The lack of a legitimate running game and a bullying scandal that consumed the NFL for weeks should have torpedoed the Miami Dolphins, but now they stand one victory and little bit of luck away from their first postseason appearance in five years.
The absence of offensive lineman Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin aside, the Dolphins will need a victory over the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon at SunLife Stadium, and a loss or tie by the Baltimore Ravens or a win by the San Diego Chargers.
After the first nine weeks of the season the Jets were 5-4 and also in line for the playoffs in the weak AFC, but a 2-4 stretch after the bye and rookie quarterback Geno Smith committing turnover after turnover have moved New York and head coach Rex Ryan out of the playoff picture for the third straight year.
Ryan’s job security is also in question, even though New York remained in the playoff hunt for much of the season.
Smith has totaled 12 touchdowns to 21 interceptions, but calmed down in last week’s 24-13 win over Cleveland for 214 yards and two passing scores, with another on the ground.
Running back Chris Ivory also continued his solid season with 109 rushing yards, and could be the key to thwarting Miami’s playoff hopes. The Dolphins are 25th overall against the run after letting up 203 rushing yards in last week’s 19-0 collapse at Buffalo.
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked seven times by the Bills, padding his season total to 58, and meets a Jets pass rush powered by Muhammad Wilkerson and Calvin Pace’s 20.5 combined sacks.
Tannehill has still completed 23 touchdown passes and thrown for 3,709 yards, with receivers Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace the main beneficiaries. But Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas and the Dolphins 26th ranked rushing offense has limited the squad’s production all season.
The duo of Thomas and Miller has only broken the 100-yard rushing mark twice this season, and Thomas is currently listed as questionable with an ankle injury.
Even with the defense’s recent struggles two of the Dolphins four Pro Bowl selections went to cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Cameron Wake. Grimes leads the team with four interceptions and 15 pass breakups, and Wake’s been a top all-around end with 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Betting Odds: Miami favored by 6
Over/Under: 41.5 points
Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Online Stream Info: NFL Sunday Ticket
Prediction: Miami 17, New York 10