The Jets (4-9) picked up an overtime victory last week against the San Francisco 49ers 23-17. The win notched their third road victory of the season, but this Saturday night Gang Green will host a division rival -- the Miami Dolphins (8-5). Miami has been a surprising team this year and have a chance to make the playoffs. They are coming off a close 26-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals last week.
Both teams know each other well and it should be a competitive matchup on a primetime stage. When they played each other back in November, it came down to the fourth quarter and Miami was able to make the plays to come out on top 27-23. Kenyan Drake's 96-yard kickoff return helped seal the win. Here's what to watch for during the game:
WHEN: Saturday, December 17, 2016 8:25 p.m. EST
WHERE: MetLife Stadium East Rutherford, N.J.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Jets running back Bilal Powell was the hero last week, scoring the game-winning touchdown down on a 19-yard run in overtime. He ran with force and purpose the entire game, putting up a career best 145 yards on 29 carries. The Jets need to have the same mindset and get him more than enough touches tomorrow night. Matt Forte only played the first two series last week before leaving the game with a torn meniscus. Head coach Todd Bowles said he will be a game-time decision but Powell has shown that he's capable of being the feature back. The Jets are averaging 111.4 rushing yards per game this season, but the dilemma with this team has always been -- will they stick with it? If they stay consistent with the run it should work in favor of the offense late in the game.
Last week, Bryce Petty picked up his first NFL win as a starter. After the game, Petty and his teammates were visibly fired up and excited about the win. Petty completed 23 of 35 passes for 257 yards and one interception. He admitted he was nervous making his second career start which explains for his interception in the opening stages of the game. He plays with a confidence and leadership quality we haven't seen at the quarterback position this year. This was evident based on the emotion he displayed after converting a clutch five yard run on a two-point conversion. As Bryce continues to get more comfortable with the system other do as well. Austin Seferian-Jenkins had his best game with the Green and White last week and Petty showed his willingness to survey the options and make all of his weapons feel welcomed. He spread the ball around to his receiving options and he'll need to do the same against the Dolphins to come out with the win. On the flip side, Matt Moore will be under center for the Miami as starter Ryan Tannehill went down with a torn ACL last week. He is a serviceable backup and is capable of making plays and we all know the Jets have struggled defending the pass this year.
Special teams cost the Jets the game the last time these teams played. Since then, the glaring struggles of this unit have surfaced in recent weeks. Rookie Punter Lachlan Edwards has lost some luster in his kicks and the return game has been non-existent. This week, coordinator Brant Boyer admitted his unit needs to play a lot better against Miami.
"Anybody in our room that doesn't think these guys kicked our butts, and that's saying it nicely, then something's wrong with that," said Boyer. "Hopefully we play a hell of a lot better than we did when we were down there."
Dolphins wide out Jakeem Grant is a player that can do damage in the return game, along with Drake, of course. The Jets haven't had a consistent returner all year. Jalin Marshall has struggled but he's been dealing with a concussion. In practice, we've seen many different players get punt return reps. Nick Marshall, Marcus Williams, and even Brandon Marshall. Devin Smith got his first action of the season last week, but he's still working his way back. Nick Marshall had the return duties last week but we'll see if he stays back there. Regardless of who plays, special teams will be an important aspect of this game, hopefully the Jets are prepared.
Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Mario Williams and Andre Branch want to get after Bryce and quell the Petty mania. The Jets are banged up on the offensive line and you could see signs of it in the pass protection last week. Nick Mangold, Ryan Clady, and Breno Giacomini are all on IR. It's been a mess shuffling players in and out of the lineup, and playing guys out of position. This is the weakest position of the offense, but the strength of this unit is running the football, and the Jets need to utilize it to win. Miami can rattle Petty early and throw him off his game. Petty likes to throw it downfield and if the offensive line gives him time he can find his targets.
X-Factor- Robby Anderson
Robby Anderson is emerging as Petty's favorite target. He hauled in a team leading six catches for 99 yards last week and may fly under the radar while Brandon Marshall and Bryon Maxwell wresting with each other all night. This is a perfect opportunity for Anderson to showcase his blazing speed. Virtually every game he beats his man deep and there's no doubt Petty will look his way. Anderson has the talent and Petty has the arm strength. Execution will be key.
Prediction: Miami 20-17
The Jets don't play well at home. They are 1-5 at MetLife this season and I think they'll lose another. Petty will go through some growing pains and Miami will make it tough for him. The Dolphins have a huge advantage on special teams and it will play a role just as it did in the first game. From top to bottom, the Dolphins are a better team overall.
Marcus Reynolds is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Marcus_JRNL), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).