(SportsNetwork.com) – The margin for error is getting smaller and smaller when
it comes to the AFC playoff hunt for the Miami Dolphins.
And the Dolphins can’t afford another slip up when they put a period on Week
13 of the NFL season by visiting a hapless New York Jets team turning back to
Geno Smith on “Monday Night Football.”
Smith, who started the first eight games this season before being benched,
replaced Michael Vick under center during last Monday’s 38-3 drubbing at the
hands of the Buffalo Bills, a setback that dropped the Jets to 2-9.
Embattled New York coach Rex Ryan claims to have made the decision and
informed both quarterbacks Wednesday morning.
“Everybody’s on board with this decision,” Ryan said. “I have said it all
along that I feel we have two good quarterbacks, I definitely feel that. And
we have another guy that is a decent quarterback as well, in (Matt) Simms. But
I feel that way.”
Smith had been the Jets’ starter for the first 24 games of his career after
the team selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was
benched in the Week 8 loss to Buffalo after throwing three interceptions in
the first 10 minutes of the contest and Vick was named the starter the
“We purposely put Geno back, let him observe,” Ryan said. “Now is the
opportunity for him to step back in and let’s see how it goes. I, for one, am
excited to watch him. He has my support on this, and that’s what I’ll say
Vick started the past three games for the Jets, leading the team to a victory
in Week 10 against Pittsburgh to end an eight-game losing streak. He struggled
in Monday’s game against the Bills at Detroit’s Ford Field, completing just 7-
of-19 passes for 76 yards with an interception while being sacked five times.
The game was moved from Ralph Wilson Stadium after the venue was deemed
unplayable due to several feet of snow that fell last week, crippling Buffalo
and neighboring areas.
Smith entered in the third quarter and connected on 10-of-12 throws for 89
yards while being sacked twice.
“Horrible performance. We couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t block. Couldn’t
tackle. Couldn’t cover. It was just an awful performance,” Ryan admitted.
The Dolphins suffered their own disappointing, almost debilitating loss at
Denver in Week 12, albeit a far more competitive one when Peyton Manning threw
four touchdown passes, three to Demaryius Thomas and two during a fourth-
quarter rally, that lifted the Broncos to a hard-earned 39-36 win.
The Broncos trailed a gritty Miami team for most of the game and were down
28-17 after three quarters, then erupted for 22 consecutive points in the
fourth to regain sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to put Miami in
position for the upset before Manning engineered his 41st career fourth-
quarter comeback. The young quarterback completed 26-of-36 throws for 228
yards with a costly late interception that helped seal the outcome.
“As a competitor, you don’t like to see it,” Tannehill said. “We didn’t score
enough points in the second half.”
Jarvis Landry hauled in two of Tannehill’s scoring strikes and recorded seven
catches for 50 yards.
The Jets lead their all-time series with Miami by a 50-45-1 margin. On Monday
night, the Dolphins play .500 football at 40-40 while New York is underwater
The two teams will rematch in South Florida during Week 17.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Miami has struggled mightily in close games this season, going 0-3 in contests
decided by four or fewer points. In addition to the loss in Denver, the
Dolphins suffered setbacks to Green Bay in Week 6 and Detroit in Week 10 due
to late-game collapses.
“We have to find a way to win some of those games,” Miami coach Joe Philbin
admitted. “We’re going to be in some more of those games. That’s just the way
the NFL is.”
Entering Week 13, 11 of the AFC’s 16 teams had six-or-more wins and most them
were above the Dolphins, making this a virtual must win for a team which
hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2008.
“I don’t think the records really matter right now,” Philbin said. “We have to
go win a game against the New York Jets. That’s really the only thing that is
on my mind and should be on our players’ minds at this point.”
Getting to play the Jets twice in the final five weeks will only help,
especially now that they have turned back toward Smith, who looked terribly
overmatched in his first eight opportunities this season. The West Virginia
product has thrown for 1,459 yards with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions
Turnovers have been a major issue for the Jets, who are minus-12 on the
season, a number that helps explain how the team can be ranked No. 7 in total
defense (328.8 yards per game) but be tied for 30th in points allowed (27.5
points per game).
Tannehill, meanwhile, has been hot recently and is third in the NFL with a
70.9 completion percentage over his last six games while throwing 12 TD passes
against just three interceptions over that span.
With Smith back under center the Jets will try to rely on a running game that
stumbled against the Bills, gaining just 92 yards on the ground. Miami,
however, allowed a season-high 201 against the Broncos with the lightly-
regarded C.J. Anderson gashing them for 167.
“They have an outstanding defensive line,” Ryan said of the Dolphins.
“Absolutely it starts up front. If we can’t block them it doesn’t matter who
you have at quarterback.”
New York is also expected to be without star defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson
due to an injured toe suffered in Detroit.
“It doesn’t look good for Big Mo,” Ryan said. “If you’re in a boot, that
doesn’t look good for this week. But, hopefully, we’ll get him back as soon as
By going back to Smith, Ryan has essentially waived the white flag on the
season and his career as the Jets’ head coach. It also plainly indicates the
power in the organization is with unpopular general manager John Idzik.
The Jets aren’t a good team with either signal caller but Vick can at least
get hot every now and again and make New York competitive, albeit
“I think the best thing for this team right now is to play Geno Smith,” Ryan
said unconvincingly. “Right now, for all the reasons we talked about. Is one
of those reasons, does he give you a great chance to win, or a chance to win?
I believe he does give us a chance to win.”
Not much of one moving forward.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Dolphins 23, Jets 16