Dolphins' To-Do List Vs. The Jets

Posted Dec 26, 2013

Breaking down the Dolphins’ biggest priorities this weekend.

In the regular season finale, the Dolphins will face a Jets team that has been mathematically eliminated in the playoffs but still will have plenty of motivation. The Jets have a chance to finish with a .500 record, an idea that many analysts thought was unrealistic when the season began. There’s also the much-discussed status of head coach Rex Ryan. Even if they can’t make the playoffs, the Jets have a chance to end up in a four- or five-way tie for sixth place in the AFC standings with a victory and losses by Baltimore and San Diego.

THE BIG PRIORITY ON DEFENSE: For the second week in a row, the focus on defense will be on stopping the run. The Jets rank sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game and are coming off a 208-yard performance in their victory against the Cleveland Browns. Like Buffalo, the Jets use their top two backs — Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell — fairly evenly. When the Dolphins played at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 1, they did a good job of neutralizing New York’s running game as they held the Jets under 100 yards rushing despite a 32-yard play by Ivory.

A FAVORABLE MATCHUP FOR THE DEFENSE: The Dolphins defense completely overwhelmed quarterback Geno Smith in the first meeting. The Jets rookie was in the middle of a bad slump and things got so bad against Miami that Rex Ryan benched him at halftime after Smith completed only 4 of 10 passes and had a passer rating of 8.3. It should be pointed out, though, that Smith has rebounded pretty well since that game and that the Jets’ most productive receiver (Jeremy Kerley) is back in the lineup after missing the Dec. 1 game because of an elbow injury.

THE BIG PRIORITY ON OFFENSE: The Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, worked in the same capacity with the Jets last season, so one can only imagine that Rex Ryan might copy the formula that worked so well against the Dolphins last Sunday. That means the Dolphins should be prepared for a heavy dose of blitzing. The Dolphins offensive line needs to do a better job of picking up those blitzers, and the running backs also need to step up in that department. It also would help if the Dolphins could duplicate the success they had on the ground against the Jets in the first meeting when they rushed for 125 yards.

A FAVORABLE MATCHUP FOR THE OFFENSE: Geno Smith wasn’t the only Jets rookie who was benched in the first meeting against the Dolphins because the same thing happened to cornerback Dee Milliner, the first of the team’s two first-round picks. Truth is, Ryan Tannehill had success against the entire Jets secondary on Dec. 1 as he passed for a season-high 331 yards with a pair of touchdowns that broke the game open in the second half. If the Dolphins can give Tannehill enough time, there’s really no reason to think he can’t put up big numbers again.

THE BIG PRIORITY ON SPECIAL TEAMS: The Jets haven’t been explosive in their return game this season, but they did get a 41-yard kickoff return from Antonio Cromartie in the Dec. 1 game. The Jets actually have had a sub-par season on special teams with the exception of kicker Nick Folk, who is 31-of-33 on field goal attempts.

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