matchups and what figures to be chilly weather, the needle tips slightly toward New York, its buttoned-down offense and a slightly less mistake-prone quarterback. Expect it to come down to a final few possessions, perhaps decided by a missed or made field goal.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 17, Dolphins 14
12/09 17:02:12 ET
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