Sunday, December 1, 2013

Four Point Stance: Dolphins at Jets


The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins have one major thing in common going into Week 13: desperation.

The loser of the teams' divisional bout is all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, and even the winner will face a steep uphill hike. Both at 5-6, the Jets and Dolphins are in a large pool of near-.500 AFC squads fighting over the last Wildcard spot.

Miami got off to a hot start, winning its first three games and looking like a contender before stringing off four consecutive losses. The Dolphins have flip-flopped the scoreboard since, most recently falling in a heartbreaking last-minute affair with the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, the Jets alternated wins in their first 10 games but dropped below .500 for the first time all season with a loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week.

When the Jets have the ball:
Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith has been a turnover machine, and his offensive line has been shaky at best. That combination plays right into the hands of the Dolphins' defense, which has had a knack for flipping the field in the passing game while staying aggressive up front. Miami has snagged 14 interceptions in 11 games this season and should fare well against Smith and his hodgepodge of receivers. The Dolphins' defensive front will look to exploit New York's sub-par offensive front but must be wary of a Jets running game that is favored in its matchup with Miami's defensive line.

When the Dolphins have the ball:
Lamar Miller may finally have his chance to prove himself an every-down back with Daniel Thomas out of the lineup for an extended period of time, but Miller will face the toughest of tests right off the bat. The Jets boast the league No. 1 run defense from pretty much every angle, and Miami's running game hasn't exactly been impressive to begin with. The Dolphins will be best served attacking the perimeter of a struggling Jets secondary. Gang Green's defensive front will be after Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill all afternoon, however, so Miami's protection unit must be at its best.

Mike Wallace vs. Antonio Cromartie. Coming off what could be considered a career year, Cromartie has been bad this season. He and rookie cornerback Dee Milliner have gotten burned on a gamely basis, and things won't get any easier with the speedy Wallace coming to town. The Dolphins will take their shots, and they'll probably connect a few times. The key will be pursuit and tackling, as it's one thing to get burned for a long play, but it's another thing to get burned for a long touchdown.

While the Jets' record-setting win-loss streak to start the 2013 season was put to an end last week, their win-loss pattern with the Dolphins is still very much alive. The teams have alternated wins in their last seven matchups, with Miami ousting Gang Green in their most recent meeting. The Jets lead the all-time series by a 49-45-1 margin, and the rivalry has seen its fair share of dramatics.

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