It's another one of those glass-half-full-of-orange-juice games at Miami on Sunday.
Will a win mean nothing because the Jets still have had a non-winning record for three seasons? Or will it mean everything because we will have a non-losing record for the fourth time in five Rex Ryan seasons?
The answer won't make anyone of the green and white persuasion feel better because win or lose to the Dolphins, the Jets are out of the playoffs for their third straight year. But Ryan left no doubt what he prefers.
"I'd much rather have eight than have seven, there's no question about that," Rex said at today's news conference. "We're excited to go there for other reasons. We're going to measure how much we've improved, or have we improved? I think we'll all see it. But I think that's big, having a non-losing season. Maybe in the big picture it's just one game, but it sure sounds better to be 8-8 than to be 7-9."
Whatever remains to happen on Monday and beyond will wait until the Jets and Dolphins complete their pas de deux in the land of aqua and coral. Here are 10 things to look for at Sunday's Green & White regular-season finale
1. Geno's Homecoming ... Sort Of — Geno Smith wraps up his first season as an NFL QB, not to mention as a starting QB, and what better ending (if not the playoffs) than to finish it in the Sun Life Stadium that early in the morning cast a long shadow that perhaps brushed his childhood home in nearby Miramar, Fla. Except that while Geno will no doubt have many friends and fam in stands for this one that CBS will flash to every so often, he says he's on a business trip. "It's important we execute leading into next season," Smith said today at his locker, "giving us something positive to look forward to."
2. Geno's Revenge? — Smith would never state it as such, but he noted that the opponent the last time he got benched — for the entire second half — was during the 23-3 loss to the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. "Hopefully we can return the favor and just go out there one last time this season for these guys and end it off on a good note," he said. It's a small sample size, needless to say, but perhaps the sitdown that he said "gave me a better perspective of just the way I needed to play" got the job done — in the 2½ games before the benching, Smith was 0-3 with eight sacks and seven giveaways; in the last three games, he's 2-1 with five sacks and two giveaways.
3. Take Down Tanny — When Ryan Tannehill visited North Jersey on Dec. 1, he was the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL. That day our pass rush took him down just once as he threw for 331 yards in a 20-point win. On Sunday, after getting swarmed by the Bills' rush the week before, Tannehill is still the league's most sacked signalcaller. How about if this time we get after him? Three sacks would give us 44 for the season, which would be our most since we collected 45 pelts in '88. All sacks will be welcomed — they should contribute to a win over Miami. And they could contribute to ...
4. Our Next Fumble Recovery? — It's the strangest drought in franchise history, especially for a defense that seems to have enough pop and punch to pry a pigskin loose once in a while. The Jets have only two opponents' fumble recoveries this season, only one the past 14 games. That's our longest dryspell. Our no forced fumbles in the past six games is our worst streak since 1995. Since 1960 no team has recovered fewer than three opponents' fumbles in a season. Let's get that ball out against the 'Fins!
|First Downs Gained/Game||17.2||17.3|
|First Downs Allowed/Game||18.3||20.3|
|Time of Possession/Game||29:45||28:31|
5. Q Rating — We've talked about many of our top defenders in our weekly 10 Things musings, but one we may have overlooked is Quinton Coples. Guess what: "Q" is coming on. It took to the bye week for his preseason ankle fracture to fully heal, and ever since he's been on as good a tear as Team MVP Muhammad Wilkerson. In the last six games Coples has racked up 3.5 of his 4.5 sacks, has made 6.5 of his 11.5 tackles for loss/no gain, and has continued to escalate his team-leading QB hurries, now at 46. Whether it's Tannehill or the Dolphins backs who gained 14 yards on 12 carries a week ago, Q's our man Sunday.
6. Milliner's Revival —From the second quarter on against Cleveland, Dee Milliner was making up for lost time with perhaps as many as six pass defenses while frequently covering the Browns' Josh Gordon. What better way for the D-man and the secondary to finish off the season than with a major effort on the back end against a set of Miami receivers that totaled 157 yards after catch on Dec. 1, second-most by an opponent this season behind only Carolina's 158 YAC. Time for Milliner, Antonio Cromartie and the secondary to take it to Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline (limited in practice this week) heading into the offseason.
- Full Nelson —** One issue for Geno Smith and the offense was an inconsistent wideout corps that changed personnel weekly. Finally some stability led to the first two-TD wideout game, against Cleveland, since Game 3 vs. Buffalo when David Nelson snapped up those two short timing passes from Geno Smith. "David's played at a high level on a pretty consistent basis," OC Marty Mornhinweg said today. "He's a good football player, there's no question about that." But can Nelson, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley counteract any success Miami's passing game might have? That could be a victory key.
8. Recent Trends — In the last 32 minutes of last week's home game, the Jets outscored the Browns, 24-3, and looked good doing it. In the last 52 minutes of last week's game at Buffalo, the Dolphins were outscored, 19-0, and looked bad doing it. If these trends continue, we should be able to repay the Dolphins' 23-3 win at MetLife four weeks ago. There are of course several reasons these trends might not continue. But if this game hasn't started to turn the Green & White way by around halftime, it means our late season progress may not be as far along as we thought it was.
9. Oust the Fins — Another recent development has been reversed. In 2008 we needed to beat Miami at home in the regular-season finale, and get help, and we would make the playoffs. We lost, 24-17, we didn't get help, we didn't get in. Same situation in 2011 at Miami: 19-17 loss, no help, no playoffs. This time the Dolphins are in the same fishing boat: They must win and get help from either Baltimore (loss or tie) or San Diego (win) to get in. Time for some postseason payback?
10. Sweet Sounds of the Road — Our final road game of the season gives us one last chance to cut back on those pesky presnap penalties. For some reason, it's worked the opposite of the way it's supposed to. Of our league-leading 51 presnap penalties, 34 have come in eight home games, 17 in seven road tests. However, beware the fans in the stands, who even with the Dolphins in playoff contention can still have a good percentage of rowdy J-E-T-S fans. Too much of a homefield advantage in this case might not be as productive as one would think.