In this unpredictable 2020 NFL season, the Jets have prepared themselves to play their first AFC East opponent a week sooner than they initially expected and they're ready to try to sweat out a victory at Miami almost a month before they anticipated battling the Dolphins.
And for two division rivals and their fan bases who may have expected to see a battle between QBs of the present and the future in third-year Jets signal-caller Sam Darnold and first-round rookie Tua Tagovailoa whenever these teams got together, here's another curveball: The Jets will send 35-year-old Joe Flacco, starting in the injured Darnold's place, against 'Fins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who turns 38 next month and hasn't given any signs that he's ready to hand the reins over to Tagovailoa yet.
The Jets and Dolphins, originally set to meet in Week 11 in Miami Gardens, FL, will instead, due to NFL schedule maneuverings related to COVID-19, meet today at Hard Rock Stadium with a 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff.
Flacco's got a few things working in his favor in this one as he tries to pull the Jets out of their 0-5 start against the 2-3 hosts. For one, he's said that after starting in last week's 30-10 home loss to Arizona, "this week will be a little bit easier to relax and get into the flow of the game right away."
The opponent with the relaxing uniform colors of aqua and coral could also help. Flacco, in his 13th pro season, has faced the Dolphins seven times, including one playoff game in 2008, and has won all seven games, four of them coming at Miami.
It remains to be seen how the alteration of the Jets' RB depth chart — the release of RB Le'Veon Bell early in the week — will affect the Jets offense. The ageless Frank Gore (older than Flacco, not quite as old as Fitzpatrick) will start again, as he did in Games 2-4, but the big change could be in how rookie La'Mical Perine responds to an expected increase in touches and plays.
But one element in the Jets' and Flacco's favor is the wideout corps, led by Jamison Crowder, who's seeking his second straight 100-yard receiving game catching passes from Flacco and his fourth straight 100-yard game this season, which would put him in the franchise history books as one of four Jets to reel off four or more 100-yard receiving games.
But joining Crowder for this one will be Breshad Perriman, back in action after injuring his ankle in the Jets' Game 2 home opener against San Francisco and prepared to try to provide a vertical dimension to the Green & White offense.
"That's what I really like doing," Perriman said during the week. And in case you missed it during the week, Perriman's longest reception as Baltimore's first-round rookie in 2016 was a 53-yard hookup ... with Joe Flacco ... against the Dolphins.
The Jets also will get the return of WR Vyncint Smith, who was activated from Injured Reserve after practicing the past two weeks. The Perriman and Smith returns will help offset Chris Hogan (ankle) being placed on IR.
Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, has plenty working in his Miami arsenal. He's got WR DeVante Parker and TE Mike Gesicki to throw to, RB Myles Gaskin to hand off to. And he's got his own feet, which have enabled him to gain 5.5 yards/carry and score two touchdowns on 24 rushes.
FitzMagic, the Jets' starter in 2015-16, also has his own opponent streak similar to Flacco's hex over Miami. In his last four home games against the Jets, for four different franchises, he was the starter in three games and played in all four, which were all FitzVictories — Buffalo in 2012, Tennessee in '13, Tampa Bay in '17 and Miami last year.
This is the Jets' six-player inactive list for today's game, including rookie LT Mekhi Becton, still working to get back from a shoulder injury:
- QB James Morgan
- QB Sam Darnold
- CB Quincy Wilson
- LB Jordan Willis
- T Mekhi Becton
- DL Nathan Shepherd
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have a five-player inactive list, including injured OLB starter Kyle Van Noy:
- RB/WR Malcolm Perry
- RB Salvon Ahmed
- RB Jordan Howard
- LB Kyle Van Noy
- DE Jason Strowbridge