If we go back to week 1would you have believed then that in week 17 we would be talking about a rematch with the Jets that had playoff implications and a division title on the line? For Miami? Of course not. If we went back to week 1 we would have said that a solid effort would have been acceptable…for week 1. Now, 15 weeks later and a “solid effort” only means that the Miami Dolphins are watching the post-season from the warm confines of home instead of the warm confines of Dolphins Stadium on Wild Card Weekend.
The Jets and Dolphins are going in opposite directions this season, however, that means little to the Jets and little to Miami. Back in week 1 I said that the number 1 key was to pressure Brett Favre. Miami did that, but they never wrapped him up and he was able to throw 2 TD passes in the game to beat the Phins. Both times while being pressured. The Dolphins on the other hand had a starting QB who had only been in camp for a short 2 weeks…as was Favre. This time around, it’s the Dolphins who are looking beyond that “solid effort” type game and looking to close out an improbable season. There are 5 keys to a Miami Dolphins victory…in week 1…we only gauged success…and success was not predicated on a win.
Key 5: Keep away. The Miami Dolphins need to control the ball, the clock, and every aspect of the game. They can not wait for the Jets to come out and play and then try and match their intensity…or they may be matching a “lack of” intensity. Over the last few weeks the Dolphins have struggled maintaining their time of possession advantage over their opponents and because of that, they have had close calls with teams that they shouldn’t be in games with. The Jets don’t need a lot of room to find the endzone and they don’t need a lot of time to find it quickly and more than once. Ball control and efficiency will win this game for the Dolphins.
Key 4: The tarmac. Call it what you want but the Jets are more dangerous, right now, on the ground than in the air. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington can eat clock, yards, and the hopes of Dolphins fans everywhere. Last week Miami struggled with Larry Johnson, the week before that and it was DeShaun Foster, the week before that it was Marshawn Lynch and JP Losman…get the picture? The Phins need to keep this game in the hands of Brett Favre rather than a week one “out of his hands” key. If the Phins can shut down the running attack, they can put more pressure on Favre forcing him to make mistakes.
Key 3: Score early. The Dolphins have been doing a good job at getting off to early leads lately. Unfortunately those leads are quickly lost. The Phins need to put up two solid drives with a 14 point advantage early and then maintain that lead. If the Jets fall behind more than 14 points, the game will swing toward a Brett Favre rally and an aching shoulder may prove to be too much.
Key 2: Offensive line. The Miami Dolphins must control the line of scrimmage with their myriad of lineman that are now shifting here and there throughout the game. Samson Satele has moved to guard and back to Center while Al Johnson is getting some work at center when Satele moves. The Defensive front of the Jets is strong and can be brutal. The Jets are 7th in the league in rushing yet are giving up and average of 92 yards a game…something the Phins need to take advantage of. Both Miami and the Jets have 40 sacks on the season and Miami must keep the Jets from adding to that total.
Key 1: Two QB’s. Much has been made about this game in regards to the return of Chad Pennington to NY. Fagetaboutit! This game comes down to one thing. Turnovers. The Dolphins lead the league in not giving it up…with only 12 on the season. Brett Favre alone has 19 interceptions himself. Pennington must settle into a methodical rythym and let the game play itself out and not try and force anything. Favre on the other hand tends to try and make things happen when a game starts to get away. The Phins must wrap and tackle and not summarily allow him to move around in the pocket, pick and choose his targets, or throw up hail mary passes that are not defended. This key is not about Chad vs. Brett, this is about game management and the QB that manages this game, will manage his team to a win. If that is Chad Pennington, then he will manage his team to the playoffs.