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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, October 17, 2011 at 9:49 AM

It's amazing how quickly the divisional races have taken shape this year in the NFL. And, it's amazing how many big name teams are finding themselves in must-win situations already!

The New York Jets are certainly in that position Monday Night in their national TV game against Miami. Rex Ryan's crew finds themselves in third place in the AFC danger of getting left in the dust by New England and Buffalo if they don't turn things around. There could be quite a battle this year for the two Wildcard spots in the AFC amongst the usual suspects and a few surprise contenders. A 2-3 start already has the Jets behind the eight-ball. A 2-4 start might realistically take them out of the playoff picture.

  • The Jets have already lost to Baltimore...which would be bad in a tie-breaker between those teams for a Wildcard spot.

  • The Jets have already lost to Oakland...which would be bad in a tie-breaker between those teams for a Wildcard spot.

  • The Jets were outplayed by New England last week by more than the 30-21 score made it sound...meaning you can't take them seriously as a threat to WIN the AFC East at the moment.

Worse, the soap opera starring the franchise is starting to get ugly. This isn't a case of a good team losing heartbreakers to set up a Disney ending. They were blessed with a Disney ending in their season opener against the Cowboys...or they'd be 1-4! Everybody's bickering. Everybody's blaming somebody else. The head coach is in denial in the media, which means he's either lost touch or lost the respect of his players.

The good news for New York is that our key indicator stats give them a fairly decisive edge Monday Night against the visiting Dolphins. Let's crunch the numbers and see if tonight may be the game that inspires a turnaround near Times Square.

Miami: 11.5 on offense, 18.5on defense
NY Jets: 13.2 on offense, 12.4 on defense

These are points scored and allowed on drives of 60 yards or more. You regulars know we think this is the best indicator stat in all of sports. Though...the sample size just 4-5 games into the season isn't quite as big as you'd like. We're right at the point where these start to become meaningful...but you have to keep an eye on schedule strengths in schedules this small.

The Jets have a positive differential despite their losing record. That's a very good sign for the future...particularly when four of the five teams they've played are currently playoff contenders. We should note that it's not "championship" level performance by any means. That's a pedestrian edge that won't take you far unless you're winning turnovers by an extreme degree. But, it's a positive indicator in what's been a negative season. Not a bad place to start.

Miami has absolutely horrible numbers. But, they've only played four games...and three of those may have been against eventual division winners (New England, Houston, San Diego). These numbers make it very clear that Miami is A LOT worse than the standard of divisional winners. They may perform much more credibly against a team like the Jets...who's borderline Wildcard caliber at the moment.

We should also note that Miami was humiliated by Tom Brady in the season opener. Drive Points allowed by game are 38-10-10-16...meaning that the defense was more impressive against non-juggernauts. Mark Sanchez is nowhere near leading a juggernaut caliber offense.

The Jets get the edge in this category. Is it enough of an edge to justify a pointspread near a touchdown? That's going to come down to what Sanchez and his running backs can or can't do against this Miami defense.

Miami: 27% on offense, 43% on defense
NY Jets: 33% on offense, 31% on defense

The league was at 37% for the season coming into the weekend (which is lower than you'd expect in a high scoring season). So, both of these offenses have some work to do. Miami's been just dreadful...which is why they scored just 13-16-16 the last three weeks. Normally, having to use your #2 quarterback doesn't help with a stat like this. But, when you're already horrible...there's no place to go but up.

The Jets have a monster edge on defense...which gives them a great chance to win and cover this game largely on the performance of that side of the ball. It's easier to cover a medium sized spread if you're holding your opponent to 21 points or less (the Jets beat Jacksonville easily in the only game where that happened this year).

Miami did have a good third down game defensively against Cleveland and Colt McCoy. Monday we'll find out whether Sanchez is better than Colt McCoy!

Miami -5 (2 takeaways, 7 giveaways)
NY Jets +1 (11 takeaways, 10 giveaways)

Interesting numbers here. Even though Mark Sanchez has been a turnover machine, the Jets have a big edge in this category. New York's defense is still great at forcing turnovers...which has led to a +1 differential (they've forced 3 or more in three of their five games by the way). Miami's defense has been one of the most passive in the league thus far. Hey...maybe it's smart to be a little passive against the likes of New England, Houston, and San Diego because they'll torch you if you're overly aggressive. But...two takeaways in a month of football has no chance of getting job done.

If Mark Sanchez has a bad turnover night against the Dolphins...then the season is basically over now for the Jets. The best guess is that Miami will sit back a bit and try to force three-and-outs. Or, sit back and catch the balls Sanchez throws to them!

JIM HURLEY will have a release for you in this game on either the side or the total here at the website. Log in Monday afternoon and have your credit card handy. We've played some prime time Over/Unders this year...and this may be a spot where that makes sense. NETWORK always finds you the best play on the board!

The relative lull in the schedule makes this a great time to make plans for the rest of the season. We have great rates on our most popular packages. Complete details are available at 1-800-323-4453. Sign up for the season and make Dolphins-Jets your first big winner.

We'll be back with you in the NOTEBOOK Tuesday to get caught up in baseball. Will the Texas Rangers break through this season and win the World Championship after falling just short last year? Oh, be sure to ask about our World Series package when you call the office! The Fall Classic can be added to any football package for a nominal charge.

Wednesday's in the NOTEBOOK are devoted to key stat notes from NFL action that will help you put the prior week in context as you prepare to pick winners the following Sunday and Monday. If you're a do-it-yourself handicapper, those are a must-read. Thursday brings us back to college football...where we'll preview UCLA at Arizona. The home team's coach just got fired, and the visiting coach probably doesn't have long to last. How is ESPN going to hype a game like that?! NETWORK will find the winner, that's all that matters.

Make sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's REALLY going on in the world of sports! And, link up with JIM HURLEY for BIG JUICY WINNERS!

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