The NFL regular season wraps up for two surprising teams in the AFC East on Sunday, as the New York Jets will travel south to square off with the Miami Dolphins. The Jets are coming off of a Week 17 road loss against the Seattle Seahawks, falling by a final score of 23-6. Miami is coming off of a defeat of their own on Sunday, losing 23-21 to the New England Patriots.
This will mark the second meeting of the season between the Jets and Dolphins, with New York notching a victory in the first matchup 40-17.
Let’s take a look at three keys to the game.
It’s Do Or Die Yet Again For Miami
If it feels like the Dolphins have been one win away from the postseason for the better part of a month, it’s because they have. Had they came out victorious in any of their last five games, this contest against New York might be a glorified exhibition and an opportunity for them to rest their players heading into the postseason.
As things turned out, the Dolphins have lost five straight games, and now need help in order to qualify for the postseason. They won’t make it unless they beat the Jets, so they’ll have to start there and put the failures of the last few weeks behind them. It’s going to be interesting to see whether the team will successfully be able to look at the opportunity ahead of them, rather than the disappointment that marred their past.
Can McDaniel Find A Way To Adjust?
The lack of results in Miami’s last few games have been well documented, but their uncertainty under center has created a tumultuous foundation for a team looking to establish itself. Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered his second documented concussion against the Green Bay Packers, and backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a finger injury against New England last week.
These moving parts forced rookie third string quarterback Skylar Thompson into action for the second time this season. Thompson looked uncomfortable in relief against the Patriots, routinely opting to check the ball down rather than throw the football deep in a situation where Miami needed points quickly. Whether it’s Bridgewater or Thompson under center, head coach Mike McDaniel is going to need to come up with a way to restart a sputtering offense.
How Will The Jets Finish The Year?
The Jets’ playoff hopes were left behind in Seattle, as their defeat means that they will not qualify for the postseason for a 12th consecutive year. The drought has little to do with the current players and coaching staff, but the manner in which they fell to the Seahawks will affect New York in one of two ways.
They will either be motivated to complete their season strong, and head into the offseason with a better taste in their mouths. The team might also find themselves in a malaise, and feel sorry for themselves having squandered a good chance to make the playoffs. Head coach Robert Saleh’s inspirational words will be more important than the tactical game plan this week.