A game on the road, by itself, doesn’t sound like a good proposition for the New York Jets right about now. They’ve lost two in a row, and are coming off a dismal visit to Chicago.
But matchups with division rivals, as the Jets (3-5) will have against the Miami Dolphins (4-4) on Sunday afternoon in South Florida, are winnable regardless of circumstances. These two AFC East foes have faced off twice a year for decades, and that breeds a certain familiarity.
Here’s a look at three keys to the wide-open matchup.
Sam’s second time
For the first time in his young career, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold will face a team for the second time.
In a 20-12 Week 2 loss at home, Darnold wasn’t overwhelmed playing against Miami his first time. His 334 yards through the air remains his professional best, but his two interceptions did little to help the team’s cause.
How Darnold adjusts to seeing the same secondary a second time — and vice versa — could be the most critical element of this battle. For what it’s worth, Darnold has struggled during the Jets’ current two-game losing streak.
The Jets won’t be facing starting Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has not played since Oct. 7 while nursing a shoulder injury. Instead, journeyman Brock Osweiler will get the call again.
In three starts since Tannehill went down, Osweiler hasn’t played particularly poorly. He hasn’t lit the field aflame either. He’s much the same player whom the Houston Texans gave up on one year into a big-money contract signed in 2016. He’s been around for a good chunk of their current 1-4 stretch.
Gang Green’s secondary could be at full strength again — cornerback Trumaine Johnson finally returned to practice Thursday — and they’ve feasted on more accomplished passers than Osweiler this year.
Will Crow show?
At this point, Isaiah Crowell cannot be considered a reliable weapon in the Jets’ offensive arsenal. He’s capable of big things at any time, but not consistently.
Case in point: Crowell ranks a respectable 11th in the NFL with 484 yards on the ground through eight weeks, and has an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. However, 321 yards came in his only two 100-yard-plus rushing games, accounting for 66.3 percent of his production. Those are the only two games in which he averaged more than 3.1 yards per carry.
The Dolphins’s run defense is among the softer ones in the NFL, but they did hold Crowell to 35 yards on 12 carries in September. Clearly, the Jets need him to be more effective Sunday.
Jets 24, Dolphins 21