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Keys to the game: Dolphins at Jets

I picked the Dolphins to beat the Jets on Sunday.

I simply believe Ryan Tannehill is better than Geno Smith. And, you'll read on Sunday, I believe Tannehill can carry his team at the end of this season. I'll link to that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, how do the rest of these teams match up?

Consider:

When the Dolphins pass the football: Well, seems Ryan Tannehill discovered Mike Wallace last week. He threw the ball deep and threw it often to the dynamic deep threat receiver. And while that resulted in only a couple of big plays and a touchdown, it didn’t mean all is well. Tannehill and Wallace are still a work in progress. Tannehill still underthrows his speedy receiver way too often. That needs work. The Dolphins also have to find a way to get more consistency out of Charles Clay as his performances have been uneven as defenses change coverages and have been successful containing him in all but a handful of games. The New York pass defense is susceptible to the big play, as Baltimore showed last week. The addition of Ed Reed at safety hasn’t helped that yet. Antonio Cromartie, the team’s best defensive back, may play against the Dolphins but his is not 100 percent healthy. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the football: This might get ugly. The team that managed two yards rushing against Tampa Bay and has failed to post the league average 4.2 yards per rush in five games this season, including last week against the Panthers, is facing the NFL’s top rush defense. That suggests something of a mismatch. And while the Dolphins hope the return of center Mike Pouncey can reinvigorate the run game, it should be pointed out Pouncey played in that fateful game against Tampa Bay three weeks ago. The Jets are getting great play from Muhammad Wilkerson who leads a front seven that is among the best in the NFL. With running back Daniel Thomas out with an ankle injury, rookie Mike Gillislee may get a few carries. ADVANTAGE: New York.

When the Jets run the football: The only way the Jets will move the ball consistently against the Dolphins is by running. The Jets have a solid offensive line that is relatively healthy and they have two solid, albeit not great, runners in Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Quarterback Geno Smith also is a run threat when he needs to get out of the pocket, but he’s definitely not a Cam Newton or Steve Young. The Dolphins have been surprisingly poor against the run this year. They are 26th in the NFL against the run. And it’s getting worse as the season progresses. The Dolphins have given up 136 rushing yards or more in each of the past five games. What was a stout run defense in 2011 (No. 3 in the NFL) has found a way to let a big leak out the middle of the line in several games this year. ADVANTAGE: New York..

When the Jets pass the football: They’re a mess passing the football. The conversation about Geno Smith the past few weeks has been whether he’d be benched rather than whether he’s improving or not. Smith is a turnover machine with 18 interceptions and five lost fumbles. He doesn’t read defenses well pre-snap and doesn’t read the field well during the play. His receiver corps is led by, of course, Jeremy Kerley. Moe and Larry were left unsigned in the offseason. Stephen Hill hasn’t caught a TD pass in four games and Santonio Holmes hasn’t been fully healthy for over a year. The Dolphins are coming off an uneven game in the secondary because Nolan Carroll was surprisingly great against Carolina and Brent Grimes had perhaps his worst game of the season. Dimitri Patterson is out Sunday. No surprise. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

Special teams: MetLife Stadium, like the Meadowlands before it, is a difficult place to kick in the winter because strong winds not only blow through the stadium but do so in different directions. Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis will soon find this out. Josh Cribbs has taken over from Clyde Gates as the Jets’ kickoff returne man and while he is not the dynamic player he was four years ago, he was an upgrade nonetheless. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching: New York’s Rex Ryan started the season on the hot seat. But he took ownership of the New York defense and has made the decision to stay with a rookie quarterback. His job is not completely safe but he has kept a team with a flawed roster in the postseason conversation. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has a more talented roster than the Jets and is getting uneven results from that roster but he has kept the team together in the face of an uncomfortable NFL investigation. ADVANTAGE: New York.

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