New York Jets (3-5) @ Miami Dolphins (3-4)
Sunday November 6, 1:00 PM EST – Hard Rock Stadium
Betting Line: Dolphins -3.5
Next week, the Dolphins will make a ten day trip to the Pacific coast of California. As daunting as that sounds, when that plane to San Diego boards, it will have been more than 40 days since the last time the Dolphins spent a day away from their families.
On this home stand, the Dolphins are 2-1 with convincing victories over two teams with a combined record of 8-3 when they came to Hard Rock Stadium. The Jets, in terms of record, are supposed to be an easier out. Their quarterback was benched and then thrust back into the lineup when the backup, Geno Smith, lasted a quarter and a half before tearing his ACL.
The recipient of as much criticism as any player in the league this year, Ryan Fitzpatrick has earned every bit of bad press he has received. His 4.1 interception percentage is second from the bottom trailing only Case Keenum’s 4.2% and Fitzpatrick’s paltry 6.6 yards per pass average ranks 25th in that category.
This offense lacks explosion, has difficulty running the ball and turns it over far too often. Although more than half of Fitzpatrick’s 11 interceptions came in one game, he has a handful of other interception opportunities that have been dropped by the defense.
The Miami defense, on the other hand, has struggled to secure interceptions. No Dolphins cornerback has an interception in 2016. Free safety Isa Abdul-Quddus has two and strong safety Reshad Jones (injured reserve) has the other.
For the Dolphins to win this game, they need to secure the turnover battle and it starts by forcing Fitzpatrick into mistakes. To do this, pressuring the pocket is first on the list of priorities. Although he’s only been sacked 14 times, Fitzpatrick has struggled sufficiently with pressure this season making poor decision and missing open receivers.
Andre Branch has been a pleasant surprise rushing the passer this year creating pressure on the quarterback at a higher rate than any Miami Dolphins outside of Cameron Wake. His matchup with Ryan Clady figures to go in the Dolphins favor as a number of injuries and seasoning have worn down the former all-pro left tackle. Breno Giacomini figures to get the start on the other edge and he’ll have to deal with Wake and his explosive first step.
If the Jets can’t find a way to run the ball (and if Nick Mangold is still ailing from a neck injury, it will make it extremely difficult) then these pass rushers are going to tee off on an easily flustered quarterback throwing to receivers that lack a speed element.
Robbie Anderson has the most speed to burn at receiver but he struggles catching the ball in traffic. Brandon Marshall is still as physically imposing as he has ever been, but I wonder where his head is at as this team is struggling in 2016. On Bilal Powell’s 35 yard touchdown run against Cleveland, Marshall had a tremendous block and just walked off the field without any joy for his team finding the end-zone.
The Jets run scheme can be quite predictable in terms of zone read looks and lining up with a full back (or I suppose an H-back) with Brandon Bostic. He played 41 offensive snaps and most of those looks came from bunch formations that were either run plays or short, scripted pass plays.
Quincy Enunwa is the player the Dolphins really need to worry about. He has size and some deceptive speed. He’s a red zone match-up problem but hopefully the Dolphins length can limit his abilities and what he’s able to do. As a whole, this receiver group struggles to separate and that added tenth of a second should really help the Dolphins pass rush.
The Jets 110 rushing yards per game (16th in the NFL) and 4.1 yards per carry (20th in the NFL) gives me confidence in the Dolphins defense’s ability to put a third consecutive quality game together. The Dolphins struggle with size and power running, but with the amount of outside zone the Jets run, it figures that Kiko Alonso should be able to display his speed and athleticism tracking these plays down.
Not to mention, the Dolphins wide 9 scheme that is designed specifically to stop those types of runs and should keep the Jets in third and long most of the game.
No unit in the league is more Jekyll and Hyde than the New York Jets defense. Although the pass defense is dead last, the rushing offense is ranked first in yards per game. Now these stats are always misleading because no one is going to continue to pound the ball against a good front when the secondary is this bad.
