Miami Dolphins’ 5 Keys to Victory in Week 17
Miami Dolphins: 5 Keys to Victory in Week 17
Well, this is it for the Miami Dolphins. A loss on Sunday to the New York Jets would end a season that has shown sporadic signs of promise while a win wouldn't even guarantee its continuance. But a win is all Miami can control to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Said aspirations are not of the slim variety. In addition to beating the Jets, all the Dolphins need is the Cincinnati Bengals to top the Baltimore Ravens or the San Diego Chargers to best the Kansas City Chiefs. As the home teams, both the Bengals and Chargers will be favored to win their respective games.
If the Dolphins can take care of their own business, something they were unable to do last Sunday versus the Buffalo Bills, there is a better chance than not they will be headed to the postseason. In order to put their best foot forward against a team that will be desperate to end its season on a high note and spoil its rival's playoff chances, the Dolphins must treat Sunday's game with postseason importance.
If Miami plays as well as it did in East Rutherford, New Jersey earlier this month, when it beat New York by 20 points, there's no reason it shouldn't pick up its ninth win of the season against a team that is 1-6 on the road in 2013.
Let's take a look at the Dolphins' five keys to victory on Sunday versus the Jets.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.
5. Take Moderate Success in Running Game Throughout
The Dolphins only averaged 3.5 yards per carry during their first meeting with the Jets, but offensive coordinator Mike Sherman did an outstanding job of staying committed to the run. Overall, Miami tallied 125 rushing yards in the Meadowlands which opened up its passing game and kept the opposing pass rush at bay.
A similarly balanced attack would do wonders for the Dolphins' offense in its bid to rebound from its worst showing of the season last Sunday in Buffalo. Taking two or three-yard gains on first and second down should be considered a success against the Jets' stout front seven. The Dolphins should consider giving Lamar Miller the bulk of the carries after Daniel Thomas only managed six yards on nine attempts in Week 16.
4. Put Ball in Geno Smith's Hands
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith had one of his worst performances of the season against the Dolphins in Week 13, completing only four passes for 29 yards and an interception before going to the bench in favor of Matt Simms. If Miami can keep New York's dangerous running game in check -- which is a lot easier said that done -- the onus will fall on Smith to make plays with his arm.
To do so, the Dolphins will need to consider loading up the box on many early downs to key on Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell's ability to gash their front seven. The two only combined for 95 rushing yards in Week 13, but both nearly averaged five yards per carry. The Jets would be wise to run early and often, which would keep the pressure on the Dolphins' defense to fill lanes and make tackles instead of New York's rookie passer.
3. Contain Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson
The Jets' defense isn't the dominant force it used to be under Rex Ryan, but it does possess two of the league's most talented 3-4 defensive ends. Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson will be a handful for the Dolphins' scrutinized offensive line on Sunday afternoon.
Wilkerson, who ranks as the sixth most effective 3-4 end by Pro Football Focus, is capable of harassing quarterback Ryan Tannehill as he's registered 10.5 sacks on the year. Richardson, who ranks as the fifth most efficient player at his position, is more of a threat to Miami's rushing attack with 40 run stops through 15 games.
If the Dolphins' line can keep Wilkerson away from Tannehill and Richardson away from Miller and Thomas, it should enable the offense to have a productive performance after being shutout a week ago.
2. Keep Turnover Streak Alive
The Dolphins are the only team in the entire NFL to have forced a turnover in every game thus far. Can they complete the perfect season of takeaways on Sunday against the Jets? Odds are they will, especially if they follow key No. 4 and force Geno Smith to air it out. Smith has been in the giving mood all year and ranks second in the entire league with 21 interceptions.
Forcing turnovers would be the easiest way to dominate this game for the Dolphins and allow their faithful a less stressful 60 minutes of action as they wait to see if either the Bengals or Chargers will provide the necessary assistance Miami needs for a playoff berth.
1. Expose Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner
Thanks to a balanced attack and reliable protection, Tannehill had the means he needed to target the Jets' struggling cornerback duo back on December 1. Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner each gave up a touchdown pass and a combined 141 yards in coverage during the first meeting. Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace, who are both within striking distance of the 1,000-yard milestone, look to be poised for another prolific afternoon.
Cromartie will likely cover Wallace on most downs and Milliner projects to line up across from Hartline, but the two will swap roles on occasion. In fact, back in Week 13, Hartline's touchdown came against Cromartie and Wallace scored on Milliner. Either way, it's an opportunistic matchup for both of Miami's starting receivers that Tannehill must take advantage of.