Dolphins vs. Jets NFL Week 17: Who Has the Edge?
Dolphins vs. Jets: Who Has the Edge?
Christmas is over, but the Miami Dolphins and their faithful won't find out until Sunday if they'll be getting the No. 1 item on their list this year. That would undoubtedly be a playoff berth, which would be the franchise's first since 2008.
The Dolphins forfeited control over their own destiny in Week 16 with a shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills, but all they need is a win over the New York Jets and a loss by the Baltimore Ravens or a win by the San Diego Chargers to sneak in as the AFC's sixth seed on Sunday.
The Jets have only won one road game all season and have lost five games by double digits away from the Meadowlands. They also lost to the Dolphins quite convincingly on Dec. 1. If Miami can take care of business again, there is a strong chance it will get the help it needs.
The Ravens will travel to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the Cincinnati Bengals, who haven't lost at home all season, while the Chargers are expected to play a Kansas City Chiefs squad that will be resting several key players with the fifth seed already in hand. The Dolphins need to only focus on the Jets, however, and let the rest take care of itself.
Given the result of the two team's first matchup, it's a game the Dolphins should win, especially at home. But odds are it will be a competitive battle as the Jets will be motivated to spoil the Dolphins' season. Let's take a look at which team has the edge in this regular-season finale.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.
Dolphins' Pass Defense vs. Jets' Passing Attack
Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith was at his worst during the first half against the Dolphins earlier this month. Smith only completed four of 10 passes for 29 yards and an interception before his benching, as backup Matt Simms took over the reigns in the second half.
But while Smith has been mistake prone and turnover plagued during his first season, he's capable of stringing together a solid performance if he establishes a rhythm. He had one of his better showings of the year on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, completing nearly 57 percent of his passes for 214 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Miami will look to force Smith into the same mistakes that led to their near shutout of New York in Week 13. To do so, the Dolphins will need to dial up an intense pass rush. The Jets are tied for second in the league after conceding 47 sacks through 15 games and the Dolphins rank ninth with 42 sacks defensively. Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and company will need to rebound after collectively producing a mere one sack (on a cornerback blitz), two quarterback hits and two hurries versus the Bills.
The Dolphins will also need to account for wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who only played two snaps during the first matchup due to an injury. Holmes has just 415 yards on the season, but he's sat out five games. Miami's Brent Grimes, who still hasn't allowed a touchdown in coverage this season and ranks as Pro Football Focus' fourth most efficient cornerback, will likely take on the task of limiting Holmes' impact.
If the Dolphins can pressure Smith and force him into rookie mistakes, they'll have a decisive edge in this matchup.
Dolphins' Rushing Attack vs. Jets' Run Defense
At the time of the first meeting the Jets owned the league's top run defense and were allowing a mere 2.9 yards per carry. Somehow the same Dolphins' running game that produced a franchise-low two yards on the ground in Week 10, was able to generate 125 rushing yards on the Jets' stout front seven.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman stayed committed to a balanced attack and wasn't deterred by two and three-yard gains. As a result, the Dolphins were able to move the ball up and down the field all day. The Jets rank third against the run entering the final week of the season, but are still more than capable of bottling up the Dolphins' backs and making their offense one dimensional.
Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller only combined for 14 yards on 12 carries in Buffalo, so more production will certainly be in order if the Miami offense hopes to get back on track after getting shutout for the first time of the year.
Containing Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, who rank fifth and sixth respectively among Pro Football Focus' 3-4 defensive end rankings, and Damon Harrison, who is the site's fourth ranked defensive tackle, will be a tall task for the Dolphins' makeshift offensive line.
Edge: New York
Dolphins' Run Defense vs. Jets' Rushing Attack
The Dolphins' leaky run defense was torched for over 200 yards for the first time in 2013 on Sunday in Buffalo. While Miami owns a talented defensive tackle rotation, its defensive ends have done a sub-par job of setting the edge and its linebackers have been some of the league's worst at shedding blocks and filling running lanes.
Philip Wheeler is now Pro Football Focus' lowest graded 4-3 outside linebacker and Dannell Ellerbe ranks 53rd of 55 inside linebackers by the site. Both have been a huge deterrent to Miami's ability to stop the run. Only seven other teams are giving up more rushing yards per game than the Dolphins.
The Jets, meanwhile, have the league's sixth ranked rushing attack with an average of 133.6 yards per game. Back in Week 13, however, running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell combined for just 95 yards. Ivory enters this game with a great deal of momentum, though. He's produced 251 yards on 5.1 yards per carry over his past three games.
Given Geno Smith's struggles at quarterback, expect the Dolphins to key on the run by adding an extra defender to the box on many early downs. Still, it would be a surpise if the Jets' didn't surpass the century mark in rushing yards this time around.
Edge: New York
Dolphins' Passing Attack vs. Jets' Pass Defense
Ryan Tannehill had the lowest passing yards total of his career, excluding a game versus the Jets in 2012 when left with an injury after only five attempts, on Sunday versus the Bills. He completed 10 of 27 passes for 82 yards, giving him his lowest quarterback rating of the season.
But it's hard to blame Tannehill exclusively when he was harassed from start to finish by a relentless pass rush. Buffalo was seemingly all over Miami's snap count and dialed up blitzes from its linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties. The seven sacks Tannehill absorbed were the most he's taken all year. On 34 drop backs, he was also hit three times and pressured 15, meaning he wasn't sacked, hit or pressured on only nine drop backs.
While the Jets are capable of bringing interior heat like the Bills, they don't measure up to their pass rushing presence on the edge. That should give Tannehill more time to throw than he had on Sunday, which should allow him to pick on a suspect group of cornerbacks like he did in Week 13.
Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner, who both grade in the bottom 21 of Pro Football Focus' cornerback rankings, had days to forget against the Dolphins in the first meeting. Cromartie allowed 59 yards and a touchdown in coverage while Milliner gave up 82 yards and a touchdown. Receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline each victimized the two early and often.
This is an opportunistic matchup for the Dolphins, but their success will hinge on the offensive line's ability to protect Tannehill.
The Dolphins and Jets both rank near the bottom of Pro Football Focus' special-teams accumulative efficiency rankings. However, Miami's Brandon Fields ranks second in the entire league in yards per punt and New York's Nick Folk has split the uprights on 93.9 percent of his field-goal tries. Both specialists do their part to help each team's mediocre unit, but it would be a surprise if the Dolphins and Jets play a mistake-free game on special-teams.
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