Jets vs. Dolphins: Keys to Victory for Both Teams in Critical AFC East Matchup
First and most importantly, Sunday's victor is guaranteed at least a share of the division lead heading into Week 4.
For a Jets team that came into 2012 facing a myriad of outside pressure to win now, a perch atop the division cools Rex Ryan's hot seat and likely quiets down the Tebow Time rumblings.
On the other side of the field, a Miami victory could set up one of the feel-good stories of this season. The team was derided in the postseason for choosing Ryan Tannehill to start at quarterback, and a victory against a division foe could go a long way toward proving the doubters wrong.
Nonetheless, this is vital game that both sides will desperately try to win. With that in mind, here's a look at the biggest keys for the Jets and Dolphins in Sunday's game.
New York Jets
Win the Turnover Battle
Which team will win on Sunday?
Facing a team still in full rebuilding mode, this should be a pretty easy victory for the Jets on Sunday. They have more talent at just about every position on the field and should be able to sufficiently fluster Tannehill defensively.
Vital to that cause will be forcing the flustered rookie into making turnovers and converting on those mistakes.
Allowing an upstart Miami team to get any confidence early could put a potential upset in play.
That also means the Jets offense, most notably quarterback Mark Sanchez, will have to adequately protect the ball. Turnovers have not been a problem thus far, but relying on a quarterback that had 51 interceptions in his first three years in the NFL isn't exactly ideal.
If Sanchez is able to avoid turnovers and make a few effective throws, the Jets should be able to pull out a hard-fought victory.
Find a Productive Running Back
For all the preseason hoopla surrounding Tim Tebow replacing Sanchez as the team's quarterback, there may actually be some credence to his taking some snaps behind center—at running back.
I'm obviously being facetious, but the New York rushing situation is starting to look dire. Incumbent starter Shonn Greene has seemingly lost all of what little explosion he did have and has only gained 117 yards on 38 carries thus far.
Considering he's entering just his fourth season in the NFL, that's not an encouraging sign.
Second-year back Bilal Powell got an increased workload against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, rushing nine times for 33 yards, and may continue to get more looks going forward.
Either way, Sanchez cannot prosper without someone stepping up and taking pressure off the passing attack.
Without a solid performance from Greene or Powell, this game could be closer than expected.
Protect Ryan Tannehill
With a solid infrastructure led by Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long, the Dolphins have done a wonderful job of keeping their rookie quarterback off the turf this season.
Tannehill has been sacked just four times and looked to get more confident with each pass attempt.
However, that could change on Sunday, as Rex Ryan will undoubtedly dial up some complex blitz schemes to get the first-round pick flustered early in the game.
After years of being among the league's top pass rushes, it's been a tough start for the New York front seven, which has only recorded three sacks in 2012.
How Miami does in pass protection will likely determine the final outcome of this contest.
Rely on Reggie Bush
By now, we have all gushed over Bush's 172-yard, two touchdown performance that likely lost or won about a million fantasy football contests last week.
While it would be easy to chalk that dominance up to a one-week aberration, a quick look back at the 27-year-old's game log from last season reveals the makings of a career renaissance.
Here are Bush's splits from his last 11 games in Miami: 196 carries, 1,095 yards rushing, 5.59 YPC and eight touchdowns.
Considering the seventh-year star never even reached 600 yards rushing in a season with the New Orleans Saints, you have to wonder whether Bush had simply been miscast his whole career prior to 2011.
With a matchup against a Jets defense which gave up 169 yards on 14 carries to C.J. Spiller in Week 1 on tap, the Dolphins will need to pound the rock with Bush early and often to have a shot at victory.
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