The Jets' next national TV game is the first Black Friday game in NFL history at MetLife Stadium on Friday. And for all the shoppers at the big-box stores checking out the game on the 75-inch display monitors the day after Thanksgiving as well as all the fans in the stands and at home, the ball is in Tim Boyle's court.
"Coach Saleh gave me a call and let me know I had the keys this week," Boyle said the day after head coach Robert Saleh named him the Jets' new starting QB against the Dolphins. "I want to get down in the red zone and score some points. I think that's going to be an important focus for us this week, especially against a potent offense like the Dolphins have."
The storylines for this game have changed since the NFL announced the schedule in May. The Jets had Aaron Rodgers in place and were ready to do battle, much of it in primetime, and ride to the playoffs, and a win over the Dolphins at home in Week 12 seemed very doable.
But the 7-3 'Fins have risen up with an offensive vengeance. QB Tua Tagovailoa, WR Tyreek Hill, RB Raheem Mostert and company are one of only 18 NFL teams since 2000 to average four touchdowns and 30 points/game through a season's first 11 weeks, and the first team to execute this daily double since 2020. (Rodgers' Packers also did it in 2011 and '14.)
The Jets, meanwhile, have had trouble scoring, have slipped to 4-6 and need a big win on a large stage over a formidable opponent to underscore Rodgers' words this week that "The season is definitely not over, it's not dead, there's a lot left to play for."
"Yeah," Boyle said, "it's going to be a fun one."
Here are six players to watch as the Jets try to post their first two-game home winning streak since 2007 over the Dolphins.
QB Tim Boyle — Boyle played under Rodgers at Green Bay in 2019-20. The past two seasons, in limited action for Detroit and Chicago, his passing numbers weren't eye-popping but he did engineer touchdowns on a decent 20% of his 35 drives, and in back-to-back games for the '21 Lions he connected on seven 20-yards-plus pass plays. Despite not generating any points in his closing duty at Buffalo, he showed his quick release that should help minimize pressures and sacks. But Boyle will need help from the Jets' ever-changing O-line in keeping out front-seven rushers Christian Wilkins, Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips (four consecutive games with a sack).
WR Garrett Wilson — We'll throw it right back to Wilson as a Jet to watch. He wasn't happy about losing a fumble off a reception against the Chargers two weeks earlier, then lost another trying to make something good happen at Buffalo, so he's eager to rehab from his fumbleitis. He barely kept his start-of-career 27-game receiving streak going with two catches for 9 yards vs. the Bills. WR Davante Adams, now a Raider and once Rodgers' favorite No. 17 in green before he started working with Wilson this year, beat the Dolphins down the middle for a 46-yard TD strike Sunday. It would be encouraging to see a similar explosion play or three between Boyle and Wilson in this one.
RB Dalvin Cook — Sentimental thoughts make for risky game plans, but with the rush lanes having temporarily closed for Breece Hall, why not more Cook to flavor the Jets broth? He was a Miamian growing up and a Florida Stater in his strong college career. He's been used sparingly as a Jet but lately has picked up speed (6 carries, 39 yards, 6.5 yards/carry the past two games, 4.6 season average). And he has that Sunshine State vibe going, in particular in his two games vs. the Dolphins when he averaged 123 scrimmage yards and scored three TDs. Mix in Hall runs and especially his pass-game dimension — he's averaging 9.5 yards/catch, fourth-best among RBs — and see what develops..
LB Quincy Williams — Williams' engine continues to run hot, but since earning the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for October, he's had a relatively quiet November. Perhaps the Dolphins can bring the production back out — in three career games as a Jet vs. the 'Fins, he has 36 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack and a PD. Tagovailoa is hard to sack and runs the league's No. 1 offense, but if Miami has an Achilles heel, it's turnovers. Tagovailoa has 11 individual giveaways and the Dolphins have 16 total GAs, 13 in their last seven games. Williams doesn't have to score any takeaways himself, but bringing the fire into Tua's kitchen and forcing some mistakes could be key.
CBs Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed — The marquee matchup is the Jets' corners vs. the Dolphins' wideouts. Gardner and Reed have held the last four opponents' top two WRs to 5.8 catches and 56.0 yards/game. Miami's Hill is No. 2 in the NFL in receptions (79) and No. 1 in receiving yards (1,222), TDs (9) and 25-plus catches (16). Jaylen Waddle (44-577-3) is effective underneath. The Jets gave up an 81-yard TD reception to the Bills, about which Gardner said, "I can't believe we allowed that big, explosive play." The Jets must be on top of their game to prevent it from happening again Friday.