NFL on Sling: Dolphins-Jets in AFC East Battle Saturday, Bucs and Cowboys in Possible Playoff Preview Sunday
Miami Dolphins (8-5) vs New York Jets (4-9)
8:25pm ET on NFL Network
The Miami Dolphins are one of three AFC teams with a record of 8-5, but are the only one not currently in the playoff picture. The Steelers lead the AFC North, while the Broncos hold the second Wild Card spot, edging out the Dolphins by dint of their superior margin of victory. Miami barely survived last week’s game with the Cardinals, blowing a 12-point second-half lead, before kicking a field goal with time running out to win 26-23. Unfortunately, QB Ryan Tannehill was knocked out of the game with a sprained knee that will sideline him for at least a week, maybe longer. Matt Moore came on in relief, and after a shaky start completed both his passes on the game’s final drive for a total of 41 yards. Despite their winning record, the Fish have been outscored by their opponents this season, without Tannehill they’re in big trouble, but for one week, at least, the scheduling Gods have taken mercy on them.
The Ryan Fitzpatrick Era appears to have come to a merciful end in East Rutherford, as the Jets have given the start to Bryce Petty in 2 of the last 3 games. The 25-year-old rookie QB has not exactly taken the world by storm, completing 55 of 94 (58.5%) passes for 574 yards for 2 TDs and 4 INT, while getting sacked 8 times for -49 yards. That said, just last week he led the Jets from down 14 in the 2nd quarter to a 23-17 overtime victory – admittedly, it was against the Niners, but still… The Jets will also be without leading rusher Matt Forte, who’s got a bum knee, and center Nick Mangold, who’s out for the season with an ankle injury.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) vs Dallas Cowboys (11-2)
8:30pm ET on NBC
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers come into this week riding the longest winning streak in the NFL, having come out on top for their last 5 games. Credit for last week’s 16-11 win over the Saints goes entirely to the defense, as Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves and Keith Tandy each picked off a Drew Brees pass, as Brees completed 25 of 41 for 257 yards and zero touchdown. The only touchdown of the whole game was scored by Tampa running back Doug Martin, who broke through the left side of the line to score from a yard out. But even Martin was meh on the day, rushing 23 times for just 66 yards. Jameis Winston was just OK, hitting on 16 of 26 for 184 yards, no TDs or INTs, while getting sacked twice for a total of 18 yards. During the current winning streak, the Tampa D has held opponents to 12.8 points and 299 yards per game, while forcing 2.8 turnovers.
Tampa’s defense better be sharp, because the Cowboys are sure to come out swinging after losing 10-7 last week to the Giants, the only team to have beaten them this season. Dak Prescott had the worst outing of his 13-game career, completing 17 of 37 for 165 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs, and he got sacked 3 times, as the Giants’ pass rush simply overwhelmed one of the best offensive lines in the league. Fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott managed to rush for 104 yards on 24 carries, but couldn’t get the ball in the end zone. The Cowboys kept Eli Manning under wraps for most of the game, holding him to 193 yards on 17-of-28 passing, but late in the 3rd quarter, while trailing 7-3, Manning found Odell Beckham Jr over the middle, and OBJ turned it up field for a 66-yard TD that would prove to be the difference. The Cowboys have scored a total of 26 points in two games against the Giants, against the rest of the league they average 28.5.
1pm on FOX
Green Bay Packers (7-6) vs Chicago Bears (3-10)
Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) vs Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
Detroit Lions (9-4) vs New York Giants (9-4)
4pm on FOX
New Orleans Saints (5-8) vs Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1)
San Francisco 49ers (1-12) vs Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
Watch the Dolphins vs Jets 8:25pm ET Saturday on the NFL Network, the Buccaneers vs Cowboys at 8:30pm ET Sunday on NBC, and regional action Sunday on FOX by subscribing to Sling Blue