Regardless, the Jets are going to take away the aspect of the Dolphins offense that has made it electrifying during the back to back home victories. If you’re looking for another 200 yard game from Jay Ajayi, you’re going to be disappointed. The Jets run out a four man line a decent percentage of the time that even kicks an outside linebacker down on the edge making one of the most formidable run stuffing defenses in football.
Sheldon Richardson, Muhammed Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Steve McClendon are all having great years in the run defense department. Williams as all-pro ability, especially with his quick hands and leverage. McClendon is a space eater and Richardson and Wilkerson do a bit of everything for this defense.
Richardson was a heavy trade talk topic this week, so it’s possible that his head is not right and ready for Sunday. And after the team drafted Williams and paid Wilkerson a huge contract, he must know he’s putting tape together for someone else right now.
The Jets will commit eight defenders into the box a fair amount. Safety Calvin Pryor often walks down into the box and will blitz the edge, take a tight end in man coverage and rarely plays a single high center field.
The Jets wants to disguise their exotic looks and blitzes by dropping guys out and sending overload blitzes, stunts and twists. They will leave the middle of the field vacant in hopes of creating pressure in the quarterback’s face before he can identify a receiver that has beaten his man coverage.
Zone coverage is a part of the Jets playbook, but they are primarily in man coverage. David Harris is back and healthy and Darron Lee is questionable whether he will play. Harris is a veteran run stuffing presence while Lee offers more in the speed department.
If the Dolphins have any early success running the football, it’s going to be a long day for the Jets.
One of the best ways to open this up is taking some early deep shots against former great, Darrelle Revis. Revis has completely checked out of his football career now that he’s paid and his skills are diminishing. He’s been beaten deep like a drum this year and his tackling effort has been, well, effortless. He typically travels across the formation and I imagine he will draw Devante Parker. The Dolphins should plan to throw some 50/50 deep balls to Parker and see if they can strike a big play or pass interference early.
After he gets beat, Revis tends to play way off giving up the underneath routes the rest of the game. Once this is accomplished, the play pass can be used to suck the linebackers in and really open up the middle of the field, which is the Dolphins bread and butter throwing in breaking routes to Parker, Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry.
Miami’s short yardage game needs to be on point again extending drives with both the run and the pass. This is going to be difficult as Mike Pouncey has had problems moving larger nose tackles (McClendon) off the ball in the past.
Taking advantage of the linebacker’s aggressiveness will be key. Using their downhill motion against them in play pass after softening up the Jets man coverage, the flats should be open for the backs and MarQuies Gray to operate within.
The Browns did a lot of pre-snap shifting and motioning to show the Jets hand defensively and this is one of the staples of Adam Gase’s offense. That, and Ryan Tannehill’s terrific had count and cadence can help identify blitzers and coverage from the defense.
The ability of Gray, Dominique Jones and the entire backfield’s ability to flex in tight or out wide will go a long way in simplifying Tannehill’s pre-snap recognition.
Extending drives and protecting the ball over will make this game pretty simple for the Dolphins. The penalties need to be cut way down (particularly unsportsmanlike), the special teams needs to clean up the sloppiness and the passing game needs to pick it up.
If those three things happen, there’s no reason the Dolphins can’t be California bound with a three game winning streak and playoff hopes very much intact.
Taking the Dolphins to win this year has backfired on me plenty, but I think this team will turn a corner. In the past, this team would have a letdown following some big wins like the previous two. Adam Gase is different, and for that reason, I have this train rolling on through.
Don’t forget to check out both podcasts of Perfectville. The original “Welcome to Perfectville” with our stars Sam Marcoux and Chris Cullen airs once or twice per week as the guys give their insightful yet comedic takes on all things Dolphins.
The brand new “Phinalysis” podcast hosted by yours truly and Kevin Dern is a once a week program breaking down the film, game plans and strategies.
Almost doctor, Will Merring, has a new piece out about Reshad Jones shoulder injury, so don’t forget to check that out too.
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