Miami Dolphins: 5 Keys to Victory in Week 13

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Miami Dolphins: 5 Keys to Victory in Week 13

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Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets only sit a half game back in the chase for the AFC's second Wild Card spot. Still, both teams could be entering an elimination game on Sunday.

There are currently eight teams realistically competing for the conference's final postseason opening, and one of the eight is bound to get hot in the month of December. The Dolphins and Jets really don't have much room for error down the stretch if either hopes to be the team that does.

Both should adopt a one-game-at-a-time mentality, however. Miami and New York should each look at its Week 13 divisional clash as a great opportunity to get back to .500 on the season. The Dolphins should see a Jets team that hasn't thrown the football or stopped its opponents from doing so consistently all year. The Jets should see a Dolphins team that won't be able to establish the run against a talented front seven or stop a productive running game on the other side of the ball.

This matchup has the potential to be a blowout favoring either squad or a tightly contested classic. The uncertainty surrounding each team is just that puzzling. The Dolphins and Jets have some impressive wins on their resumes but equally embarrassing losses.

It's time to find out which squad is the AFC East's second best team and if Miami or New York should be considered a legitimate playoff contender. Here are the Dolphins' five keys to earning a huge victory over their division rival in Week 13.

Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.

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5. Stack Box to Stop Run

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have ran the ball productively all season despite erratic play at the quarterback position while the Dolphins' remolded linebacker corps has inhibited their ability to consistently keep opposing rushing attacks under wraps.

The 4.2 yards per carry Miami is allowing ranks 20th in the NFL. Running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell have the ability to continue exposing linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe as liabilities against the run.

To counter, the Dolphins should put strong safety Reshad Jones in the box on most early downs. Jones hasn't been the dominant player he was a year ago thus far, but he could benefit from a role in which he primarily fills running lanes.

An eighth defender near the line of scrimmage would also force rookie quarterback Geno Smith to make more plays in order to beat Miami. Smith hasn't completed over 50 percent of his passes in game for nearly a month and doesn't appear capable of beating the Dolphins on his own.

If defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle can put Miami in position to limit New York's ground game Smith could be in store for another turnover fest.

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4. Avoid Negative, Drive-Killing Runs

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The Dolphins' inconsistent running game in 2013 is responsible for three of the team's lowest rushing outputs in franchise history. Behind shaky offensive-line play and uninspiring running from Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, the Dolphins produced totals of 20, 22 and two rushing yards in Weeks 1, 5 and 10. There's a very good chance Sunday's game will join that list.

The Jets are only conceding 2.9 yards per carry this season, which is the lowest average in the NFL by far. Thanks to dominant play in the trenches by Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson, the Jets will make running the football nearly impossible for the Dolphins on Sunday.

But Miami can ill afford to pass on every down. Rex Ryan's exotic-blitz packages will eat quarterback Ryan Tannehill alive if the Jets are allowed rush the passer on every play. The Dolphins must give Miller some carries on Sunday, but it's not necessarily vital that those carries be productive. Avoiding negative yardage will be key, however.

Negative runs can kill a drive, which happened on two occasions in Week 12 when Miller tried to make too much happen and was dragged down well behind the line of scrimmage. The Dolphins should consider some misdirection plays like a heavy-dose of read option to keep the Jets' ferocious front seven at bay.

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3. Dominate Defensively for 60 Minutes

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to tightening the screws against the run, the Dolphins' defense must play a complete game for all four quarters. Against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12, Miami's defense looked the part of an elite unit during the game's first half. It was flying to the football, pressuring Cam Newton and playing outstanding coverage. Then the Dolphins conceded a field goal before halftime and two lengthy touchdown drives in the second half that proved to be the difference.

With a talented line and secondary, the Dolphins' defense is more than capable of completely shutting down the Jets' anemic offensive attack. They'll need to do so for all 60 minutes given how untrustworthy Miami's offense has been this season.

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2. Contain Muhammad Wilkerson

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Barring a drastic turn of events, the Dolphins won't be running the football with any sort of success versus the Jets on Sunday. That means the onus will fall on Tannehill and Miami's passing attack to move the football.

New York ranks 22nd against the pass this season, as it is allowing 250.3 passing yards per game. With time Tannehill could be in store for a prolific afternoon, but time is far from guaranteed. The Jets possess a capable pass rush which is led by Wilkerson at defensive end.

In the first 11 games, Wilkerson generated 10 sacks, eight quarterback hits and 20 hurries. Few 3-4 defensive ends are as qualified as Wilkerson to harass opposing quarterbacks. The Dolphins' interior offensive line, most notably Nate Garner and Mike Pouncey (if he plays), will need keep Wilkerson from collapsing the pocket. If they don't, key No. 1 will be a more difficult task.

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1. Exploit Suspect Jets Secondary

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Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

If the Dolphins can keep Tannehill clean in the pocket, wide receivers Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Rishard Matthews could be in store for big-time production. The Jets' secondary has been shredded at times this season.

None of New York's cornerbacks are slotted in the top-60 of Pro Football Focus' rankings at the position. Antonio Cromartie (100th), Kyle Wilson (77th), Darrin Walls (64th) and Dee Milliner (102nd) have each graded negatively in overall efficiency. The Jets clearly miss Darrelle Revis and are unable to play Ryan's infamous aggressive brand of defense as often without shutdown coverage in the secondary.

It all starts up front for the Dolphins, who must keep the likes of Wilkerson and Calvin Pace from pressuring Tannehill. But if it can there will be opportunistic matchups all over the field for Tannehill to exploit on Sunday.


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