It did not play the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets in the 1982 AFC Championship Game. This isn’t Dan Marino’s fake Spike or the Jets’ Monday Night Miracle.
Shoot, it’s not even the Dolphins that are spoiling Jets’ Week 17 playoff hopes in 2011 or New York returning the favor after two years in the regular season finale.
It’s a rivalry that has been relatively dormant for the better part of the past decade, a process only made more difficult by the apparent quick rise of the New England Patriots’ post-Tom Brady era.
But there’s still plenty to see when the Dolphins kick off for another installment of the rivalry against the Jets, which will break the 55-55-1 series tie, on Sunday at 1 p.m. in East Rutherford, New Jersey. At MetLife Stadium.
For one, the process now finally begins to evaluate Tua Tagovailoa in the final seven games of the regular season, before the Miami brass decide whether it should renegotiate trade talks with the Houston Texans for the Elite. But quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Tagovailoa was ruled out of starting each of the last two matches after the November 2 trade deadline, having been thrown off the arm due to a fracture in the middle finger of his left hand. Available as a backup for Jacoby Brissette, when Brissette fell down catching his knee in the second half of the Dolphins on November 11, upset by a win over the Baltimore Ravens, Tagovailoa entered and was dominant given his boundaries.
Coming off the bench, Tagovailoa was 8 for 158 yards in the second half, hitting some big plays—a 64-yard catch and run for a wide-open Albert Wilson and another 35 yards. But deep. Jaylen Waddle showed that Tagovailoa could throw with an injured finger.
He is expected to play no-limits on Sunday in New York and appeared loose at Wednesday’s press conference this week, even showing off his touchdown dance from Thursday night’s win on the podium.
A Dolphins defense that has found its stride in two wins in five days over the Ravens and Texans is looking to continue that upward swing. Miami forced six turnovers in back-to-back victories, and the Dolphins now face veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, 36, who makes his season debut with Jets rookie Zach Wilson, who is still missing his knee. Recovering from injury and South Florida product Mike. White threw four interceptions against the Bills last week. Flacco was dropped last year in one start against Miami.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores downplayed the rivalry’s aspect from the team’s point of view this week, but acknowledged that fans exist.
“Every week, it’s our biggest rival,” Flores said. “For the fans, yes, it exists. For us and our team, I don’t think this sport has more energy than every other sport. For what some might consider a game of rivalry, There’s not much buildup, excitement or preparation. Every game is important in this league, so it’s really the same approach for me.”
And although the rebuilt jets are 2-7, Dolphins players know they’ll still go into a hostile environment at MetLife. Take it from safety, Eric Rowe, well-versed at the AFC East with the New England Patriots prior to his stint with the Dolphins, compared Jets fans to Buffalo Bills fans.
“Lately, obviously they haven’t been doing very well, but usually Jets fans are just as hostile,” Rowe said. “On the bus, they’re sitting there blowing you up, especially when I was back with New England. They hated us, and they used to shove you and try to throw stuff at you.
“When they go, that fan base — that jets jets (chant) — it gets louder. You’re just like, ‘Wow, this is real.’ Each fan base comes up with different things, but they are very hostile.”
The Dolphins are not taking the Jets lightly, especially with two New York victories against the Tennessee Titans (8-2) and the Cincinnati Bengals (5-4).
“They are a really great team,” said linebacker Jerome Baker. “They play really hard. They’ve got some great backs. They’ve been beaten, but you can’t sleep on them. They’ve beaten some great teams.”
Tagovailoa added: “They are good at what they do. Regardless of their losses, you look at the teams they’ve beaten and they’re some really good teams – Cincinnati and the Titans. We see things they do really well, and we try to avoid things that happen in these games. We are going to try our best to play a mistake free game.”
With Tagovailoa still suffering some finger and rib pain and discomfort, which cost him three games earlier this season, the Dolphins’ offensive line will have to do a better job of defending them, especially the rookie To the sides with left tackle. Eichenberg and right tackle Jesse Davis.
“I think generally Liam is very excited,” Davis said as Eichenberg went through his struggles. “It’s sometimes just him versus himself. I think he’s growing. I think he’s getting better. But as a leader, I try to help work with him.” And he works with me.”
A third consecutive win would lift the Dolphins 4-7, a slightly soft spot in the schedule. The following Sunday, Miami returns home to host the Carolina Panthers (5–5), receive the New York Giants (3–6) and, after a bye week, precede the team’s next road game on Monday Night Football. New York hosts the Jets. December 27 at the New Orleans Saints.