Sunday's installment in the Miami Dolphins versus New York Jets rivalry looks on the surface like it means everything to New York and nothing to Miami. However, this couldn't be further from the truth.
If you know this rivalry well, then you know the electricity you'll see on Sunday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium.
For Miami, despite their 5-10 record, this game will mean their season. Yes, they were eliminated from the playoffs before Halloween (or at least it feels that way), but for most Dolphins fans, eliminating the Jets from the postseason will make this season somewhat worth it.
But even if all of those things happen, the point will be moot if Miami can pull off the upset, which I fully expect them to do.
The Dolphins will be playing for pride, and many players will be playing for their jobs. For Dolphins interim coach Todd Bowles, he'll be looking for the chance to be Miami's head coach next season. Quarterback Matt Moore will be playing for the chance to be Miami's starting quarterback next season as well. A win for Miami on Sunday could make either of those possibilities, or both of those possibilities, a reality.
Miami's fans will also be out at Sun Life Stadium in full force. The hatred that Dolphins fans have for the Jets is palpable. Ask most Miami Dolphins fans what team they hate the most, and without skipping a beat, they'll answer the New York Jets.
To only add to that electricity is the fact that there will be plenty of Jets fans sprinkled around Sun Life Stadium on Sunday afternoon. They'll be there to cheer on their team on their way to a playoff berth. as wells as to rub Miami's face in the fact that their team is looking for their third consecutive playoff appearance while the Dolphins are still awaiting their first playoff berth since 2008.
Then there's the issue of Jason Taylor, playing his final NFL game. How fitting is it that it's against the Jets—a team he had a cup of coffee with last year (which many Dolphins fans would love to forget) and a team that, before that, Taylor has been known to loathe himself. The only way this could be better would be if Zach Thomas came out of retirement for just this one game to reap havoc on Mark Sanchez, who might find himself playing in his final game as a New York Jet (expect the Jets to pursue Peyton Manning heavily if they fail to make the postseason, regardless of what Rex Ryan might say).
It will be emotional at Sun Life Stadium (or whatever it's called this week) at 1 p.m, on Sunday. The Jets will be playing for it all, while Miami will be playing to send their fans out on a high note on an otherwise low 2011 NFL season.
Logic would say this is the Jets' game to win—a game they should win. But emotions say otherwise.
I'm going with emotions on this one. Perfect setting, perfect time, perfect scenario. Miami's defense will give Sanchez a hard time in the pocket, and Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress will have a hard time getting open against Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. The Jets will be forced to rely on their running game—in the last two years their bread and butter, but this season an offensive weakness.
New York's best bet is to use Dustin Keller to tear apart Miami's linebackers, who have shown to be weak in stopping tight ends.
That said, Miami will use Reggie Bush as much as they can and sprinkle in a little bit of Daniel Thomas. Also, look out for Anthony Fasano, who's play has improved since Matt Moore became Miami's starter. Expect the Dolphins to also control the time of possession.
In other words, Miami will beat the Jets by playing like the Jets, well, like the Jets of 2009 and 2010.
This will lead to the Jets leaving Miami empty-handed, rendering the Titans-Texans, Bengals-Ravens, Raiders-Chargers and Chiefs-Broncos games utterly useless to them and to Jets fans everywhere. New York will finish 8-8 and on the outside looking in.
If you don't know how important that is to Miami this week, you obviously don't know how deep and, at times, how nasty this rivalry is. Jets fans, you know that if it were the other way around, if it were the Dolphins fighting for their playoff lives and the Jets waiting to play spoiler, you'd want the exact same thing.