Most expected the Miami Dolphins to dominate this season series against a woeful New York Jets squad, but instead New York emerged victorious in Week 3 while nearly shutting out the Dolphins’ offense. Miami scored a garbage-time touchdown with six seconds left to make the final score 20-6, but that was when the offense was mired in an ugly slump.
The Dolphins are far from world beaters right now, but the offense has shown a faint pulse the past two weeks in big wins over the Titans and Falcons to get back over .500. The Jets are sitting at 3-3, which is three wins more than most people thought they would have at this point in the season. Expect these five performances to stand out in Sunday’s action in which is likely to be a tight, ugly game. The predicted winner should emerge from the substance of these five calls:
1. Josh McCown will throw more interceptions than touchdowns
McCown has been an average stopgap starter for the Jets, but the wheels started to come off last week, and I’d expect him to keep sliding in Week 7. In two of McCown’s last three seasons, his interception number has been equal to or higher than the number of touchdowns he has thrown. This year he’s tossed seven scores to six picks, including a couple costly turnovers last week against New England when the Jets looked like they could establish more of a lead.
The Miami defense has played tough, but has four takeaways on the season. Three came in the past two weeks however, and the defense is playing more opportunistic and confident ball as it gains experience under new coordinator Matt Burke.
2. Jay Ajayi’s revival will continue
Ajayi hasn’t had the type of success some expected to start the season, but last week was a breakthrough performance for him and the offensive line. Ajayi rushed for 130 yards on 26 carries, and the offensive line finally looked like a potentially dominant unit for the first time this year. The Jets provide a tough challenge in some of the talent they have up front, but most of the defense has struggled, currently ranking 28th against the run despite not allowing a 100-yard rusher since Week 1.
When the Jets and Dolphins met in Week 6, Ajayi carried 11 times for just 16 yards in a dominant defensive performance by New York. This time Ajayi and the Dolphins will turn the tables — the back will get over 100 yards and be the key catalyst in pushing the Dolphins to 4-2.
3. Cordrea Tankersley will get his first interception
Tankersley has been close to getting a few picks this season, and made the deflection on a ball to Austin Hooper that was intercepted by Reshad Jones to seal the victory over Atlanta last week.
Tankersley has been playing the catch point well, but is limited by the fact that he has no hops and can’t play overthrows or high-point the football like many other corners can. McCown will throw a couple right to him in this game, however, and Tankersley will make him pay at least once by setting Miami up with a short field.
4. Leonard Williams will get his first sack of the season
One of the things that made Williams such a special player in his second season was his ability to consistently affect the game as a pass rusher while also being a dominant run defender who can line up all over a defense. This year the Jets’ defensive tackle hasn’t been as impactful as a pass rusher because Sheldon Richardson is gone and there is no other threat for opponents to focus on.
Despite Williams getting no help, Todd Bowles loves to run heavy twists up front with his personnel, and Miami’s offensive line has struggled to communicate and pass those off seamlessly in recent years. Williams has never had a sack in five career games against Miami, but Sunday that will change.
5. Cameron Wake will eat
Wake has owned the Jets throughout his career — especially lately, with four sacks and an interception in their past three matchups. He devoured Jet right tackle Brandon Shell in their last matchup, beating him for a sack and a handful of other pressures.
Shell has struggled in the starting lineup for the Jets, but he’s their best option given their current personnel, although the team would be wise to give him plenty of help in pass protection. If it doesn’t, Wake will do what he has always done in destroying the Jets’ offensive line and forcing McCown into more mistakes than he’ll already make on his own.