Surprising Jets go for sweep of Dolphins
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are coming off their most impressive victory.
The New York Jets are coming off their most impressive defeat.
On Sunday, these AFC East rivals will meet at Hard Rock Stadium as the Dolphins (3-2) seek to avenge a 20-6 loss to the Jets (3-3) in Week 3.
That loss, at the time, was viewed as a humiliating outcome for Miami since the Jets were expected to be so bad that some media members speculated they would tank this season in order to get a possible No. 1 overall draft pick for 2018.
But New York completely shut down the Dolphins that day, allowing only a meaningless touchdown on the final play.
Instead of tanking, the Jets went on a three-game winning streak. That run was snapped Sunday, but host New York may have earned more respect with a 24-17 loss to the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots than in any of its three wins.
The Jets led 14-0 and had a touchdown pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins overturned on video replay. Instead of a touchdown, it was ruled a fumble and a touchback even though the ball never hit the ground.
"I think the whole stadium felt (the call) was wrong," Jets safety Jamal Adams told the media in New York.
While the Jets were earning their respect, the Dolphins -- who made the playoffs last year and were supposed to be serious contenders this season -- were trying to find out what happened to their offense.
They fell behind the Atlanta Falcons 17-0 at halftime this past Sunday. That continued a sad trend for Miami -- just one non-garbage-time touchdown for the offense in its past 15 quarters.
Shockingly, though, the offense scored two touchdowns in the third quarter and the Dolphins upset the reigning NFC champion Falcons 20-17.
"I don't think anyone outside our locker room gave us a chance," Miami rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley said.
He's right about that, and with good reason -- the Dolphins' offense had been awful all season until Sunday's third quarter, when Jay Cutler threw touchdown passes to Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry.
And all of that leads us to Sunday, where the Dolphins are slight favorites by virtue of being the home team. What that indicates is the Jets are not as bad as most thought and the Dolphins are not as good.
Injuries, as usual, could be a factor.
Bilal Powell, who is New York's best running back, missed the Patriots game because of a calf injury and is questionable for Miami. He was back at practice Wednesday, giving him a shot to play Sunday.
Muhammad Wilkerson, New York's best defensive lineman, is questionable due to toe and shoulder injuries. The Jets need him healthy because they have just seven sacks this season as a team -- zero from the defensive linemen.
For the Dolphins, center Mike Pouncey missed the second half of the Falcons game due to a concussion and is likely out against New York. That is a huge loss for Miami -- Pouncey is an All-Pro blocker and the team's best offensive lineman.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker, who is arguably Miami's best red-zone target, missed the Falcons game due to an ankle injury and is also unlikely to face the Jets.
With Parker out, Landry caught eight passes for 62 yards against Atlanta. He was targeted 14 times, nine times more than any of his teammates.
Guarding Landry will certainly be a focus for the Jets, who will try to engineer a season sweep over the Dolphins on Sunday.
The Jets will make that effort with a quarterback, Josh McCown, who has won more than three games in a season just once in a 16-year career.
McCown is 3-3 so far this season, halfway toward his career-best win total, set in 2004 when he went 6-7 with the Arizona Cardinals.
How surprising have the Jets been so far?
Take Jeremy Kerley -- no one else in the league wanted him when he was cut by the San Francisco 49ers (0-6) on Sept. 2. It was the second time Kerley had been released by an NFL team -- the Jets also cut him in 2016.
Yet, despite all that rejection, Kerley has caught nearly everything thrown his way this season -- and that is not hyperbole. Of 20 passes thrown in his direction, he has caught 19 for 193 yards and one touchdown.
The Jets' leading receiver is Jermaine Kearse (26 catches, 299 yards, three touchdowns), who arrived in New York in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks that occurred just days before the start of the season.
New York's second-leading receiver is Seferian-Jenkins, who has 23 catches and two touchdowns. He missed the first two games after pleading guilty to driving under the influence.
Both Kearse and Seferian-Jenkins have found new homes with the Jets, who are one game out of first place in the AFC East and just a half-game behind Miami.
"Not a lot of people know about our team," Kearse told the media in New York. "But we're coming together. We fight and compete for each other."
Updated October 19, 2017