Dolphins vs. Jets NFL Week 13: Who Has the Edge?
Dolphins vs. Jets: Who Has the Edge?
One again, the Miami Dolphins find themselves against the ropes. A loss in Week 12 to the Carolina Panthers has dropped them back into a pack of six 4-6 teams that are tied for the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot.
At this point, it's merely a battle of who is the least mediocre unless someone catches fire in the month of December. If the Dolphins have any hope of being the team that does, two crucial matchups with the archival New York Jets will be games they need to win.
Sunday's trip to East Rutherford, New Jersey to do battle with Rex Ryan's Jets will potentially feel like a playoff game for both Miami and New York. The winner will remain tied for the conference's second Wild Card spot while the loser will begin to see their playoff hopes fade away.
It will certainly be a game that the Dolphins are more than capable of winning. The Jets, led by inconsistent -- to be nice -- play by rookie quarterback Geno Smith, have lost two consecutive games by a combined 39 points.
The Jets also excel in areas where the Dolphins struggle. They run the ball productively and stuff opponents' ground attacks exceptionally well. Joe Philbin's Dolphins, meanwhile, have one of the NFL's worst running games and run defenses.
Miami will have to earn this win. It won't be given to them. Let's take a look at how the Dolphins and Jets matchup when each team runs, passes and plays special teams.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.
Dolphins' Pass Defense vs. Jets' Passing Attack
The rookie Smith made some plays early on in 2013, albeit on a inconsistent basis, but has really been struggling as of late. Smith hasn't completed 10 passes or 50 percent of his throws in any of the Jets' past three games.
His 62.1 quarterback rating, which is diluted by 18 interceptions to only eight touchdown passes, ranks 34th in the league. Smith has also been sacked 37 times through 11 games, which is tied for the second-most in the NFL. The Jets, a team that plays solid defense and is capable of running the rock down their opponent's throats, are limping to the finish line thanks in large part to Smith's play.
The rookie will face a Dolphins' pass defense in Week 13 that has emerged as the team's strong suit. Miami has conceded 234.7 passing yards per game thus far, which ranks 14th in the league. However, the 75.8 quarterback rating opposing quarterbacks have managed versus the Dolphins is the fourth-lowest in the NFL.
Led by shutdown coverage from cornerback Brent Grimes, who ranks seventh in overall efficiency at the position by Pro Football Focus, Miami should make throwing the football extremely difficult for Smith and the Jets on Sunday.
Dolphins' Rushing Attack vs. Jets' Run Defense
The Dolphins were struggling to run well before they lost three starting offensive linemen and running back Daniel Thomas. There's a chance center Mike Pouncey, who is the Dolphins' best offensive lineman, will return to the lineup in Week 13, but it likely won't matter.
The Jets are only allowing 2.9 yards per carry in 2013. Led by a dominant three-man defensive line, the Jets clearly boast the league's best run defense. At nose tackle, Damon Harrison's +29.2 run defense grade by Pro Football Focus is nearly twice as high as the No. 2 run defender at the position. At defensive end, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson have been very stout as well, and rank fifth and sixth respectively.
Running the football will be nearly impossible for Lamar Miller and the Dolphins on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman should consider keeping quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the shotgun for the majority of Sunday's game in order to run several read-option plays that will utilize the athletic signal caller and potentially make the Jets' front seven hesitate long enough to get something positive on the ground.
Just lining up and attempting to win the battles in the trenches isn't going to cut it for the Dolphins. They'll need to take an unconventional approach to running the football on Sunday or risk banging their heads against a wall all afternoon.
Edge: New York
Dolphins' Run Defense vs. Jets' Rushing Attack
The Dolphins' pass defense has significantly improved this season, but their run defense has taken a similarly significant step in the wrong direction. The struggles of linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe against the run have been well documented.
On Sunday, however, Miami's matchup versus the struggling rookie quarterback should dictate their game plan against the run. The Jets have ran the ball productively all season and are currently produce 127.0 rushing yards per contest, which ranks eighth in the NFL.
The Dolphins should sell out to stop running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell on Sunday afternoon with an extra defender in the box on most early downs. This will also put more pressure on Smith to beat Miami in the passing game. Strong safety Reshad Jones has played poorly since signing a contract extension in August, but could have a big game closer to the line of scrimmage versus the Jets.
If Miami can find a way to shut down New York's ground attack, it could dominate this football game.
Edge: New York
Dolphins' Passing Attack vs. Jets' Pass Defense
Tannehill has had a up-and-down second season at quarterback for the Dolphins, but he shouldn't wear all of the blame for the offense's struggles. An oftentimes non-existent running game and a porous pass protection have impeded his development.
Still, there are areas he can improve on like hitting the deep ball with more consistency. He'll have an opportunity to pick apart a suspect Jets' secondary on Sunday.
When New York isn't able to generate pressure on the quarterback, they've had difficulty defending the pass all year. None of the Jets' cornerbacks are slotted in the top-60 of Pro Football Focus' rankings at the position. Even the previously reliable Antonio Cromartie has struggled in 2013, giving up 666 yards and five touchdowns in coverage.
The key will be containing Wilkerson and Calvin Pace in pass protection. The two have combined for 17.0 sacks this season, and could be in Tannehill's face all game if the Dolphins' offensive line is the revolving door they've been at times this year.
Considering Miami likely won't have much of a running game to rely on, Tannehill might have to win this game for the Dolphins. The matchup suggests that he's capable of doing so, but it could come down to how much time he has in the pocket.
The Dolphins have the edge in kickoff return average while the Jets average more yards on punt returns. The Dolphins concede fewer yards on average in kick coverage, but more than the Jets in punt coverage.
Nick Folk has made 24-of-25 of his field goal attempts this season for the Jets, while rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis is only 20-of-26 for the Dolphins.
Brandon Fields has been the bright spot for Miami's special teams, as the seventh-year punter is leading the NFL with 49.2 yards per boot. Ryan Quigley has been solid for the Jets with an average of 46.1 yards and has pinned 16 punts inside the 20-yard line.
The inconsistency of the rookie Sturgis and poor decision-making at times by return man Marcus Thigpen concedes the edge over to the Jets.
Edge: New York
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