Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Sunday December 12, 2010, 4:15
New Meadowlands Stadium
Line: Jets -5.5
After one of the most disastrous losses in Jets history, Gang Green has a chance to regain its swagger in a home game against its other primary rival: the Miami Dolphins. No matter what the Jets say in the media, their confidence must be a little shaken, so winning this game is a must. With back-to-back road games against Pittsburgh and Chicago on deck, the Jets must be careful to prevent Monday's shelacking from being the start of a free-fall. That's what happened in 1986 after the Jets lost in week 13, 45-3 to Miami. The Jets probably need to win one more game to make the playoffs. Winning this game against a rival and possibly clinching a playoff berth would make a lot of people forget about last week's debacle. But Miami never makes it easy for the Jets, as these two teams usually play close games. The Dolphins are coming off a disappointing loss to Cleveland, so both teams will be looking to get back on track on what appears to be a very wet field on Sunday.
When the Dolphins have the ball...
Miami has been a bit of a mess offensively this year. Three different quarterbacks have made starts this year. Chad Henne is back after being benched a month ago, but he still has yet to be very effective. However, against the Jets, Henne has had some of the best games of his career. Even Jets' defensive coordinator Mike Pettine agrees, saying bluntly "It seems like he struggles against everybody but us."
Henne has a 101.7 QB rating in three games against the Jets, his highest against any team. That includes a touchdown-interception ratio of 5-1. However, Henne has clearly regressed from last season, and in the first matchup between these two teams this year, Darrelle Revis did not play. Revis is healthy and has been dominant. Brandon Marshall is the obvious one-on-one matchup for Revis this week after he put up 166 yards in the first game. Marshall missed the last two weeks with a hamstring injury but is expected to return this week. Don't expect him to do much on Revis Island though. Henne will be forced to spread the ball around to Davone Bess, his tight ends, and his runningbacks. Henne has thrown an interception in 9 games in a row, including his third three interception performance last week against Cleveland. While the Jets don't create a lot of interceptions, they could have some opportunities Sunday.
Miami's running game is also not what it used to be. They average just 3.8 yards-per-carry, and neither Ronnie Brown nor Ricky Williams have posted a 100 yard game all season. They also don't get any big plays out of the running game, with just four carries over 20 yards all season and a league worst five rushing touchdowns. The Jets' run defense has been phenomenal all season long, so don't expect the Dolphins to get on track this week.
With the weather looking ugly, expect the Jets to get back on track defensively. New England, with Tom Brady spreading the ball around all over the field, was not a good matchup for the Jets. Miami, with a turnover-prone quarterback, a poor running game, and a clear number one receiver that they want to get the ball to, should be the perfect antidote for the Jets' defense.
When the Jets have the ball...
The ineptitude of the Jets' defense last week was matched by the lack of production by the offense. Mark Sanchez is coming off back-to-back below average performances, but just as Henne is typically solid against the Jets, Sanchez has been great against the Dolphins with a 103.3 quarterback rating and a 6-0 touchdown-interception ratio in his three games against Miami.
However, Sanchez has a lot to prove after last week's performance. He wasn't terrible, but he certainly wasn't good. This will be another cold-weather game, which Sanchez is inexperienced in. Miami's defense is also very solid, much higher ranked than the Patriots of last week. In fact the Dolphins only allow 201 yards-per-game through the air, 4th best in the NFL. But in per-play stats, Miami is pretty average, allowing 6.9 yards-per-attempt. They do have 29 sacks, including 12 by Cameron Wake, who has turned himself into one of the premier edge pass rushers in the NFL. The Dolphins sorely need him to get in Sanchez's head and make some big plays. Normally, he'll be lined up against D'Brickashaw Ferguson, a premier pass blocker. Look for the Dolphins to switch Wake around a little bit and try to get him matched up against Damien Woody, who isn't nearly as quick as Ferguson up front.
Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Dustin Keller will be the primary options. Holmes has been a major asset to this offense, but look for Edwards to have the bigger game. Vontae Davis will be matched up more against Holmes, leaving Edwards matched up against the less talented Sean Smith. Smith has size, but Edwards has had a lot of success against the Dolphins in his short Jets' career, and he should be able to make some plays down the field. Keller had two touchdowns in the first meeting, but he hasn't posted over 60 yards in a game since week 6, so it remains to be seen if the Jets get him as involved as they should.
As bad as the offense looked last week, you can't blame the running game. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson combined for 23 carries for 111 yards last week. Miami has a better run defense than New England, but the Jets will still try to establish the run first, especially given the weather conditions. With the field likely wet, look for Greene to play a bigger role Sunday. His north-south style is perfect for December football games like this. The Dolphins' run defense contains a lot of big bodies, particularly Randy Starks along the defensive line, so the Jets could have a tough time dominating the trenches. But it's imperative the Jets create easy third down situations for Sanchez and the passing game.
Two wild cards for this game are kicker Nick Folk and receiver Brad Smith. Folk has struggled as of late, and any bad game could be his last in green and white. On a slippery, possibly windy day, Folk could be a major headache for the Jets. As for Smith, the Jets love to get him the ball a number of different ways. And while the Dolphins don't use the Wildcat as much as they used to, look for the Jets to use Smith to show that they can still out-Wildcat the Dolphins. It's also a way to get the ball in the hands of a playmaker without risking Sanchez throwing it.
Coming back home is not necessarily a great thing for the Jets. Miami is 5-1 on the road this season, their only loss coming against Baltimore. And in the first matchup, the Dolphins actually outgained the Jets 436-402. However, the biggest reason behind that was Brandon Marshall. With Marshall's lingering hamstring injury, and the return of Darrelle Revis to the lineup, Marshall should be all but taken out of the game as long as Revis is matched up against him. The Dolphins don't have many other playmakers on offense, and Henne can't take advantage of mismatches the way Brady could. If the Jets' offense can get back on track, the Jets should be able to win this game. But as badly as Jets fans want a dominant victory, they'll probably just have to settle for a tight win in a low-scoring divisional slugfest.
Jets 17, Dolphins 13