Miami Dolphins fans were hoping that games in the month of December meant something and they've got their wish again in week 17. After a disheartening loss in week 16, this team now has an opportunity to close out the season with a victory at home, keeping their playoff chances alive and at the same time sweeping their AFC East rivals from New York. Head coach Joe Philbin has said that this team needs to play it's best football game of the season this Sunday to earn their ninth victory of the year, and here are some of the things that I'll be playing close attention to against the Jets.
1) Playing Loose In Close Games - There is no denying the fact that this game on Sunday finally falls into the category of must win for the Miami Dolphins. I don't believe that it will affect the way this team executes or how aggressive the game plan is against the Jets come one o'clock. The Dolphins have plenty of game-time experience excelling in one-score contests, especially in end of game scenarios. Eleven games have been decided by seven points or less this season and both the offense and defense have come through with plays that result in victory. Head coach Joe Philbin's demeanor will benefit the way this team approaches game day and I believe that this team will respond and play their best game of the season against the Jets. If they do, Miami's playoff chances stay alive and the game might not be that close.
2) Pass Protection - Some records are better than others and breaking the franchise record for sacks allowed is not one to tell your friends about. Big question coming into this game is how this offensive line will bounce back against a group of defenders from New York that can get after the passer. Being able to identify where the pressure is coming from and not allowing that pressure to effect quarterback
3) Mix It Up - Just writing and reading the numbers above shows why the Dolphins had so much success and won easily on the road the first time these two teams met in week 13. Tannehill threw for a season-high 331 yards but also spread the football around to the big three (
4) Shut Down The Run - A big question for the Miami Dolphins defense will be can they slow down the rushing attack that the New York Jets offense likes to lean on. The Jets are averaging 4.4 yards per carry on the ground and have two capable runners in Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Miami's run defense wasn't up to the challenge last week and must find a way to tackle better in-between the tackles. Also the Dolphins need more bodies around the ball carrier on Sunday. The term playing defense like your hair was on fire applies after allowing the Bills to rush for 203 yards last week. This defense must make plays behind the line of scrimmage and totally dominate at the point of attack.
5) Create Big Plays - Game-changing plays are what this team will try and generate this Sunday inside of Sun Life Stadium. Players never know when they might occur in a football game but this team has the ability and the talent to make enough of them to win. On offense, the key is quarterback Ryan Tannehill and his ability to be accurate in the passing game. When given time to throw, Tannehill's numbers have grown (23 touchdowns to 14 interceptions) and his percentage and quarterback rating are both trending up. He has the playmakers at wide receiver and tight end to generate chunk yardage plays and I look for Ryan to use his legs when needed against the pressure the Jets might apply in the pocket. Defensively, ends Cam Wake and