For me it's pretty simple, I'm choosing the Miami Dolphins to win by the score of 13-9. Maybe you can say it's the homer in me making that pick, but as I'm sure you've noticed from me in the past (predicting Tannehill would be a bust, picking the Dolphins to finish 6-10, being overly pessimistic according to many commenters), I'm far from being a homer. I'm choosing the Dolphins because they are the better team.
But I know that I will get the treatment from Jets fans who read this piece, just like the treatment I saw Adam Waksman get in his article explaining why the Jets would win. Honestly I didn't think he was being much of a homer, just that he was presenting the facts, though they were painted with a shade of dark green.
A heavy shade of dark green.
Yes, my reasons will also likely be painted with aqua and orange, but they're very good reasons, both based on statistics (some of them from the football version of sabermetrics), history (both recent and what has happened in seasons' past) and trends I've noticed from both teams.
This won't be a rebuttal to Waksman's piece (which is very well-written, and in my opinion a shade better than what I've produced from a content standpoint), but rather me presenting not only my prediction and reasons why, but also one guarantee: The team that wins this game will go to the playoffs this season.
How's that for ratcheting up the pressure on the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets going into Dolphins vs. Jets week? Now let's take a look at why the Dolphins will leave New Jersey with a victory.
Here's an actual quote I saw on Bleacher Report's weekly NFL picks slideshow from lead writer Aaron Nagler: "How is it that the Jets quarterback has pretty much stayed the same player throughout his entire time in the NFL?"
It's a very good question to ask considering that Ryan Tannehill has played very well against the blitz, while Mark Sanchez inspired Bleacher Report to assign one of their game-day correspondents (in this case me of all people) to write this article on Sunday.
Regardless of what some of the comments might say, I stand by this piece, and would write it even if I were a Jets fan (or if it were about a Dolphins quarterback that showed little to no awareness).
Sanchez has played well in New York's last three games. He actually had a great day against the Patriots except for when he messed up on the play featured in the video due to lack of awareness of the score (29-26 New England in overtime), down (second down), distance (ten yards) and location on the field (the Jets' 40-yard line).
With the pressure bearing on him due to a porous offensive line (wait, isn't Tony Sparano originally an offensive line coach?), as well as the fact that there weren't any open receivers at the time, he should've taken the sack and gotten up to try again on third down (usually it's not the ideal thing to do, but when you're down by three in overtime, you're always in four-down territory).
Looking at Sanchez' good games this season, you will notice a theme: The pass defenses he went up against were awful. He tore up juggernauts like the over-priced Buffalo Bills defense (ranked 20th against the pass) and the infamously horrible pass defense of the New England Patriots (ranked 29th).
He was even pretty good against the Dolphins' pass defense (which is ranked 21st), but it does feel like the Dolphins secondary has improved since then, while the Jets' offense is missing a key piece (the Jets would not have won in Week 3 without Santonio Holmes' nine catches for 147 yards).
The only outlier in this group is the Houston defense. While the Texans D did do its fair share of causing turnovers and reeking havoc on New York's offense in that game, Sanchez still played decent enough to keep the game close.
But we all know the drill for the Sanchize (who's 3-4 all-time against the Dolphins), and seeing Sanchez sacked at least three times along with throwing at least one interception seems like a pretty easy prediction to make.
Now as for Ryan Tannehill...
What is there to say about Ryan Tannehill that I haven't said already?
He has constantly gotten better in every game he's played, and he plays better under the threat of a pass rush than Mark Sanchez does when he's in the pocket all alone. The funny thing is, Sanchez has a bit more talent surrounding him than Tannehill (and that's even without Santonio Holmes), yet Tannehill has played better.
Sunday will be no exception. This is a game where we will learn about Tannehill however, as it's the first time he will face a team that he's already played against. The Jets have learned to adjust to him, but how will he fare against the Jets the second time around? What adjustments will the Dolphins make the second time around against the Jets in order to put Tannehill in a better position to succeed?
Since Week 3, Tannehill has thrown for 839 yards and three touchdowns, and he's been picked off just twice (both times against Arizona). He is coming into his own at the position and will be far more confident in this game than he was the first time these two teams met.
Prior to the news that the New York metropolitan area would be threatened by Hurricane Sandy and start to feel its effects starting on Sunday morning, I actually thought the best adjustment for Tannehill to make against the Jets would be to test their secondary early with a lot of passing in the first half, especially since Miami will likely play Jabar Gaffney.
The thinking was the Jets would be so focused on stopping the Dolphins' running game that starting the game off airing it out would keep the Jets on their toes. I actually thought Tannehill would throw for 300 yards in this game.
However with the way the storms' winds will affect MetLife Stadium (even when it's slightly windy in the Meadowlands they pose problems), it might be a better idea for Tannehill to go for efficiency instead of airing it out.
But efficiency is a good thing, and Tannehill has managed to mix being efficient with putting up good numbers. I really don't see Tannehill being as prolific due to the conditions on the field, but I do see him continuing to take care of the ball, which will lead Miami to a victory.
