By Tyson Rauch
On Sunday the New York Jets (5-6) take on the Miami Dolphins (5-6) in what is essentially a playoff elimination game, as a loss for either of these AFC East rivals all but removes the team from the postseason. The Jets enter the game losers of two in a row, while the Dolphins are trying to bounce back from a disheartening loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Struggles on Dolphins offense
The Miami Dolphins offense has struggled this season with a running game that is ranked 26th in the NFL and a passing attack ranked 23rd. A good portion of the unit’s issues can be attributed to the offensive line that has been dealing with a series of personnel changes including replacing starters Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. The inconsistent line play has made the Dolphins offense one-dimensional with quarterback Ryan Tannehill forced to make big plays under duress.
Get after Tannehill
The New York Jets front seven led by Muhammad Wilkerson (10 sacks), Calvin Pace (7 sacks), and Sheldon Richardson (3 sacks) should be able to take advantage of an offensive line that has yielded 44 sacks. The area for concern on the Jets defense will be in the secondary as the unit tries to cover speedster Mike Wallace (49 catches) and tight end Charles Clay (46 catches). Gang Green has no answer for Wallace and will be hit for some big plays if they cannot generate a consistent pass rush.
Familiar game plan
The Miami Dolphins defensive game plan is blatantly obvious: stop the Jets running game in order to put a ton of pressure on rookie quarterback Geno Smith. This is the blueprint that was followed by both the Bills and Ravens and the results were dominant victories.
Gang Green’s offensive line must find ways to win the wars in the trenches in order to establish the running game. If New York is unable to effectively the run ball they will then face a pass rush led by Cameron Wake (6.5 sacks) and Olivier Vernon (6.5 sacks).
This game has the makings of another low-scoring defensive battle. Both defenses will sell out to stop the run and force the offense to beat them with the passing attack. On paper this will favor the Miami Dolphins as Geno Smith has struggled mightily over the past six games with 10 interceptions. If the Jets quarterback remains ineffective it could be another long day for Gang Green as their playoff dreams get thrown away.
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Tyson Rauch is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.