Today we're going to take a look at a few Dolphins trends and how they might influence Sunday's game. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, or even necessarily the most important trends and matchups to focus on. Rather, it is a highly idiosyncratic look at trends which caught my eye this week and might prove interesting in Sunday's game. Please feel free to supplement this article with any trends you've noticed. Now, let's get to it.
Luck of the Finnish
Last time the Jets played the Dolphins the Fins were 5-6, having been outgained in eight of eleven matchups. Miami had at that time been outgained by an average of 49 yards per game. Only three other NFL teams have been worse this year: Dallas, Jacksonville and Minnesota. In the four games since, the Dolphins have managed to go 3-1, despite being outgained in three of the four contests, by an even worse average margin of 71 yards per game. So now the 8-7 Dolphins are on the verge of making the playoffs, despite being outgained by their opponents by an average of 55 yards per game and having generated only one more turnover than they've given up all year. Miami is a below average defensive team. They are below average against the pass (17th). They are well below average against the run (25th). Miami is a bad offensive team. They are below average passing the ball (20th). They are terrible running the ball (26th). So they can't pass, are only so-so against the pass; they can't run and are awful at stopping the run. They turn the ball over just about as much as they generate turnovers. There is nothing the Dolphins do particularly well, and there are several things they do particularly poorly, yet somehow they are a winning team on the verge of a playoff berth. This is a bad team with some really good luck. Time for the luck to run out.
They Can't Run
Last time the Dolphins played the Jets, Miami's running game was ranked 26th in the NFL, averaging only 85 yards per game. And the Jets run defense was the best in the game. So what happened? Naturally the Dolphins ran all over the Jets, to the tune of 125 yards, marking the first time all year the Jets had given up more than the opponent's average rushing yards in a game. Unfortunately, that game marked the beginning of the collapse of the Jets' run defense. Starting with the first Dolphins' game the Jets have now given up more rushing yards than their opponent's average in four straight games, coinciding with the insertion of Ed Reed into the starting lineup. The Dolphins still can't run the ball, averaging only 95 yards rushing per game in the three games since. But now the Jets can't stop the run either. Something's gotta give here. If the Jets continue to reduce Reed's snaps as they began to do last game, perhaps they can return to their dominant run stopping ways from earlier in the season. If they can manage that, the Jets can reduce the Dolphins to a one dimensional attack on Sunday. Which brings us to...
They Can't Hide
As bad as the Dolphins' running game has been, their pass protection has been worse. The Dolphins lead the league in sacks allowed with a disastrous 58, an enormous 11 sacks more than the second worst NFL team in allowing sacks the ... ahem.. cough.. Jets ... cough. In only one of the the Dolphins 15 games this year has Ryan Tannehill gone down less than twice, against the... you guessed it... ahem.. cough... Jets .. cough. Combine the most porous offensive line in the NFL with a nonexistent running attack, sprinkle in the Jets 10th ranked pass rush and what you should have had last game was an all out assault on Tannehill. Instead, you got one sack. ONE... FREAKIN'... SACK! Rex Ryan has done a nice job this year taking a pretty untalented team to the brink of a .500 record. He has produced some real gems, particularly against the Patriots and the Saints. The first Dolphins game, on the other hand, was an abomination. A team that can't run the ball and is by far the worst in the NFL at protecting the QB ran all over the Jets and held the Jets to their worst sack total this season. Rex was outcoached last time. Now, fighting for his job, it's time to turn the tables on the Dolphins. Look for the Jets to produce a boatload of sacks on Sunday. If all goes according to plan, Tannehill should have no place to hide amidst an avalanche of pressure.
Never in the history of the New York Jets have the Jets managed to split the season series with every AFC East rival in one year. If the Jets defeat the Dolphins on Sunday they will have split with all three AFC East rivals. Time to make a little history. On Sunday, it's time for the Jets to celebrate mediocrity, embrace the average team within, and finish 8-8 while splitting with every one of their division rivals. Second place has never looked so good.