The New York Jets will celebrate their history this Sunday, with close to 80 former players returning to MetLife Stadium for what amounts to a homecoming day. The festivities will include the Ring of Honor ceremony, as Emerson Boozer and Matt Snell become the 16th and 17th members of the select fraternity.
That's the good history. By the end of the afternoon, the Jets hope they're not reminded of the bad history -- their many late-season collapses.
With four losses in the past five games, the Jets (5-5) are on the verge of falling out of the playoff race. As it stands now, they probably have to win five of their remaining six to qualify as a wild card. If they stumble Sunday against the Miami Dolphins (4-6), it'll conjure up memories of 1994. Their feel-good start under the first-year coach Pete Carroll turned to disaster on Thanksgiving weekend. They fell to 6-6 with a loss to the Dolphins (Fake Spike, anyone?) and choked away the rest of their games.
The current slide started last month, so there's still time to reverse it. It also should be noted that Todd Bowles' predecessors, Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan, rallied to make the playoffs after 5-5 and 4-6 starts, respectively, in their first season. Bowles has reached a crossroad. Will he be Carroll or Ryan and Mangini?
Kickoff is 1 p.m. The top storylines:
1. Cast call: At a time like this, meaning desperation time, the Jets need their so-called stars to step up -- namely Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Chris Ivory, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, who returns from a one-week hamstring injury. The last time they got 100-yard games (rushing or receiving) out of Ivory and Marshall or Decker was Week 6, when they beat up the Washington Redskins. All three played well in the previous meeting against the Dolphins, whose defense has improved, albeit slightly, under interim coach Dan Campbell.
2. Metaphorically speaking: Explaining the offensive slump, Bowles said the Jets have to get back to algebra after an unsuccessful try at trigonometry. Marshall used a different analogy, saying, "It's like basketball. When your 3-point shooting is off, you have to go to the basket." In fact, their long-distance shooting is way off; Ryan Fitzpatrick is 4-for-32 on passes of at least 25 air yards, including 1-for-11 to Marshall. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey mentioned their struggles in this area, which leads you to believe they will dial back the aggressiveness, employing a short-passing offense. Fitzpatrick's job security could hinge on the outcome.
3. Revis Island closed: For the first time since 2012, when he blew out his knee, Darrelle Revis (concussion) will miss a game due to injury. The timing couldn't be any worse for the defense, which was ill-prepared last week in Houston. Revis will be replaced by Marcus Williams on the outside, but the man on the spot is slot corner Buster Skrine, who will be matched against Jarvis Landry. Forty of his 63 receptions have come out of the slot, so Skrine will be a busy man. In the previous meeting, Revis shadowed Landry, inside and outside, holding him to four catches for 40 yards. If that's the over-under in this game, bet the over.
4. Q's homecoming: Six days after getting fired by the Jets, former first-round pick Quinton Coples returns as a member of the Dolphins. He'll be wearing his familiar No. 98, playing defensive end, his natural position. This is a classic revenge match. If the mild-mannered Coples can't get fired up to play his former team, he never will. He hasn't recorded a sack since the 2014 finale, so he's due.
5. If they couldn't stop T.J. Yates ...: The Jets proved last week they can't afford to take any quarterback lightly. They usually play well against Ryan Tannehill, who was positively skittish in the Week 4 meeting, but who knows? Revis' absence could have a trickle-down effect. If Skrine has to cover Landry, it'll take him out of the blitz package -- and he was a blitzing mad man in the first meeting. Tannehill has a league-low Total QBR against the blitz and Miami has averaged only 14 points per game over the past four, so the Jets should be able to win with their defense. Then again, everybody thought that would be the case last week in Houston.