The Dolphins should be the New York Jets on Sunday. They have more at stake. They have more talent -- as easily illustrated by a look at the quarterback position and the fact Miami has four Pro Bowl players and New York has none.
So I'm picking the Dolphins to win. Again.
I did so last week in a big game and the Dolphins did not cooperate. So we shall see.
Anyway, here's the breakdown of the game:
When the Dolphins pass the football: Ryan Tannehill is aiming for his third consecutive home game with 300 passing yards but it’ll be more about the points than the yards for Tannehill, who is coming off his first poor December performance of the season. The Jets were not able to cover Mike Wallace in the first meeting. He was open on short and intermediate routes all day in part because Antonio Cromartie had a hip injury and wasn’t able to get his weight under his hips as quickly as he usually could to react to short routes. The Dolphins took those short completions but were unable to connect on longer routes because, well, Tannehill and Wallace don’t connect on those very often. Brian Hartline schooled rookie Dee Milliner in the first meeting and Milliner was benched, but he’s coming off his best game of the season – one in which he had his first NFL interception and had five passes defensed. ADVANTAGE: Even.
When the Dolphins run the football: The most important person connected to the Dolphins running game doesn’t wear a uniform and hasn’t gained a yard this season. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman first must decide he wants to run the football before the Dolphins can actually attempt it. Last week against Buffalo, Sherman decided he didn’t want to run the ball. He called only 12 run plays all game. How’d that work out? The Dolphins have run the ball only 327 times this year and only Dallas and Atlanta have run the ball less. This despite the fact the Dolphins average 4.1 yards per rush, which is tied for 18th in the NFL. The only game Sherman has been persistent running the ball this season was the first meeting against the Jets when Miami ran 36 times. If and when the Dolphins run against the Jets this game it’ll be Lamar Miller getting not enough carries followed by Daniel Thomas, hobbled for a couple of weeks with an ankle injury, getting not enough carries. The Jets rush defense is No. 3 in the NFL. ADVANTAGE: Jets.
When the Jets run the football: If offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is smart, he looked at what the Bills did last week (51 rushes for 203 yards) uses a Xerox copy of that plan against the Dolphins again because his situation is the same as Buffalo’s: Young inconsistent QB and decent running game. The Jets are the No. 2 run offense in the AFC. Running back Chris Ivory rushed for 100 yards last week. The Dolphins have a problem that has been getting worse, not better, in defending the run. The Dolphins haven’t shut down or even considerably slowed down an opponent’s running game in 10 weeks. Look for safety Reshad Jones to spend a lot of time in the tackle box near the line of scrimmage. ADVANTAGE: Jets.
When the Jets pass the football: When quarterback Geno Smith plays well, the Jets win. That’s why the team is 5-0 in games Smith has an 80-plus quarterback rating. The last game the teams met, Smith was terrible and was benched. Not surprisingly, Miami won the game. The Jets passing game has been inconsistent in part because primary receiver Santonio Holmes has been injured most of the year and gets only limited practice repetitions with his starting quarterback. Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., dealing with knee issues, is also mostly a name but not much of a threat anymore. The Dolphins can take solace that Olivier Vernon had his best game of the season (three sacks) against the Jets. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
Special teams: The Dolphins tried a fake field goal two weeks ago. This game, with a playoff spot and the season on the line, might be another time for the team to try something special from the special teams. Outside of Brandon Fields, Miami’s special teams haven’t been special this season. The Jets are slightly better than Miami statistically in kickoffs and punt returns. The Dolphins are better at covering kicks and punts. ADVANTAGE: Even.
Coaching: Rex Ryan is coaching for his job. He’s reportedly told his team he’s going to go down fighting and they should do the same. That suggests an emotional coach and team on the opponent sideline. Joe Philbin’s team is coming off a game where they showed no urgency at Buffalo. The coach is not emotional but rather a planner and detail-oriented guy who doesn’t want to get too high or too low. ADVANTAGE: We’ll see.