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News » NFL GAMEDAY: Referendum on the QBs

NFL GAMEDAY: Referendum on the QBs

NFL GAMEDAY: Referendum on the QBs
Brett Favre, of course, was mistaken.

"It's not about me and Chad Pennington," Favre said Wednesday.

But fair or not - and in some ways it isn't - today is entirely about Favre and Pennington.

The Jets helped ensure that every Jets-Dolphins game would be exactly about that when they paved the road for Pennington to sign with Miami. That occurred Aug. 7, less than 24 hours after the Jets completed the trade for Favre.

"They aren't in a cage match on Sunday," Jets coach Eric Mangini joked about the two quarterbacks, trying to defuse the obvious story of the week. "There are two teams that play."

Two teams in situations that are much of their quarterback's making.

The Jets, after looking like a postseason shoo-in at 8-3, have lost three of four games, not entirely but in part because of the struggles of Favre, whose highest quarterback rating in those games has been a subpar 61.4 (against Buffalo on Dec. 14).

Pennington, called the Dolphins' "savior" by linebacker Joey Porter this past week, has his team 10-5; a victory today would give Miami - which was 1-15 last season - the AFC East title. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano didn't even bother trying to downplay Pennington's impact.

"There are a lot of people that can get and take credit for this whole thing, but it's a credit to Chad," Sparano said Friday. "From the day he came in here, he was very driven on, and you guys [reporters] know this, I've said this before, but just the accountability of his teammates and making them accountable."

That's something that was missing last season. A lot, obviously, was missing.

"That's exactly what the doctor ordered here," Sparano said. "For us, as a young offense, we had to have that. We needed to have somebody that we can hang our hat on and be accountable, too, in that huddle. Prior to that, you'd always ask yourself the question, 'Who's the leader in that group? Where's the leader, who is it?' When Chad walked in there, it was very clear."

Pennington is the NFL's second-rated passer (96.4). Favre is 18th (84.0). But Mangini isn't interested in numbers. "We're happy with that decision," he said. "This game won't justify or not justify that decision."

Today's game isn't lacking for story lines. Besides Pennington's return, there's the prospect of it potentially being Favre's last game and, if things go exceptionally poorly for the Jets, maybe Mangini's.

With all of the angles to the game, it's easy to forget that the Jets, despite their shoddy play the last month, still have a chance to go to the playoffs. A victory over the Dolphins coupled with a Patriots loss to the Bills would give the Jets the division title, and even if the Patriots win, a victory over the Dolphins combined with a Ravens loss to the Jaguars would give the Jets a wild-card spot.

Those things could fall into place. Favre could throw for four TDs, and the last month would be mostly forgotten.

"Now, we could play outstanding this week and not get in," Favre said. "We have no one to blame but ourselves. I know that. The guys in the building know that, but we do have a chance. We're doing ourselves an injustice if we don't go play this game and play the only way we can, and that's to win the Football game. If we don't make it, then everyone can say whatever. They're saying it now, but we have to win this Football game."

Dolphins AT Jets,

4:15 p.m. TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WEPN (1050)

ABOUT THE Dolphins

Record: 10-5.

Coach: Tony Sparano (first season, 10-5).

The skinny: Progress, thy name is Wildcat. Since debuting their new offense in Week 3 at New England - a 38-13 victory - the Dolphins rose from an offensive ranking of 26th after two weeks to 10th after 16 weeks. Through two games, the Dolphins were averaging 12 points and 256.5 yards. In the past 13 games since utilizing the Wildcat, they are averaging 22.8 points and 361.3 yards.

Former Jet Chad Pennington has thrived when the Dolphins have run a more "traditional" offense, completing 67 percent of his passes and throwing for 3,453 yards with 17 TD passes and seven INTs.

Miami has committed only 12 turnovers this season - fewest in the NFL - and is tied with the Titans for the league lead in takeaway/giveaway margin at plus-14. The team that has won the turnover battle has won 21 of the last 26 games in this series. A key hidden stat? The Dolphins average 6.17 yards per first-down play, which ranks second in the NFL.


RB Ronnie Brown

No player has benefited more from the Wildcat offense than Brown, who ran for 113 yards and set a franchise record with four rushing TDs in Week 3 at New England. Brown also threw a 19-yard TD pass out of the formation. Brown is averaging 5.5 yards per carry in the Wildcat and is seventh in the AFC with 859 rushing yards. His 10 total TDs have Brown tied for fifth in the AFC. Brown has three 100-yard games in his last four against the Jets, most recently a 112-yard, two-TD game Sept. 23, 2007, at the Meadowlands. In this season's opener, Brown had only six carries for 23 yards as the Dolphins amassed just 49 rushing yards against the Jets.


Jets - Questionable: WR Laveranues Coles (thigh), T Wayne Hunter (shoulder), LB Bryan Thomas (shoulder).

Probable: LB Eric Barton (knee), WR Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), LB David Harris (groin), DE Kris Jenkins (hip)

Dolphins - Questionable: CB Will Allen (groin), LB Channing Crowder (knee).


The Jets' playoff situation is simple. They must beat the Dolphins today to have any chance of playing in January, but they also must get help from either the Bills or Jaguars.

If the Bills (7-8) upset the Patriots (10-5) in Orchard Park in a 1 p.m. game, a win over the Dolphins (10-5) in a 4:15 p.m. game will give the Jets (9-6) the AFC East title.

Even if the Patriots win, a Jets victory over Miami coupled with an upset victory by the Jaguars (5-10) over the Ravens (10-5) in a 4:15 p.m. game in Baltimore will give the Jets a wild card.

So the Jets figure to be doing a lot of scoreboard-watching. But if the Patriots and Ravens win, even if the Jets beat the Dolphins by an NFL-record margin, they're out of luck.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 28, 2008

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