EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Mike Pouncey needs no rah-rah speeches or reminders about how crucial the latest matchup in the Dolphins-Jets rivalry is.
Playoff game in Week 13? Well, this one between 5-6 teams is pretty close.
After all, the winner today will walk out of MetLife Stadium with its postseason hopes still intact. The loser can start thinking about next season.
“We know where we stand,” said Pouncey, Miami’s center. “We know we can’t lose another game.”
Both teams are treating it that way, and it’s no exaggeration. Miami and New York are part of a jumbled group of six teams aiming for the final AFC playoff spot. After Baltimore’s win over Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving, the loser between the Dolphins and Jets would be a game back in the loss column — and each has also been defeated by the Ravens.
“We’re behind the 8-ball and we put ourselves there,” Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said. “We’re stuck behind a bunch of (teams) that are 5-6 and some people have the tiebreaker over us, so we have to win the rest of them.”
The Dolphins are 2-2 since the bullying scandal involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin rocked the franchise. Injuries, inconsistent play and an offensive line that has allowed Ryan Tannehill to be sacked a franchise-record 44 times have made them difficult to gauge.
“If we want to be ascending at this point,” Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace said, “we have to go to other people’s houses and kick in the door and take over like it’s our house.”
The Jets are 4-1 at home so far, but their NFL-record streak of alternating wins and losses ended last Sunday with their second straight defeat. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has one touchdown throw and 10 interceptions in his last six games, hardly appearing like the leader of a team headed to the playoffs.