What we learned: Dolphins-Jets
Brett Favre had the look of a man who had played his last game
The Dolphins haven't slowed down their use of the 'wildcat' formation
Chad Pennington's arm is just good enough to keep defenses honest
1. Brett Favre had the look of a man who had played his last game after the Jets' 24-17 loss to the Dolphins. Favre repeatedly referred to his age, 39, his shoulder pain and his struggles down the stretch. "Am I old and washed up? Maybe so," Favre said. "If that's the case, maybe it's time to do something else."
Favre showed some zip on some passes, but overall was ineffective on Sunday, completing 20 of 40 passes for 230 yards, one touchdown and three crucial interceptions. If this was his last game, Favre will go out with quite a whimper. In his last five games of the season, he threw two touchdowns and nine picks. His arm strength was undoubtedly an issue, and his mental focus wasn't there for all 60 minutes on Sunday.
But this is Brett Favre, so no retirement if official until he's spent at least three years on his tractor. "You never know," Favre said. "It's funny how your mind can wander and sometimes change."
Favre did note that a key reason he returned was how much the Jets made him feel wanted again in the offseason. Even if he doesn't return to New York next year, who knows if one of his many friends around the league can appeal to his ego and get him to suit up again.
2. The Dolphins haven't slowed down their use of the wildcat as NFL defenses have had time to adjust. They went to their trademark formation in several key situations and added a few wrinkles that fooled the Jets completely. They had two potentially big passes out of the wildcat that just missed -- Ricky Williams dropped a long pass from Chad Pennington and Ronnie Brown failed to get enough mustard on a ball in the wind to a wide-open Joey Haynos downfield.
3. Miami quarterback Chad Pennington can throw downfield just barely enough to keep a defense honest. He threw critical touchdowns of 27 and 20 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Fasano when the Jets were expecting his usual diet of underneath stuff. Ginn, who easily could have gotten a flag for pushing off on the TD, could play a pivotal role in the playoffs since he'll see tons of one-on-one coverage and he has the speed to beat most cornerbacks.
4. Jets head coach Eric Mangini said he thinks he's coming back next season. Owner Woody Johnson was at the stadium and told reporters he'd address the situation next week. Even though the New York media has done a lot of speculating about Mangini's future, management has never come out and said their confidence in their coach was shaken. Mangini has had a winning record in two of his first three seasons, and he clearly has some degree of football intelligence.
But when you look at the Jets AFC East rivals, is there any doubt Mangini was out-coached this season by Bill Belichick and Tony Sparano? Belichick and Sparano got more out of what they had than Mangini. But those two coaches are better than most in the NFL, and that comparison isn't a fair reason to ditch Mangini.
5. The Dolphins love the underdog role and were quick to remind everyone that no one could have even dreamed they'd win the AFC East before the season started. They thrive on an us-against-them mentality, much like last year's Giants. The 'Fins shouldn't have much trouble maintaining their edge, because no expert is going to pick them to come out of the AFC. But why not? They avoid turnovers better than any team in NFL history, run the ball effectively and play disciplined defense. Overall they're a young team, but they have plenty of players with playoff experience, including Pennington, Joey Porter, Will Allen and Jason Ferguson.
All that being said, it's hard to imagine the Dolphins' run goes much farther. They aren't going to face teams that are going to give them the type of gift turnovers the Jets did on Sunday. If you take out the turnovers, it will be hard for Miami to beat three good teams to reach the Super Bowl.