1:00 PM ET, December 29, 2013
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
The New York Jets, meanwhile, may be preparing for a future without Rex Ryan as they miss the playoffs for a third straight season.
The AFC East rivals close out the season Sunday in Miami, where the Dolphins need a win and some help to end a five-year playoff drought.
Miami (8-7) put aside one of the biggest subplots in the league this year after its season nadir, a 22-19 loss to previously winless Tampa Bay on Nov. 11.
The Dolphins won four of five after that defeat but came completely undone last Sunday with a chance to help themselves. Losing 19-0 at Buffalo, they amassed only 14 rushing yards and 103 overall while allowing a season-high 203 on the ground in their worst performance of the year.
"That's the worst part -- we had everything in front of us," safety Jimmy Wilson said. "We knew how important that game was, and to drop it like that without getting points or making impact plays or giving ourselves a chance to win is a big letdown. We just have to get ready for a home game and go ahead and finish our season the right way."
The running game -- or lack thereof -- may make or break the Dolphins. Losing both Martin and Incognito decimated the depth of the offensive line, and Miami has rushed for 22 or fewer yards on five occasions.
The Dolphins ran the ball only 12 times versus the Bills, and while they did gain 125 on the ground in a 23-3 road victory over the Jets on Dec. 1, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has yet to fully trust his backs and give them the ball on a consistent basis.
"Of those 12 carries, our longest run was 3 yards," Sherman said as he prepares to face a Jets run defense that yields a league-low 3.3 yards per carry. "A lack of productivity in the run game caused me to veer off into another direction."
The lack of a ground game has at times hindered quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was battered at Buffalo, absorbing seven of Miami's league-high 58 sacks allowed.
With another solid performance against the Jets -- he threw for two TDs and a season-high 331 yards Dec. 1 -- Tannehill could give Miami a chance at its first playoff appearance since 2008.
"We have to play our best game of the year. It's a great way for us to finish the regular season," coach Joe Philbin said. "We've got a great opportunity."
The two simplest scenarios for the Dolphins to clinch a berth are a victory and a loss or tie by Baltimore or a victory coupled with a win by San Diego.
While everything is on the line for the Dolphins, about the only known thing at stake for the Jets (7-8) is the uncertain future of their coach.
Some could argue Ryan is performing one of his best coaching jobs this season -- trying to keep the team competitive with rookie quarterback Geno Smith learning on the fly -- but it remains to be seen if owner Woody Johnson and first-year general manager John Idzik will bring him back for a sixth season.
If it were up to the players, though, it wouldn't be an issue.
"It's just one of those things where he really cares about his players," said David Nelson, who caught two TD passes in last Sunday's 24-13 win over Cleveland. "Players appreciate that. Players know and they respect him for that. They believe in him and they respect him and they play hard for him.
"I think it's just the mutual respect he gives his players."
Though some of Smith's numbers -- most notably his 21 interceptions and 55.3 completion percentage -- are unsightly, he has set a rookie franchise record with 2,856 passing yards and is second among all quarterbacks with five rushing TDs after his 17-yard scoring dash versus the Browns.
Smith's four TD tosses over the last three games are four more than his previous five games combined, and he has thrown only two INTs in 89 passes while helping New York win two of three.
"He needs his time, and I think it's unfair for anybody to step out and say, `Oh, this kid is not having a great year. Let's look for a new one,'" guard Willie Colon said.
"Every player needs time to develop. It's up to us as a team to get better, up to us as a line to do a better job and let the kid grow up. And, I think he's doing that."
Smith, who was just 4 of 10 for 29 yards and an interception in the loss to Miami, has rushed for 142 yards and two TDs in his last three games.
The Dolphins have won six of the last nine between the teams and are seeking their first season sweep since 2009. The Jets, though, have won six of their last eight in Miami, and the last six games there have been decided by a combined 23 points.
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|Avg Points Allowed||24.2||20.9|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NYJ|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NYJ|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|NY Jets leads 15-11|
|Dec 1, 2013||NYJ 3, MIA 23|
|Oct 28, 2012||NYJ 9, MIA 30|
|Sep 23, 2012||NYJ 23, @MIA 20|
|Jan 1, 2012||NYJ 17, @MIA 19|
|Oct 17, 2011||NYJ 24, MIA 6|
|Dec 12, 2010||NYJ 6, MIA 10|
|Sep 26, 2010||NYJ 31, @MIA 23|
|Nov 1, 2009||NYJ 25, MIA 30|
|Oct 12, 2009||NYJ 27, @MIA 31|
|Dec 28, 2008||NYJ 17, MIA 24|
|Sep 7, 2008||NYJ 20, @MIA 14|
|Dec 2, 2007||NYJ 40, @MIA 13|
|Sep 23, 2007||NYJ 31, MIA 28|
|Dec 25, 2006||NYJ 13, @MIA 10|
|Oct 15, 2006||NYJ 20, MIA 17|
|Dec 18, 2005||NYJ 20, @MIA 24|
|Sep 18, 2005||NYJ 17, MIA 7|
|Nov 1, 2004||NYJ 41, MIA 14|
|Oct 3, 2004||NYJ 17, @MIA 9|
|Dec 28, 2003||NYJ 21, @MIA 23|
|Sep 14, 2003||NYJ 10, MIA 21|
|Nov 10, 2002||NYJ 13, MIA 10|
|Sep 22, 2002||NYJ 3, @MIA 30|
|Nov 18, 2001||NYJ 24, @MIA 0|
|Oct 14, 2001||NYJ 21, MIA 17|
Sheldon Richardson has now scored two touchdowns on three goal-to-go rushes this season. Jets running backs have one touchdown on 16 goal-to-go rushes.
Sheldon Richardson's 2 rushing TD are most in season by a defensive lineman since William "The Refrigerator" Perry had 2 for the 1985 Bears
The Ravens and Dolphins both controlled their own fate entering Week 16. Both lost in Weeks 16 and 17.[+]
Last 2 Weeks
Mike Wallace (MIA): 3rd straight home game with Rec TD (0 in 1st 5 home games this season)
Ryan Tannehill wasn't sacked for the first time this season, but did not benefit from the time to throw. Tannehill completed fewer than 50.0 percent of his attempts against a standard pass rush for the second week in a row and only third time this season.[+]
Ryan Tannehill Facing 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers - This Season vs Jets
Ryan Tannehill was able to upset the Patriots by going 5-of-10 on passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield. Tannehill followed up that effort by going 0-of-7 in each of his last two games. - Tannehill had completed 34.0 percent of his passes 15-plus yards entering Week 17, which ranked 37th out of 40 qualified quarterbacks. Last season Tannehill completed 47.8 percent of those passes, which ranked eighth overall. - Tannehill was 0-of-4 with an interception targeting Mike Wallace on those passes Sunday. Tannehill went 10-of-45 with two touchdowns and three interceptions to Wallace on the season.[+]
Ryan Tannehill Passing 15+ Yards Downfield - Last 3 Weeks
ESPN Stats & Information