Football is back in Miami, and fans should be more than excited. Despite an ugly five-game start that left the Dolphins with a dismal 1-4 record, Miami began looking like a true NFL team the past two weeks with wins against the Steelers and Bills. Now, coming off their bye-week, the Dolphins will look to continue their win streak with a victory over the New York Jets.
While this may seem like a sure win for the Dolphins due to the Jets’ fiasco involving Ryan Fitzpatrick and his mediocre performance this year, a win is never guaranteed in the NFL. Here is what Miami needs to do to continue their solid performance and stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Run Game: Keep Ajayi Going
Anyone who has been keeping up with the Dolphins knows that one of the biggest reasons Miami has turned around their offensive play is because of the recent surge that they have gotten from Jay Ajayi and the offensive line. Before the Steelers game, I wrote about how the offensive line could be a vital factor on how both the run and pass game would perform. That proved to be true.
Ajayi was on fire against Pittsburgh with 204 yards rushing on 25 carries. He also had a 62-yard-touchdown run late in the fourth quarter of that game to seal the win. The following week, Ajayi continued his great performance by putting up 214 yards rushing against the Buffalo Bills.
This new running game is due to both the talent of Ajayi as well as a healthy offensive line. While the Jets do have the number-one ranked defense when it comes to rush yards allowed per game, if Miami can provide just enough of a run game to give Ryan Tannehill the ability to pass on ‘short yardage for the first’ situations, it can make all the difference come Sunday.
Run Defense: Stop the Run
While the defense has been playing better as a whole, it would be unwise to overlook the fact that the run defense is still a weak point. The Steelers were running the ball very well in the first half before abandoning the run game late. Miami had not only given up a huge play to Darrius Heyward-Bey that went for over 50-yards and a touchdown, they were also giving up over four-yards per carry to Le’Veon Bell.
The following week, Miami only allowed 11 yards to LeSean McCoy on eight carries; however, McCoy missed the second half due to a nagging hamstring injury, contributing to his lack of production. As such, this week’s performance against Matt Forte will be a more reliable way to tell how much the run defense has improved.
Passing Game: Attack Darrelle Revis and Jets’ Secondary
A little over a week ago, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis admitted to a reporter that his game has taken a step back due to his age. Anyone who believes that Revis was simply trying to trick offenses into believing that his play has regressed has obviously not watched a Jets game this year. Revis and the entire New York secondary has been getting smoked this season, and the stats prove it. New York is ranked 31st in defending the pass, as they give up an average of 289 passing yards a game.
While this is not a reason for Miami to completely abandon the run game (the Dolphins do not play well as a pass-heavy team), Miami has no excuse not to make plays in the passing game when the opportunities present themselves.
The Dolphins should also look to match up Kenny Stills against Revis, as Revis has been burned multiple times this year by speedy receivers. This is another a big reason why Miami needs to try and continue to establish a strong run game. If they can do that, a big throw off play-action will be available for them at some point in the game.
My Prediction: Dolphins-17 Jets-10