The Miami Dolphins (5-6) will be visiting the division rival New York Jets (5-6) this Sunday in what is sure to be a telling game for both teams. Both foes will be looking to keep themselves in the discussion for the final wild-card spot in the AFC.
Miami is coming off a downright bad loss to the Carolina Panthers in which Carolina’s defense shut out Miami’s offense in the second half. New York, on the other hand, is also coming off a terrible loss to Baltimore in which the team was only able to muster 3 points all game. Yikes.
Now there is a lot of things to keep an eye on this game, heck it’s a divisional game so of course there is, but here are some keys to victory for the Miami Dolphins if they hope to keep their play-off hopes alive.
1. Shut down RB Chris Ivory and NY’s rushing attack.
Miami’s 25th ranked rush defense, allowing 124 yards per game, will have a tough task in this one facing NY’s 8th ranked rush attack, averaging 127 yards per game. New York’s offense has found itself quite a running back in Chris Ivory who has 116 carries for 502 yards on the season (2 touchdowns).
Shutting down Ivory is the focal point in this one for Miami’s front seven. How was Baltimore able to hold NY to just 3 points last week? Ivory gained 35 yards on just 9 carries. Miami must focus on shutting down Ivory in this one, which will force NY to become one dimensional offensively putting the game on rookie QB Geno Smith’s arm (22 turnovers this season and has not completed more than 9 passes in 3 games, along with not throwing a touchdown in 4 games).
This stipulation here would need a solid game from Miami’s linebackers, who have been struggling this season against the run – more specifically tackling in general. LB Dannell Ellerbe needs to have himself a game this week and show why Miami gave him a hefty contract this past off-season.
2. Keep New York’s defense honest.
Miami’s anemic 26th ranked rush attack, averaging 86 yards per game, will be facing a stiff test in the league’s top ranked rush defense, allowing 73 yards per game. Miami has also lost RB Daniel Thomas for an extended period of time due to an ankle injury suffered last week in the loss to Carolina. RB Lamar Miller will have to shoulder the load this week along with rookie RB Mike Gillislee against the league’s best.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has a tendency to give up on the run game when it’s simply not netting any yardage, hell he gives up on it when it IS netting yardage. That may work against some teams, but NY has a talented secondary, although their 22nd rank against the pass does not show that. Sherman needs to give Miller the football at least 20 times in this one to keep an offensive balance, while also keeping NY’s defense honest.
S Ed Reed may not be the same player he has been in recent years, but with a QB like Ryan Tannehill, Reed scares me….a lot.
3. QB Ryan Tannehill needs to continue to build chemistry with WR Mike Wallace.
Here are Wallace’s numbers over the first ten games of the season:
long of 49
Wallace’s numbers last week in perhaps his best game yet?
long of 57
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story here. QB Ryan Tannehill was told by his coaching staff before last week’s game to, “let it rip”. What did Tannehill do? He let it rip. Tannehill targeted Wallace deep and began to find some form of chemistry with the speedy receiver. Now Wallace made Tannehill look good on several occasions, but Tannehill needs to continue to look for Wallace deep. That is what he was brought in to do, stretch the defense and provide a spark to Miami’s offense.
Wallace could be matched up with rookie CB Dee Milliner, or hobbled CB Antonio Cromartie, who is nursing a hip injury. Either way Wallace should be hot again this week for Miami. Milliner, who is a talented rookie, has been struggling all season to get his game together and adjust to the speed of the pro game, while Cromartie, who is very athletic and has immense speed, would likely struggle to keep up with Wallace deep due to his hip injury.
4. PROTECT QB RYAN TANNEHILL.
Please, for the love of god, protect your quarterback in this one. Tannehill has been sacked an astonishing league-high 44 times this season. Miami’s “plug-and-go” offensive line will face a stiff test this week against New York’s pass rush which has notched 32 sacks this season.
3 players to keep an eye on defensively: LB Calvin Pace with 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles. DE Muhammad Wilkerson with 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles. DE/DT Sheldon Richardson with 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble. Outside of these three players, no other player has more than 2 sacks which are LB David Harris, LB Garrett McIntyre, and LB Antwan Barnes.
Miami may receive a boost this week along the offensive line, however. C Mike Pouncey could play against the division foe New York Jets, but the question still remains —–> where? Nate Garner has done a phenomenal job filling in for Pouncey, why not try out Pouncey at a guard spot? Given his athleticism he could thrive. Sam Brenner has done a decent job at the LG position, but replace Brenner with Pouncey, Miami may be able to run the ball a bit better at least inside.
5. Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle must “release the hounds” this week.
If Miami can successfully shut down NY’s run game, that forces QB Geno Smith to not only complete more than 9 passes to win the game, but it also forces NY to become one dimensional offensively. Therefore, you know exactly what they are doing. PASSING. Kevin Coyle should not be shy at all in releasing his talented pass rushers. Olivier Vernon, Cameron Wake, and Dion Jordan should all be on the field at the same time rushing the passer at the same time.
Hell, even if Miami cannot shut down NY’s run game and force their offense to become one dimensional, Miami’s pass rush still has an excellent shot at getting to the quarterback. NY has allowed 38 sacks this season, while Geno Smith has accounted for 22 turnovers and has fumbled the ball 8 times (lost 4).
DE Cameron Wake should be licking his chops this week facing RT Austin Howard. DE Olivier Vernon should be able to use his speed to beat D’Brickashaw Ferguson on the edge, and DE Dion Jordan should be able to beat just about any pass protector NY has with his speed. Miami’s defensive tackles will be facing a beat up interior, also. RG Willie Colon and C Nick Mangold are both nursing injures, and rookie LG Brian Winters has been widely inconsistent this season.
Look for Miami to use it’s athleticism this week to throw Smith and this NY offense off beat.
Miami has a much, much more talented offense than NY. That being said, NY has a much more talented run defense than Miami does. But, I like Miami’s chances in this one to be quite honest. I think Miami’s defensive line will show up this week and finally produce one of those 6-8 sack games against the struggling Geno Smith, and Miami’s secondary should prove to be a difficult challenge for the rookie QB to crack.
It all relies on if Miami can play effectively for a full game, and I think they do this week.
Miami – 27 NYJ – 17
—-All statistics taken from NFL.com—-