Less than a month ago, the Jets were on the wrong end of a 34-13 loss to the Dolphins. While things certainly were dark on that Black Friday, there are plenty of reasons to think Sunday's return matchup between the two division rivals in South Florida will be much different.
"We are both who we are," Jets HC Robert Saleh said this week. "There's going to be some nuance. There's going to be some changes. I am sure [Dolphins HC Mike] McDaniel is going to have 65 new plays, but at the meat of it is philosophy and a style of play that those guys have and same thing with us, both offensively and defensively, and special teams. So, you still want to stay true to who you are, but you also got to make sure that you're teaching things the right way."
Can We Get There Again?
Jets QB Zach Wilson wasn't involved in the first Jets-Dolphins meeting, serving the first of a two-game stint as the team's emergency No. 3 QB. But he returned to action last week in a big way, leading a 30-point second-half offensive explosion against the Falcons as he reached career-highs both in passer rating (117.9) and completion percentage (75%).
"The quarterback gets more credit than is deserved, but it's truly an offensive unit that went out there and I thought everyone played well," said Wilson, whose 301 pass yards were the third-most in his career. "How can we get there again as an offense? That's the key."
The Dolphins defense is a well-coordinated unit under Vin Fangio, raking No. 9in total defense (308.1 yds/g) and third-down efficiency (36.7%) while they are tied for No. 3 in sacks (42). In Monday night's loss to the Titans, the 'Fins held Derrick Henry to just 34 yards on 17 carries. Still Jaelan Phillips went down with a season-ending knee injury vs. the Jets, veteran LB Jerome Barker (knee) is on injured reserve and S Jevon Holland, who flipped that Black Friday game upsides down with a 99-yard INT return at the end of the first half, was inactive against Tennessee and hopes he can return to action this weekend.
Miami, featuring the corner duo of Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard, has registered pick-6s in three consecutive games and has four overall. But Z.Wilson led a balanced attack last week that saw Garrett Wilson reach the 100-yard mark (9-108) and Breece Hall total 126 yards from scrimmage while TEs Tyler Conklin (4-57) and Jeremy Ruckert (3-37) combined for 7 receptions and 94 yards.
"It's wash, rinse, repeat," Saleh said of Z.Wilson. "It's continue to have confidence in your ability, confidence in your teammates, confidence in your coaches, and confidence that he has the ability to take a game over when he's clicking. So, you could say challenge, but in my mind, it's more just have that continued confidence and swag and just play with that let it rip mentality."
Your Entire Game Has to Change
The Jets' defensehave been ripping opposing offenses apart of late. Over their last two games, the Jets' allowed 329 yards combined to the Falcons and the Texans. They rank No. 2 in yards per play (4.54) and have a secondary that features three Pro Bowl worthy cornerbacks in Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter. The magnificent trio will have a second chance to try to neutralize Tyree Hill, an MVP candidate who had 9 receptions for 102 yards and a TD in the first meeting on Nov. 24.
"If you take the quarterbacks out. He's as good as an offensive player as there is in football. Period," Saleh said of Hill. "I always look at players as whether or not you're changing the way we have to game plan for your presence on the football field — he's one of those guys. Your entire game has to change when you're on the field. His presence alone is high alert from a play-calling standpoint to the players on the field."
Hill, who is battling an ankle injury and was limited to 34 offensive snaps Monday night, has 97 receptions, 1,542 receiving yard and 12 TDs. He is is on pace for an NFL-record 2,016 yards receiving but windy conditions are expected and the Jets haven't allowed a 300-yard passer in 31 straight games. Behind a banged-up offensive line, Tua Tagovailoa was sacked 5 times in the loss to Tennessee.
"Got a pretty good damn good back and end and good rush unit too," Saleh said of the streak. "They're doing a really good job. Usually when you give up those 300 yards, you're giving up a lot of explosive plays and it's one thing I feel like we do a really good job of —we keep it in front. Credit to the coaching staff and the players — they've earned it but let's see if we can extend it a little bit further."
Disaster or Euphoria
Tyreek Hill's 5 targets Monday tied for a season low, and he finished with 4 receptions and 61 yards after returning to action in the second half.
"It was just one of them things where like you just got to make your mind up, like 'Hey, I'm going to do it, man,'" Hill told reporters.
"One of them [expletive] them mindsets," he said. "You feel me? And it's going to be like that until the end of the season. I feel like at this point of the season, everybody is typically hurt, and right now I don't need — nobody is going to give you pity for just being injured, quite frankly."
The Jets, who lost Aaron Rodgers 4 offensive snaps into the season, have dealt with critical injuries throughout a trying campaign. They've started 10 different line combinations and 13 different players have started on the O-line. The 'Fins also face adversity along their line as Liam Eichenberg (calf) and RG Robert Hunt (hamstring) were listed as non-participants for a Thursday walk-through, LT Terron Armstead (knee/ankle) was considered limited and starting C Connor Williams went to injured reserve this week following an ACL tear.
After each of their previous 3 losses, the Dolphins (9-4) have responded with a win. But the Jets showed their mettle against the Texans and they may be poised to make some more noise in South Florida.
"The gift of being in this area is it's very loud. It's like Bill Parcells once said — it's either disaster or euphoria," Saleh said. "To get through all that noise and keep their head down and the way they've worked and the way they play for each other – I can't appreciate those guys more."