Tomorrow night, the ball will fall amid thundering cheers of all nationalities in Times Square, NY., NY. The countdown to the end of the 2011 year will also be a countdown to the end of the 2011 NFL football season which will conclude on New Years Day. So much is on the line for so many teams but for the Miami Dolphins, it’s a chance to start anew.
The Dolphins will not be attending any Super Bowl media parties nor will they be on the short end or long end of any playoff game predictions. What they will however have, is an opportunity to make sure that the NY Jets find themselves sitting at home for the remainder of the season. Forget about all the draft slotting talk and the suck for Luck campaign, this about knocking off your biggest rival. We started the Tony Sparano era with a beat down of Rex Ryan’s Brett Favre led Jets, we can finish it with a beat down of Rex Ryan‘s Mark Sanchez Jets.
I often maintain the only difference between finishing last and finishing 10-6 and missing the playoffs is about 15 draft slots. Win or lose on Sunday, the Dolphins will likely draft 8th or 9th. So for once, it doesn’t matter what happens on Sunday. They simply need to kick off the 2012 new year with a win, and put the past behind them.
The Dolphins will be starting fresh. Jason Taylor will hang up his cleats and walk away from a game he has endured for 15 years. 13 with the Phins. Stephen Ross will look to turn around a franchise that has steadily declined over the last decade and many wonder if they have come close to hitting the bottom yet. A new HC will be hired in the next week or two and the changes in personnel will shortly follow. This is truly an exciting time, albeit with a little anxiety as well.
Why not kick off this change with a little kicking out of the NY Jets?
The Dolphins match-up far better with the Jets now, than they did the first time they faced them. A thumping they took after three quarters of a tight contest. Not this time around. The Jets are playing too tight. Too much is on the line for a team that a short three weeks ago had full control of their own destiny and visions of the division dancing in their heads. It’s since fallen apart. The ostentatious bragging of Rex Ryan has done nothing more than put the bulls-eye square on the head of Mark Sanchez. For all the money the Jets has spent in the four years since Bill Parcells took over in Miami, the Jets have nothing to show for it accept two AFC Championship losses, and a lot of failed promises.
Miami can be their poison once again.
Brandon Marshall got stung the last time around when Darrell Revis took control and Marshall got flustered. Marshall has grown more since Matt Moore sunk into the system and got his legs beneath him. Moore was unable to generate much offense then and that has improved as well. The offensive line should be able to hold the Jets front line long enough for the Dolphins running game to keep the Jets defense honest. The big game however will have to come from guys like Davone Bess and Charles Clay. They will be the tertiary receiving threats and should find themselves open throughout the game.
The Dolphins can run on the Jets defense and that will open the game up through the air. Defensively, there should be no doubt that the emotions of Jason Taylor’s final game as an NFL player should ignite the defense to a level that makes them more than capable of hounding Mark Sanchez and forcing him into throws he can’t make. Taylor will likely be rushing from every possible angle in an attempt to land those precious final sacks of his career.
I look for the defense to rally around their retiring veteran. Vontae’ Davis has been playing far better as of late and Sean Smith is improving as well. The Jets have little in the rushing game and their passing attack is erratic. The fact that this is a lose and stay home game for the Jets, they will take chances they normally wouldn’t take, and with the Dolphins playing much much looser, the Jets could find them in a big hole like NE last week. If they do, they do not have the fire power to come back.
To me, this game will be won or lost in the trenches, and I give the advantage to Miami. 24 to 21 final with the Jets making a less than two minute’s left touchdown to give them 21. Dolphins take a knee, wrap up the 2011 season and usher in what hopefully will be a franchise changing 2012.