At this time last year, the New York Jets were 9-5, in the thick of the race for the AFC’s sixth playoff spot and winning at just the right time.
This is exactly where the Miami Dolphins sit now after they beat the hapless Jets on Saturday night. After the Denver Broncos slipped to 8-6 with another loss Sunday, Miami is now in control of its own destiny; they’d be the sixth seed if the season ended today.
In a way, this is what the most optimistic Jets fans hoped Gang Green would pull off again this year. In August, on paper, the roster looked comparable to 2015’s in terms of talent, though many bodies on the veteran-heavy team were simply another year older. With the Patriots blocking the path to a division title year after year, nine wins and a possible wild card berth looked like a respectable finish. But instead, it’s the ‘Phins enjoying that status now.
The closer you look, the more similarities between the 2016 Dolphins and the 2015 Jets reveal themselves. Both teams were under the direction of first-year head coaches (Todd Bowles and Adam Gase) and both had the advantage of easy schedules. The 2015 Jets’ final strength of schedule came out to .442; currently, the Dolphins is .455, counting all 16 games, and a mere .423 through their first 14.
But the teams don’t compare as well in the scoring department, which betrays the fact that Miami isn’t built for the playoffs if they do make it.
Consider last year’s Jets, with their final point differential of +73. They scored 24.2 points per game, allowed just 19.6 and won six of their 10 victories by 13 points or more. In contrast, this year’s ‘Phins have just a +1 point differential so far — scoring 22.5 points a game and allowing 22.4. And seven of their nine wins have come by seven points or fewer.
Remember, this is against an extremely easy schedule. Miami needed overtime to squeak by winless Cleveland, beat Los Angeles by four and San Francisco by seven.
It’s just the Jets’ luck that the Dolphins could make the playoffs in 2016 when they themselves could not in 2015. Yes, Miami is undeniably winning at the right time. But between their loss of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the rest of the season to knee ligament sprains and the fact that they’ve just been squeaking by against poorer competition, they would hardly keep most playoff teams’ coaches up at night in January.
Photo courtesy of nyjets.com