Jets-Dolphins Match Up Central

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Today should be interesting to say the least.  The Jets and Dolphins face each other with enough ongoing issues to count on more than two hands, whether it be football related or the Dolphins’ off the field distractions. Regardless, both teams while lagging  little bit are still in the thick of the AFC playoff picture somehow. It may look like a boring slate on paper to some, but there’s actually a lot on the line today for these two teams on the bubble.

The Dolphins will enter today without Jonathan Martin due to his off the field conundrum, and they won’t have Dmitri Patterson, Jamar Taylor, and Daniel Thomas available due to injuries. Likewise, the Jets may be without some of the bunch listed as questionable that consists of Antonio Allen, Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, and Garrett McIntyre.  They will likely all be game-time decisions.

Dolphins’ Offensive Tackles Vs Jets’ Edge Rush

Ryan Tannehill leads a Dolphins’ passing attack that has been fairly underrated all season. On paper, Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace don’t look too dangerous, as they’ve only scored four combined receiving touchdowns all season, with Hartline’s last one coming in Week 3. However, it’s kind of an illusion. Tannehill has been successful and very consistent throwing the ball around when the Dolphins can get him some protection, which has been scarce in 2013. Even before the Martin-Incognito annoyance to us all, the Miami offensive front has staggered. Bryant McKinnie isn’t a large downgrade from Martin, but he’s 34 and has lost a lot of foot quickness while blocking the edge. Tyson Clabo, on the other side, has been just as bad as Martin or McKinnie, but it hasn’t looked as desperate since he’s typically blocking inferior rushers as the anchor of the right side of the line.

Quinton Coples has stepped up his game drastically ever since he made large strides in the New Orleans game. His work against the run has been just as stellar as anybody else’s lately on this historically good run defense, and even though he’s dealt with inconsistencies while rushing the passer over the last handful of games, he has been making splash plays bending the edge enough to be a terror for McKinnie or Clabo all game. Calvin Pace may even have a favorable match-up when rushing the passer today, and that cannot be said that often nowadays with his stiffness. If the Jets can do what they’ve been doing all season generating interior pressure from some of the team’s best overall players, the combination of an edge rush looking to break out could doom this dangerous Fins’ passing attack.

Dee Milliner Vs Brian Hartline

Whether it’s Antonio Cromartie or Darrin Walls starting across from the rookie, one thing is certain: Milliner is healthy and will be tested when starting today. While he’s flashed vast improvement at times with the tools everybody loved coming out of Alabama, you have to imagine Hartline, a true possession receiver, is looking forward to this match-up. If Walls starts opposite of him, his deep speed will be an asset versus the king of one-dimensional wide receivers in Wallace, so Tannehill will likely target the rookie early and often. His skillset allows him to run very well with the mild athlete in Hartline, but Hartline gets open in intermediate routes like it’s nobody’s business, and that’s the area where Milliner has struggled. His positioning and technique has been extremely spotty in that particular area of the field when he clearly fears the deep ball and can’t trust his instincts when the routes are cut.

Jets’ Receivers Finding Separation Vs Dolphins’ Secondary

As Joe accurately points out every week he does a film study of the Jets’ passing game struggles, the ineptitude of the Jets’ offense through the air doesn’t all fall on Geno Smith or the offensive line’s faults; the wide receivers have not been helping him out at all by consistently getting open downfield. What can you do with a passing offense limited to short throws? That only spells for more desperately creative plays that end up stalling drives and setting the Jets back in yardage.

The Jets would be really fortunate if Jeremy Kerley can go today. The slot receiver has been set back good lengths from his dislocated elbow, but they’ll take anything they can get from him today if he plays, because nobody else has been able to get open. Santonio Holmes also may not get to play today, but his struggles have been evident too while trying to gain separation due to his declining speed and route running abilities. Kerley and Greg Salas will need to win their battles today to just get Geno and the Jets’ offense off the ground. Sure, Marty Mornhinweg will be able to run the ball with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell fairly successfully, but as we’ve seen lately, that only gets you so far when your team’s mistakes get you down major points early in games.

Austin Howard/D’Brickashaw Ferguson Vs Cameron Wake

This seems to be the most essential one-on-one match-up for both teams. The Dolphins win when Wake wreaks havoc, and the Jets passing offense plummets when they can’t protect their errant, rookie quarterback. Wake is one of the best edge defenders in the league, and still underrated if you were to ask me. Howard has been solid in pass protection all season, but we’ve seen him lose some steam on the edge versus faster, more dynamic pass rushers. Ferguson has been incredibly inconsistent, on the other hand.  Wherever Wake lines up, this is where all eyes will be, especially on third down situations with both team’s winning hopes resting on the success or handling of Wake.

Prediction

The Jets are not a great football team as of right now, and after the last two weeks, it’s hard to imagine them having a solid showing. They simply haven’t been able to take leads in games early because their offense can’t muster the first strike, and that dooms defenses in this league even as good as this one. I’ll say Dolphins- 17, Jets- 13 in a game that’s sure to be sloppy with several turnovers.