The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets will each look to get back to .500 on Sunday as the teams meet at MetLife Stadium. (Photo: NFL Rush)
5-6 teams that are still alive in the playoff hunt will meet in East Rutherford on Sunday as the Miami Dolphins visit the New York Jets for the first of two meetings this season. The Dolphins are coming off of a heartbreaking 20-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers while the New York Jets were held to just a field goal in a 19-3 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
After a 3-0 start, Miami has lost six of its last eight games and is tied with the Jets for second place in the AFC East at 5-6. The Dolphins entered the week tied with six other teams for the final playoff spot in the AFC, but thanks to Baltimore's victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, Miami now sits a half game back of that final wild card spot. Miami is 5-6 after 11 games for a second straight season.
The New York Jets have dropped two straight after alternating wins and losses in each of their first 10 games. At 5-6, the Jets are even with Miami for second in the AFC East and also sit a half game back of the Ravens. Baltimore holds the tiebreaker over both Miami and New York by virtue of winning head-to-head match-ups should any of those teams finish with the same record.
Miami and the New York Jets have split the season series in each of the last three seasons, but the Dolphins hold a 6-3 edge in the last nine match-ups. Miami won in East Rutherford 30-9 a season ago and dating back to 2008, the Dolphins are 4-1 when visiting the Jets. The last home victory for the Jets came on a Monday night in October of 2011 by a 24-6 score. For the Dolphins to make it five of six in East Rutherford, here are Sunday's keys to a 'Fins win:
Ge"no" Running Game
With rookie Geno Smith at quarterback, the New York Jets will look to dominate up front with their stellar ground game which ranks eighth in the NFL. Miami has struggled to slow down the run of late and on Sunday, if Miami is to have any success, the Dolphins will need to force Smith to beat them with his arm. Miami has yielded at least 100 yards of the ground in each of its last five games and the Dolphins must find a way to put Smith in obvious passing situations. Smith has thrown 18 picks already this season and the Dolphins have been opportunistic for the most part this year. To stuff the run, Miami will need a big day from defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Randy Starks and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Forcing Smith to make plays with his arm will give the Dolphins the best chance to win on Sunday.
Guard it With Your Life
In what looks to be a low-scoring defensive struggle on Sunday, turnovers could play a major role and winning that battle will be critical for the Dolphins. While Smith has been turnover prone for the Jets, Miami's Ryan Tannehill dealt with his own fumbling problem earlier in the season. Points will be at a premium on Sunday and for Miami to get back to .500, it cannot afford to either squander scoring opportunities or give the Jets short fields by turning the ball over.
Shots for Everybody!
Tannehill and coveted offseason acquisition, Mike Wallace, were finally able to make big plays in the passing game a week ago and against a blitz-happy Jets team, that opportunity should present itself once again. While New York has one of the better defenses in the league, cornerback has been a sore spot. Antonio Cromartie is in the midst of his worst season as a Jet while his counterpart, Dee Milliner, is just a rookie. Against a stout defense, sustaining drives won't be easy for the Dolphins, but the opportunity for big plays should be available.