Unstoppable Force vs. Immovable Object: When you think Dolphins, the first thought that comes to mind is Dan Marino. And with a new head coach in Adam Gase, most people anticipated Miami would once again employ a wide-open passing game with QB Ryan Tannehill. But these Dolphins are rare indeed because their preferred movement is on the ground. Behind one of the top offensive lines in football, RB Jay Ajayi churned for 204 yards and 214 yards in Week 6 and Week 7 wins over the Steelers and the Bills respectively. On Sunday, he can become the first NFL player to rush for three consecutive 200-yard games.
But standing in Ajayi's way is the NFL's No. 1 ranked rush defense. Only one team has even rushed for 90 yards against the Jets and the Cardinals took advantage of a unit in Week 6 that was missing its heart in MLB David Harris. Cardinals RB David Johnson had 111 of his club's 171 yards on the ground, but the Jets have responded in a big way the past two weeks. They held the Ravens to a franchise-low 11 yards in a Week 7 triumph and then limited the Browns to just 68 yards as they ran their win streak to two. The Jets defense has allowed an average of 74 rush yards per game this season and they are limiting backs to just 3.3 yards per attempt.
Turning It Around: Still ranked T31 in terms of turnover margin at -8, the Jets are beginning to reverse their fortunes. During their current two-game win streak, the Green & White are 4. Even the one time they fumbled the ball away against the Ravens, WR Brandon Marshall negated it with a strip and recovery on the same sequence. Through six games, the Jets had two interceptions. But they combined for four INTs against the Ravens and the Browns and S Marcus Gilchrist has recorded picks in consecutive outings for the first time in his career. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has remained turnover-free since taking over in the first half for Geno Smith against the Ravens. While the Dolphins have produced clean offensive games in their two-game win streak, they have just six takeaways and rank T30 in that key area.
Secondary Uncertainty: The Jets continue to work on limiting the big plays that have hampered the defense entering Week 9. They could get a shot in the arm (knee) with the return of Buster Skrine. The Dolphins actually own the NFL's 10th-ranked pass defense, but they are patching things together on the back end. They could get CB Chris Culliver, who missed the team's first seven games while recovering from a knee injury, back this weekend. The Dolphins lost rookie Xavien Howard to knee surgery and are currently starting Bryon Maxwell and Tony Lippett. Losing Pro Bowl S Reshad Jones was a major blow and Miami is depending on backup Michael Thomas to fill in admirably over the season's second half while continuing to receive steady production from Isa Abdul-Quddus.
Marshall vs. Maxwell: During Wednesday's locker room session with the media, Brandon Marshall said the aforementioned Maxwell held him every single play last season when the corner was an Eagle. Marshall won their Week 3 battle and recorded 10 catches for 109 yards and 1 TD, but Maxwell was on the winning side as the Eagles took home a 24-17 victory. In the offseason, the Eagles traded Maxwell and LB Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins in a trade that featured a swap of first-round picks. Marshall, who was a Dolphin from 2010-11 and still has a home in Miami, totaled 167 catches, 2,228 yards receiving and 9 TDs in his two years in South Florida. This will mark Marshall's first game against his former team back in Miami.
The Jets Head to South Beach for Their Sunday Matchup Against the Dolphins
Home Is on the Horizon: As we start the season's second half, both the Jets and the Dolphins are in the same position. They need to continue to stacki up wins after creating holes. Seeking a .500 mark, the Dolphins will complete a rare four-game homestand before finishing with five of their last eight on the road. It's a different story for the Jets as they'll finish up a grueling early-season stretch that saw them on the road for six of their first nine. After they leave South Florida, the Green & White will return to MetLife Stadium for three consecutive home games and their Dec. 17 home date against the Dolphins will conclude a stretch of four of five in the friendly confines of MetLife Stadium.