Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) hits Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) In the 2nd half at MetLife Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets will visit the ‘Sunshine State’ to take on the Miami Dolphins in a heated Week 9 divisional matchup. Historically, the Jets vs Dolphins matchups tend to be pretty good as both teams enter Week 9 riding a two-game winning streak. Gang Green won both meetings in 2015 by a combined score of 65-34. The Dolphins have improved greatly under Adam Gase, but they remain a rebuilding franchise. The loser of this outing will move into the last place in the AFC East and out of playoff discussion.
The Jets looked shaky in Cleveland, although they found a way to win. The Browns opened the half with a 20-7 lead as New York came out flat in all three phases. Ryan Fitzpatrick was dreadful opening the contest 3/14 for 30 yards while Matt Forte couldn’t do much besides two long runs. Despite the slow start, they strung together a strong second half finishing with 393 yards of offense. This game is a much tougher task, so things need to quickly improve on the defensive side of the ball.
Miami, on the other hand, is coming off their bye. Before the week off, they stomped the Buffalo Bills and running back Jay Ajayi had plenty to do with it. The ‘Unicorn’ rushed for 214 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, essentially causing All-Pro Arian Foster to retire. If he hadn’t emerged like this, the Dolphins would undoubtedly be one of the worst teams in the NFL. Defenses now have to worry about both the run and pass threat against them.
Looking at this game on paper, it’s almost a tossup. The Jets do have Miami’s number at Sunlife Stadium, however, the Dolphins are different from the Baltimore Ravens and Browns. They have an offense that can score and a front that can occasionally stop the run like one of the league’s best. Todd Bowles and company could have their hands full if they start slow yet again. Without further ado, here are the top three keys to victory for New York.
Next: 3. Attack Tony Lippett
Oct 9, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews (18) hauls in a catch asMiami Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett (36) defends during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Titans won 30-17. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
3. Attack Tony Lippett
If the Jets want to find success through the air, they should try to pick on cornerback Tony Lippett early and often. With rookie Xavien Howard sidelined, the Dolphins have turned to the Michigan State product as their guy opposite Byron Maxwell. He actually played wide receiver in college after seeing time at corner his freshman season. He hasn’t been bad since making the switch back, but he’s clearly the weakest link in the secondary.
It’s very surprising that quarterbacks prefer to attack Maxwell instead. Given his 6’3 frame and 4.6 speed, Lippett is vulnerable to the small and fast receivers who can create separation as soon as the ball is snapped. A.J. Green, several Titans wideouts and of course Antonio Brown were able to have their way with him in the past few weeks. Fitzpatrick should have no problem throwing on Lippett as long as his line keeps him clean.
Maxwell will most likely be assigned to Brandon Marshall throughout the day, so Quincy Enunwa could be in line for a heavy volume of targets. It’s now been two straight games in which the 2014 sixth-round pick has found pay dirt in epic fashion. He had the long touchdown vs. Baltimore and the hard-earned one last Sunday. His quickness and physicality give him an edge over Lippett that New York would be hard pressed not to exploit. There’s no reason for offensive coordinator Chan Gailey to overthink this one.
Next: 2. Don't forget about DeVante Parker & Kenny Stills
Sep 25, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the game against the Cleveland Browns during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
2. Don’t forget about DeVante Parker & Kenny Stills
A majority of Bowles’ attention will be on standout receiver Jarvis Landry. While it may be a good idea to keep him in check, Gang Green needs to remember the Dolphins have more than one weapon in the passing game. DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills have proven they can shred defenses if too much attention is given to their partner in crime. The two have quietly racked up 612 yards and four touchdowns on 39 receptions.
Parker has been one of Tannehill’s favorite targets when he’s healthy. The Louisville graduate is 6’3 and 210 lbs. which is the frame of a pure touchdown machine. When Miami gets inside the 20, the Jets have to blanket him or else their bend but don’t break defense will become bend and break. Unlike Parker, Stills is a speedster who does his damage on throws downfield. New York has done an atrocious job in stopping those plays throughout the year.
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With that being said, Bowles must keep the safeties deep even with how dominant Ajayi has been. The Jets have allowed the most passing yards in the league and they can use all the help they can get in the secondary. Marcus Gilchrist has made an impact as of late and you have to continue to let him ballhawk. It’d hurt pulling Calvin Pryor out of the box, although it can mean the difference between a win and a loss. Contain Miami’s aerial attack and gain some confidence on defense.
Next: 1. Dominate in the trenches
1. Dominate in the trenches
Many say that if a team dominates in the trenches, they’ll win the game. Well, that’s the case for this contest. New York has destroyed the Dolphins at the line of scrimmage in recent meetings and as a result, they’ve won. Despite coming away with a loss due to poor play calling, they pushed them around in the Monday Night matchup in 2014 as well. With the units they have this season, the trend should continue.
Ryan Clady and Nick Mangold are banged up, however, the Jets still managed to rush for 171 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries in Week 8. Fitzpatrick was additionally under minimal duress. On the defensive side, Gang Green’s front remains unstoppable. Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson and Steve McLendon are extremely difficult to block against the run and pass. Let’s not forget, Miami isn’t exactly strong on their offensive line.
The Jets can strike gold here if they show effort in the trenches. The Dolphins have been running the ball efficiently, but stopping the run is where New York excels. This means all the pressure falls on James Carpenter and Brian Winters who have been reliable on this year’s offensive line. Can they keep Fitzpatrick on his feet and push the pile for Forte? The Jets need to answer the bell in this department and get to 4-5.