Dolphins stay in playoff hunt with win over Jets

The Dolphins trucked the Jets, 34-13, en route to their first winning season in almost a decade. The playoffs are still very much in their line of vision.

Here's what we learned...

  1. This is not another Fire-Todd-Bowles hot take. What we saw on Saturday night against the Dolphins (9-5) was another prime-time affair lacking almost entirely in effort from the green team. Just like the 41-10 Colts blowout on Monday Night Football back on Dec. 5, we saw all three phases break down in significant ways for the Jets (4-10). While that rests on Bowles' shoulders, he deserves the chance to do this his way once management cuts all the dead weight and entitled first-round picks from their roster.

This was a middling, veteran-laden club masquerading as a playoff contender this season and when the best laid plans don't materialize, you are left with pricey, aging players who don't give 100 percent and excited younger players who just aren't experienced enough to contribute in a significant way. I counted zero players truly chasing Jarvis Landry on his knockout-blow touchdown in the third quarter, which underscored what a group of very loyal and cold fans sat through on Saturday in New Jersey. We bring up Bowles' future, though, because it will be in doubt. With losses like this in two of their last three games, ownership will have to wonder if he's the kind of person who can galvanize a locker room full of men. Woody Johnson will have to convince himself that Bowles can, but just a different group of 53.

  1. Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore has always been one of the better, if less heralded, backup quarterbacks in the league. His preference to remain in Miami and keep a stable home environment is admirable, but is there any doubt that he could be starting for six different NFL teams right now? The 32-year-old is a significant front runner for AFC Offensive Player of the Week after a monstrous four-touchdown game. He could have exited in the third quarter with the game well in hand and this is with four years and 11 months in between starts. Moore officially posted 236 passing yards, four touchdowns, a 66 completion percentage and just one pick. Let's not count the Dolphins out of the playoff race just yet.
  1. If the Jets saw this kind of potential in Bilal Powell years ago and continued to make him an oft-ignored third-down back than shame on them. Although, Powell's late emergence allowed general manager Mike Maccagnan to steal him for $6 million guaranteed this offseason (a three-year, $11.25 million deal in total). Powell is one of the building blocks that will bridge the gap between this old, top-heavy team and a much younger, cost-efficient version of the Jets that we'll see a year from now. He finished Saturday night's game with 16 carries for 84 yards and 11 receptions for 78 yards. In a two-game span with Matt Forte injured, Powell has racked up 341 total yards.
  1. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that the Jets did not activate Christian Hackenberg, else they would have been tempted to play him once Bryce Pettywent down in the fourth quarter. Following a miscommunication on a snap, both Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake came unblocked and nearly sliced Petty in half, leading to the momentary return of Ryan Fitzpatrick. While it was probably the sensible thing to do (if you're going to commit to red-shirting Hackenberg and won't change your mind after being eliminated from playoff contention, why change now?), seeing Fitzpatrick in the game chucking passes illustrated just how big of a mess the Jets have been this season. This was a team with four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster at one point.
  1. We mentioned it earlier, but the Dolphins essentially need to beat the Bills next weekend and hope that the Denver Broncos drop two of three to the very, very good Patriots, Chiefs and Raiders down the stretch and they'll wind up in the playoffs. We overreact to head coaching changes all the time and deify new leaders who can come in and generate a quick turnaround (see: Arizona, Indianapolis, Denver) but Gase seems to be building something sustainable in Miami. The organization, which clinched its first winning season in eight years Saturday, has a professional polish for the first time in a decade. With a talented foundation on the roster, the AFC East could get interesting.
  1. Why was Jets running back Matt Forte in the game with a torn meniscus? And why, after Powell carried the load for most of the game, did Forte get most of his work in the fourth quarter? The Jets also puzzled down the stretch with their choice to kick a field goal late in the fourth quarter but not onside kick after. What is going on under that headset?
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