The New York Jets can't afford to fall prey to their usual post-New England Patriots malaise, as they host another division rival, the Miami Dolphins, on Sunday.
Last season, the New York Jets lost to the New England Patriots in Week 10, with both teams entering the game at 5-3 and first place in the AFC East on the line. The Pats wiped the Jets, 37-16, and New York had to hop on a plane and face the Denver Broncos in three days' time. We know what happened there. TIm Tebow executed the most mind-boggling game-winning drive ever and the Jets lost a game that probably cost them their season in the long run.
In 2010, the Jets and Pats met at Gillette Stadium on Monday night in Week 13, with both teams entering the game 9-2. New England won the game 45-3. The Jets went home to host the Miami Dolphins, and didn't score a touchdown, losing 10-6 to a team that eventually finished 7-9. That year, the Jets did finish 11-5 and avenge their loss to the Pats in the playoffs, but it seemed to take them a while to get over that blowout loss in Foxboro.
There seems to be a bit of a pattern here, and last week the Jets lost a heartbreaker in New England. Up by three with a minute and a half remaining, the Jets ultimately fell in overtime, 29-26, and fell to 3-4, missing out on a chance to take an early stranglehold on the AFC East. Now, they host the well-rested Dolphins, who were a Dan Carpenter kick away from beating the Jets back when the teams met in Week 3 in Miami, a game the Jets snuck by in overtime 23-20.
There were many positives in the Jets' loss to New England. Quarterback Mark Sanchez is reaching Alex Rodirguez-level lightning rod status; Sunday's loss to the Pats seemed to cement the fact that you're either on Sanchez's side or your not. He threw for 328 yards and handed the Jets a lead that the defense squandered, but his game-clinching fumble in overtime is what his biggest critics are pointing to to make their point. His biggest defenders will point to a second half in which the Jets were down by 10 points, only to have Sanchez complete 16 of 20 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown and give the Jets a momentary lead.
In this debate season, the best thing Sanchez can do to help his cause is play like he did in New England the rest of the way, starting on Sunday against Miami. If Sanchez completes 70% of his passes the rest of the way - unlikely given his history - the Jets will probably contend for a playoff spot. Specifically against the Dolphins, the Jets will probably look to throw the ball given Miami's solid run defense. Sanchez has looked more comfortable with his receivers in the past three weeks; Jeremy Kerley has evolved into a dangerous downfield weapon, Dustin Keller is back from injury and Sanchez usually puts the ball right where rookie Stephen Hill should catch it - which he doesn't always do.
Miami has kind of snuck under the radar a bit this season behind rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, at 3-3 and having won two straight. Tannehill has completed a higher percentage of his passes than Sanchez, and has a slightly higher passer rating. Reggie Bush has has a solid season when he's been healthy, and as previously mentioned, the Dolphins are the fourth hardest team to run against so far this season. Where Miami struggles is in pass defense, but will the Jets show the confidence in Sanchez that they so clearly did not exhibit just a week earlier?
Since an embarrassing Week 4 performance against the San Francisco 49ers which had most observers writing the Jets off as a simply bad team, New York has done enough to prove they aren't exactly that. There are winnable games on the Jets' schedule the rest of the way, starting with Miami on Sunday, and in a precarious 3-4 position, they'll need to win them all if they want to be in the playoff race some December. They've showed flashes the past few weeks, but hey need to start winning games consistently again - and now.