The curtain closes on the 2011 season with the last of three straight AFC East opponents visiting Sun Life Stadium on Sunday. The New York Jets (8-7) come to South Florida looking to keep their playoff hopes alive, while the Miami Dolphins (5-10) hope to send the Jets back to New York disappointed. New York was riding high a few weeks ago and looked like a team that couldn’t miss a play-off berth, but back to back losses to the Philadelphia Eagles (45-19) and the cross-town rival New York Giants (29-14) have left the Jets on the outside looking in! Miami is coming off of a loss to the New England Patriots (27-24) where the Dolphins controlled the contest going into halftime 17-0, but couldn’t hold on in the second half being out-gained 293-126, and losing by three. The Jets took the first meeting at Met Life Stadium on October 17th 24-6, and New York hasn’t swept this series since 2007. Here are some things to watch for in this Sunday’s match-up.
1) Matt Moore And Brandon Marshall Need To Lead The Offense – With Reggie Bush declared out for Sunday’s game against the Jets, the Dolphins will need big performances from Moore and Marshall to attack the Jets defense through the air. The Moore-Marshall duo has established some nice chemistry, as they have hooked up for touchdown connections in four of the past five games. Marshall earned his Pro Bowl selection by going over the 1,000 yard mark for the second straight season (1,164 yards receiving) wearing a Dolphins jersey, but he will have his hands full again this week going up against one of the best cornerbacks the league has to offer in Darrelle Revis. Marshall went over 100 yards against Revis and the Jets the first time around (six receptions for 109 yards) but will need to get open consistently for Moore (six touchdown passes in last three games and 11 touchdowns with only two interceptions in last six games) this time around. While the combination of Moore and Marshall will need to have big games to win on Sunday, the Dolphins will also need Daniel Thomas and others to step up in the running game, in the absence of Reggie Bush.
2) Make The Momentum Play– Everyone always talks about how momentum always swings back and forth throughout a football game. Last week the Dolphins had all of the momentum in the first half against the Patriots using big plays on offense (Moore to Marshall for 47 and 26 yards to set up the 19 yard touchdown strike), and pressure and sacks on quarterback Tom Brady (Patriots offense had four-three and outs in seven offensive possessions in the first half) to feel invincible going to halftime. Miami was able to put back-to-back positive plays together for most of the first half and that’s why they carried a 17-0 lead through two quarters. This week against the Jets it important to start fast again, especially on the defensive side of the football because of the inconsistent play of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Miami must continue to play tough defense against the run (Dolphins rank third in the league against the run allowing only 93.4 yards per game) and force Sanchez to win the game relying strictly on the passing game. That would play into the Dolphins hands because the pass rush has been coming on as of late. Since week nine, this defense is third in the NFL in sacking the quarterback with 24, and as a result, tied for fourth in interceptions with 11!
3) Going Out In Style – If there’s one player in the Miami Dolphins locker room that demonstrates how the game should be played, it’s linebacker Jason Taylor. His numbers suggest that a date in Canton should be in his future, and his production in his 15th season has been outstanding. Taylor has registered seven sacks on the season (139.5 career sacks and three sacks in the last three games) and has been playing a bigger role with the injury to teammate Koa Misi. The big question is can Taylor generate one of those games when he can apply pressure from the edge and get others around him to play at a higher level? My guess is that this defense is going to rise to the occasion and fly around come Sunday afternoon, and look for number 99 to play a major role in the outcome!
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