The NFL returns to London this weekend for the first divisional match held off shore. 90,000 people will fill Wembley stadium for a game between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, two of the NFL’s most storied franchises.
Both teams spent big in the pre-season to try and catch division rivals and current champions the New England Patriots but despite splashing the cash both teams arrive with a different narrative.
The Dolphins have looked awkward at best over the first three games and despite having the pieces of a team expected to perform well and perhaps even take the division crown from the Patriots but over the course of the first three games things aren’t as rosy as they may appear.
Despite stuttering to a win over the Washington Redskins in week 1 the Dolphins have been poor in the following two weeks, being beaten by perennial basement dwellers the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 2 before being routed by division rivals the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 41-14. Rumours of discontent in the locker room, $100m signing Ndamukong Suh making plays up by himself and offensive line play that hasn’t been up to scratch have left the Dolphins languishing a 1-2. These were winnable games for the for the Dolphins, losing to the Jaguars despite having a far more talented roster is bad enough but the manner of the defeat to a division rival in the Buffalo Bills was insipid.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been the $100m player they had hoped for either, but the Dolphins offensive struggles start with the offensive line, this means they have been unable to get the run game going. Tannehill has been under immense pressure these first three games as a result, with no ground attack to pack the box he has been left exposed in the pocket. That being said you would expect a quarterback of his ability to be able to handle the situation better.
New York Jets
The Jets on the other hand hold a 2-1 record, and have come have on the surface been playing significantly better. Their week 2 win against the much fancied Indianapolis Colts showed just how far this team has come in the space of one off-season and despite a set back in week 3 losing to the Philadelphia Eagles this teams feels like a play off challenge could be on the cards.
New coach Todd Bowles took over a team this off season that also splashed the cash, and while they didn’t manage to match the cash thrown at Suh by the Dolphins they have assembled a fantastic defence that boasts 9 first round draft picks, and have been impressive. This team is significantly better than the one that finished 4-12 last season. Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall joined from the Chicago Bears and a trio of cornerbacks were signed. Buster Skrine joins from the Browns, where he made a big splash last season is joined by the returning Antonio Cromartie and Derrel Revis. As a result the Jets have arguably the strongest conerbacking Corps in the NFL. They’re no slouches in the trenches either, with this seasons first round pick joining an already talented group.
The Jets were given a blessing in disguise when anointed starting quarterback Geno Smith was chinned in a locker room bust up with undrafted free agent and now free agent again I.K Enemkpali putting him out of action until later in the season. How is this a blessing I hear you ask if a teams has lost its starting quarterback? Because Geno Smith is rubbishnis my answer. Replacement Ryan Fitzpatrick is a proven performer in this offensive scheme and in the league and with his hand on the rudder the Jets are in safer hands. Barring a disaster Geno Smith will likely never see an NFL field again.
In Miami coach Joe Philbin is undoubtedly on the Hot Seat, his tenure in Miami has been a bit of a disappointment to say the least. He’s been given the keys to a defensive Ferrari and at worst an offensive Ford Focus ST and frankly they should be doing better than they are. That being said, the Dolphins were in a similar predicament last season before they rallied after their win against the Raiders at Wembley last year so there’s at least a chance that lightning can strike twice but they ultimately faded and made it to 8-8.
Todd Bowles was hailed as a defensive genius after his time in Arizona, where he put together an impressive defence. The unit became the Cardinal’s strength and it needed to be given the number of quarterbacks they went through. His transition to head coach has been extremely fluid and at first glance he appears to have taken everything in his stride,made spite loosing his quarterback in preseason.
I’m going to go with the Jets, it’s going to be a defensive battle, I think Ryan Fitzpatrick will make fewer than mistakes thank his counterpart Tannehill and I think the Jets will create more turnovers.
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins is live on BBC2 at 2:30pm this Sunday.