NFL premium

Monday Night Football Preview: The Revenge of the Smith

Geno Smith makes his return as a starter tonight for the Jets. What should we expect against a stout Dolphins defense?

He's baaaaaaaaack. You all thought you had seen the last of Geno Smith. Not so fast, my friends. Geno's back, and he's better than ever... or, you know, something like that.

By going back to Smith and benching Michael Vick, the Jets essentially admitted, "We messed up." But, numberFire's Leo Howell could have told you that weeks ago, as he wrote that benching Smith for Vick was a mistake based on Vick's diminished abilities.

Unfortunately for good ol' Geno, he makes his triumpant-ish return against a Miami Dolphins defense that has been baller this year. What should we expect from tonight's game? We can answer this question using numberFire's game projections page, which is available to all premium subscribers.

Is Geno a Better Option than Vick?

If there has ever been a situation that has better exemplified the "lesser of two evils" dilemma, I am not aware of it. Both Smith and Vick have been flaming horse manure this year, but one of the contestants still holds a slight advantage.

To check this out, we'll use numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) statistic. This tracks the number of points a player adds to or subtracts from a team's expected point total relative to a league average player. Negative is bad, and both Smith and Vick have been wallowing in the negative this year.

We'll start with what Vick did in his four and a half games because it can only go up from here. Entering Week 13, 83 players had dropped back to pass at least once this season. Only two had lost more expected points for their teams than Vick, and they both play for the Jaguars. Sub-Gucci.

Vick's Passing NEP (which tracks the expected points on each drop back) of -31.83 is bad enough. But when you factor in that he achieved that number in only 140 drop backs, it flies right on by abysmal status.

Of the quarterbacks to have dropped back at least 100 times this year, Vick's per drop back Passing NEP of -0.23 was the worst.

We could turn to Total NEP, which takes rushing ability into account, to try to redeem Vick, but even that won't help this time. On his 23 rush attempts, Vick had a Rushing NEP of -0.61. Savior!

As for Geno, things are ugly. They are gross. They are not starting caliber. But they are also not quite on Vick's level of suckage.

On his 262 drop backs, Smith had a Passing NEP of -21.43, which equates to a -0.08 Passing NEP per play. These numbers are actually better than Geno was in his rookie season, and they are certainly better than Vick.

Geno has even had more success than Vick as a runner this year. His Rushing NEP of 5.60 elevates his Total NEP to -15.83. I'm not trying to make it sound like Geno was good prior to his benching - he was not. But he was still better than Vick. Why not let the young pup sling it in a dumpster fire of a season?

As I mentioned in the intro, though, poor Geno has to face the Dolphins. Woof. They entered Week 13 ranked fourth in the league in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, which takes strength of schedule into account. They are yet to allow a 300-yard passer this year, although I don't think many were concerned about that with the Jets.

numberFire's Week 13 Projections don't foresee a grand coming-out party for Smith. They see him completing 16.30 of his 32.04 attempts for 175.52 yards, 0.54 touchdowns and 1.10 interceptions. Good golly, Miss Molly.

Part of the reasoning behind those numbers is that the algorithms are still distributing a portion of those snaps to Vick. Considering the Jets' propensity for peppering the pine, that's not totally out of the question. If you assign Vick's allotted eight attempts to Geno, that should give you a better estimate of yardage totals. However, no matter what you do, the conclusion is the same: this is an awful quarterback situation, and they need to start fresh next year.

Has Ryan Tannehill Officially Arrived?

While the Jets perpetually trip over themselves in search of someone competent to hold down the quarterback position for more than eight games, the Dolphins seem like they may finally have their guy.

Through his first two seasons, Ryan Tannehill wasn't awful, but he also never did enough to prove to the team that he was the answer. As a rookie, Tannehill had a Total NEP of -15.56. That improved to 4.91 the following season. It was certainly progression, but he was still camped in the danger zone.

Danger zone no more, amigos. Tannehill entered Week 13 ranked 13th among quarterbacks in Total NEP at 54.64. His 51.08 percent success rate (percentage of plays in which the player increases the team's expected points on a drive) is actually higher than Andrew Luck and Tom Brady.

All of this comes in the same season in which the Dolphins reportedly contemplated benching Tannehill. Sure, it was probably a motivational ploy by Joe Philbin because coaches rarely tell the truth, but whatevski. It apparently has worked.

At the time the report came out prior to Week 4, Tannehill was struggling pretty mightily. He had a Passing NEP per play of -0.13 and a Total NEP of -19.26. Can you blame them for threatening to bench him?

Regardless, Tannehill's performance over the last eight games has shown that he is at least something they can work with and possibly build around. He has thrown multiple touchdowns in six of those games for a total touchdown-to-interception ratio of 16 to 6.

For tonight, Tannehill is expected to be Tannehill-esque: solid, but without completely eye-popping numbers. He is slated for 286.38 yards on 36.65 attempts (7.81 yards per attempt) with 1.86 touchdowns and 1.05 interceptions. Had this been 2013 or even Week 4 of 2014, that projection would not have been so high. But Tannehill has shown that he deserves his starting role both now and in the future.

Can the Jets Keep it Close?

Last week against Buffalo, you would have at least assumed the Jets could hang with a team that had barely practiced, was forced out of its home, and didn't have a particularly prolific offense to begin with. Not the case. The Jets laugh at your silly assumptions.

For this week, the spread is at 7.0. Not only are the Jets 2-9 overall, but they're also 2-8-1 against the spread according to Sporting News. This should be a superb match-up.

But, the NFL is weird, so it makes sense to look closer at all of the elements involved here. The game projections page shows a list of similar matchups for each contest to give you a sense of what you can expect based on history. We'll look at two very different matchups, starting with the most similar game in which the Jets get dumped on.

The best predictor of this game comes from December of last season in which the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Oakland Raiders, 56-31. The Chiefs, obviously, represent the Dolphins while the Raiders are the Jets.

In this one, the Chiefs got out to an early 21-3 lead, and this puppy was basically toast. The Raiders were able to add some garbage-time scramble points, but Matt McGloin's four interceptions curtailed any real chances.

The strange thing about this game was that it wasn't Jamaal Charles the running back that burned the Raiders: it was Jamaal Charles the receiver. He had eight receptions for 195 yards and 4 touchdowns. Alex Smith had five total passing touchdowns. Gross.

While he's not projected at 195 receiving yards, Lamar Miller is still expected to have a nice day. He's down for 97.53 total yards from scrimmage and 0.66 touchdowns. In Miami's six wins, Miller averages 13.03 standard fantasy points per game.

However, that "win" thing is not exactly a certainty. Like I said: the Jets hate your assumptions. Maybe they can channel that hatred for positivity and pull this one out. We can also see an example of this on the similar game predictors.

In December of 2011, the Dallas Cowboys were favored to defeat the Arizona Cardinals on the road by 4.5 points. Instead, the Cardinals (representing the Jets) came away with a 19-13 victory.

Neither team turned the ball over. Neither team ran the ball particularly well. It was 13-13 at the end of regulation, and probably a fairly boring game. But that's exactly what the Jets need.

There's no way the Jets could win a shootout with the Dolphins because increasing Geno Smith's sample size is asking disaster to punch you straight in the grill. Instead, like the Cardinals, the Jets need to hold the Dolphins to field goals and just hang on for dear life.

To read all premium content, upgrade to a Premium account with numberFire

If you're not a Premium subscriber, it takes just a few seconds to sign up. You'll get access to all of our insider information, game projections, handicapping advice, DFS tools, advanced statistics, and more.

Log In Go Premium