The Jets have been stacking too many L's this season and not enough W's. Now the situation becomes more pressurized because, after recording a 3-5 first half for the third straight season, they enter the AFC East phase of their 2018 schedule with four division foes in the next five games.
This stretch begins Sunday when the Jets head south to take on their long-time AFL and AFC rivals, the Miami Dolphins, seven weeks after the Dolphins prevailed, 20-12, in the Jets' home opener in Week 2.
"We're a different team and they're a different team," head coach Todd Bowles said of the rematch. "I think they know who they are. We kind of know who we are. It's an AFC East bloodbath game. They're very tough to play down there. We're going to go in there tough, trying to win the game. So it'll be a tough ballgame."
It's a key game in a key stretch. Not to look too far ahead, but a win at Miami (4-4) and home next week against Buffalo (2-6) would lift the Jets to 5-5 by their bye week. And this is a sobering thought: Since 2002, only 29% of teams that started the season 5-5 made the playoffs (22 of 76), and those 76 teams' average record was 8.2 wins and 7.8 losses. And the numbers only get worse for 4-6 and 3-7 teams.
Here are seven more points of interest for Sunday's Jets-Dolphins game at Hard Rock Stadium (1 p.m. ET kickoff):
1. Sunny Road?
The Jets lead the overall series, 54-51-1, although lately Miami has had the upper hand with four wins in the last five meetings and two in a row at home. But as tough as Bowles says it will be, the Green & White always seem to fare fairly well in the land of Aqua & Coral. They're 25-27-1 overall on the road, 9-6 in the last 15, and in all 15 they've held a fourth-quarter lead. Considering that this season the 'Fins have given up 151 second-half points, most in the NFL, and 84 fourth-quarter points, third-most, this could bode well for the Jets finishing strong and repaying the Dolphins for the loss in the first home start of QB Sam Darnold's pro career.
2. Rev Up the Run
Where did Isaiah Crowell and the run-wild offense go? After his franchise-record 219 rush yards vs. Denver on Oct. 7, Cro, on a sore ankle, had 40, 29 and 25 yards as the Jets' rushing yards/game ranking slipped from sixth to 15th. But Crowell's finally off the injury report, Trenton Cannon and possibly Elijah McGuire could be ready to assist, and the Dolphins are a sight for sore legs. Their rush defense has fallen to a tie for 29th in yards/game and 25th in yards/carry. After they gave up 188 yards at Houston last Thursday, HC Adam Gase vowed to spend the long week "figuring out what's going on that we're giving up this massive amount of yardage in the run game."
3. Target: Darnold
A rejuvenated run game would be the best friend for Darnold as he tries to connect with his still banged-up WR/TE group. But which Dolphins defense will show up? Miami, led by CB Xavien Howard's three interceptions, is tied for second in the NFL with 11 picks ... but none the past two games. DEs Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn have a combined 156.5 career sacks ... but one apiece this season. Quinn said last week this first season with the 'Fins has been a "disappointment." And Gase said on Darnold: "If he gets in any kind of rhythm or starts moving around the pocket making some plays, it can become a nightmare for the opposing side real quick."
4. Brock Steady
QB Brock Osweiler is directing the Dolphins' offense for the fourth straight game for Ryan Tannehill and his ailing right shoulder. Interesting that in Osweiler's seven seasons with Denver, Houston and now Miami, he's never played the Jets. In his last three starts, he's 1-2 but with 380 passing yards in a home win over the Bears followed by 240-ish-yard games in the losses. He hasn't been perfect but he's been pretty prolific, especially throwing for the first time last week to now-healthy WR DeVante Parker (six catches, 134 yards). And Brock's confidence is growing: "To be doing some positive things right now, yeah, absolutely, it feels good."
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5. Positive D-velopments
The Jets still have secondary injury issues as they do battle with Brock, but they also has some things working in their favor defensively. Their third-down D is fourth in the NFL in conversion rate allowed while their red zone defense is sixth in TD rate allowed. Avery Williamson is the top tackler, Leo Williams the leader up front. But S Jamal Adams has been the glue with team highs in tackles for loss/no gain (9.5) and tackles to prevent third/fourth-down conversions (7). They'll all be needed to slow down the Dolphins runners, Frank Gore (4.6 yards/carry) and Kenyan Drake (4.9) and turn Osweiler's offense one-dimensional.
6. Jumping the Gun
Bowles called the five false starts in the Chicago loss "the most disheartening thing of the whole ballgame." Add two neutral zone infractions on defense and that made seven presnap penalties vs. the Bears. If it's any consolation, the Jets had more presnap flags back in 2013 — eight vs. New England, nine vs. Buffalo. What's more, both were wins. More encouraging is the hope that Sunday's flagfest was an anomaly, coming less than a month after the Jets had no presnap penalties in back-to-back games for the first time since 2006. Following this week's refocusing, the Jets need to show more concentration and less jumpiness at the Hard Rock.
7. Hot Foot
Jason Myers continues to look like one of the best August signings in franchise history. Despite the brisk winds of the past two weeks, the kicker has hit an NFL-leading 18 field goals on 19 tries, 11 in a row and all six of his tries on the road. By going 6-for-6 on FGs from 40 to 49 yards, he's tied with Graham Gano for the longest current streak of 40-49 kicks at 14 straight. And of course there are the kickoffs. Myers' 36 touchbacks are second-most in the league, on 45 KOs for an 80% TB rate. And with the warm weather ahead conducive to thumping K-balls long distances, Myers will be vital to containing Miami's Jakeem Grant, second in the NFL with his 32.3-yard average on 14 kickoff returns.