While the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are in the thick of the AFC wild-card hunt, neither team has been able to get it together.
The Jets and Dolphins both try to get on track Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.
After New York (5-6) became the first NFL team to alternate wins and losses through its first 10 games, that trend ended last Sunday with an ugly 19-3 loss at Baltimore. Geno Smith completed 9 of 22 passes for 127 yards and threw two more interceptions as the Jets were held to a season-low 220 yards of total offense.
“The mistakes we made, they’re not on one person,” said coach Rex Ryan, who plans to stick with Smith for the time being. “Offensively, as it always does, it seems like we talk about Geno all the time and that stats are out there for the public awareness, I guess. Here are the facts: He was 9 for 22, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. It’s certainly not on one guy.”
The Dolphins (5-6), meanwhile, are coming off a 20-16 loss to Carolina. Ryan Tannehill threw for 310 yards and a touchdown, but Miami was held to 23 points or fewer for an eighth consecutive game, a stretch during which it has gone 2-6.
“It’s hard to score 20, 17, 23, 19, 22 and consistently win games in the National Football League,” coach Joe Philbin said. “That’s hard to do, so we have to score more points.”
With the division title all but out of reach as the Jets and Dolphins trail New England by three games, they are two of several teams battling for the sixth and final playoff spot.
“At this point every game is a must-win,” Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson told the team’s official website. “These last five games, it’s at the end now. We’ve definitely got to make sure we get these wins. We’ve got to make sure and prepare real well and execute our game plan and get the win against Miami. It’s a division opponent so we have to make sure we get this win.”
A better performance from Smith could go a long way for New York. The struggling rookie QB only completed 25 passes in three games in November, with just five going for 20 yards or more. In contrast, he had 17 such completions in September and 10 in October.
“The precision is huge especially when you talk about lower-percentage passes like those ones going downfield,” said Smith, who has posted a 15.3 passer rating in the last two games. “It’s something we’ve been working on. I don’t think we’ve shied away from it or gotten away from it. I just think we haven’t executed it as well as we’ve done in the past.”
Smith has thrown an NFL-worst 18 interceptions - five in the last two games - and he appears to have a difficult matchup against Miami. The Dolphins have allowed just 12 passing TDs while recording 14 picks, good for the league’s third-best ratio at 0.86.
New York could also have a hard time getting its ground game going without Chris Ivory, who is questionable after suffering an ankle injury last week. Ivory carried the ball 33 times for 237 yards - 7.2 per attempt - and two touchdowns in the previous two games.
Bilal Powell would likely start if Ivory can’t go.
Dolphins running back Lamar Miller, posting 43.2 rushing yards per game, could take on a bigger workload with Daniel Thomas (ankle) out. Marcus Thigpen also figures to be involved going forward.
“We’ve all seen his speed flash at certain times on special teams,” Tannehill said of Thigpen. “He’s a weapon we can use in this offense. It’s going to be exciting to see what he can bring to the table.”
Miami, held to a franchise-low two rushing yards on 14 attempts in a 22-19 loss at Tampa Bay in Week 10, managed just 52 against the Panthers.
“You have to be able to run the ball to be effective,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “We just have to find a way to get the balance that we so desperately need. We don’t have that balance right now.”
The Dolphins have dropped three straight on the road, but they are 4-1 at New York since 2008. The Jets are 4-1 at home.