The first half of the first Dolphins-Jets game was looking great for Reggie Bush, as he had 10 carries for 61 yards.
But then Reggie Bush got hurt, forcing him to miss the rest of the game. The injury itself was just another freak play where someone got hurt, and in the end it wasn't serious enough for Bush to miss any more games after the first Jets-Dolphins game. There was nothing dirty or malicious about the play itself, but what came after it sparked emotions on both sides.
I'm not going to get into the "hot sauce" comment or everything that came after, however what does seem a bit off is the tone that some of the Jets players have taken and some of the words used this week. It does make Rex Ryan look bad that after he asked Bush for an apology for his "what goes around" quote about Revis (a quote that in full shows Reggie explaining that seeing Revis get hurt was "sad"), his players still managed to say things like this (per ESPN):
"We want to knock him out, but we're out to do it legally," said by linebacker Aaron Maybin.
"Every time he sees me, he will remember that hit, If I'm in the box or I'm going downhill, he'll remember that hit," said by LaRon Landry, even though the hit itself was completely incidental. Landry would also add this gem: "If I get penalized, I'm not going to stop head-hunting, I'm not going to stop the way I play."
Two of these quotes could actually be seen as threats, especially since in New Orleans we saw players and coaches suspended with one coach losing his job and likely his career partly due to saying very similar things (video NSFW).
Reggie's reaction to these quotes however would have you believe that he's very likely taken them with a grain of salt (via The Journal News):
Retaliation? They’re the ones who started this. If there was ever any retaliation, it would come from us. But this team and the caliber of guys and the character we have are guys who play with respect for the game and play hard. It’s football. I didn’t go and complain or whine about being a target of the Jets. I expect that every game. I don’t expect for it to be any different this game. I expect it to be a tough game, probably some trash talking going on. It’s going to be a physical, tough game. It’s a divisional opponent. That’s the great thing about playing divisional opponents. You get to play them twice. It’ll be fun this time around.
Reggie understands that the best retaliation for the Dolphins is to simply win the game. Whether they win or not however will be up to Bush. He can't afford to have a performance resembling his game against St. Louis in Week 6, but rather he will have to be a key factor.
He should be one, as the Jets have had major difficulty stopping the running game. In their last meeting not only did Bush run well prior to be knocked out of the game, but Daniel Thomas ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while Lamar Miller ran for 48 yards on nine carries.
The Jets are ranked 30th in the NFL against the run, allowing an average of 147.7 yards per game. Perhaps knocking Reggie Bush out of the game is their only hope on Sunday, because they haven't had much success stopping the run yet, and it looks like this is a trend that will continue as the season goes on.
Let's break down the differences between the Dolphins and Jets' defenses.
You would much rather have the Jets' secondary, and that's even without Darrelle Revis. While Sean Smith, Nolan Carroll and the rest of the Dolphins secondary have shown a lot of improvement this season, you would still rather have Antonio Cromartie, Yeremiah Bell, Isaiah Trufant and even the consistently inconsistent Kyle Wilson in the defensive backfield.
But other than that, where do the Jets have an edge between the two defenses? The answer: Nowhere.
Miami's linebacking corps is much better, and its defensive line is well above the Jets' D-line. In the end, both teams are dead even on defense, with the Jets ranked 19th in total defense and the Dolphins ranked 20th. When it comes to points allowed though, Miami holds the edge there, allowing 19.5 points per game, while the Jets have allowed 24.3 points per game.
Yards don't win games though. Points do. I trust the defense that allows less points a lot more, especially since it will be facing the inferior offense (New York is ranked 29th in total offense, while Miami is ranked 21st in that category).
As for Miami's secondary, its main issue will be with Dustin Keller in this game since Santonio Holmes, the receiver who inflicted the most damage in Week 3, won't be playing.
Special teams and field position wound up swinging the game to the Jets in Week 3.
Two of New York's scores came courtesy of long field goals missed by Dan Carpenter. A long missed field goal is one of the worst plays in football, as not only do you not score, but you also give the opposition the ball in good field position.
Those field goals do stick out like a sore thumb, but the memory of Dan Carpenter's foibles against the Jets (and his one miss against Arizona), seem to be long gone, as Carpenter has made four of his last five field goals since that Jets game, which now looks more like an aberration.
Since the Jets hired Mike Westhoff back in 2001, the Jets have usually had the edge over Miami in the special teams department, but this time around I'm going to give that edge to the Dolphins if for no other reason than the fact that Brandon Fields will likely see plenty of chances on the field (affecting New York's field position), while Dan Carpenter will redeem himself.
One other thing to mention: Carpenter is perfect when kicking at The Meadowlands, which has always been a tough place for kickers.
This is the fourth time in the last five years that the Jets have had the chance to sweep the season series against the Dolphins. The last three times they've had the opportunity, the Jets have lost. Two of those times came at The Meadowlands.
Miami has won three out of its last four games against the Jets on the road as well and has always managed to play well on the road against New York.
Rex Ryan's record against Miami: 3-4. Mark Sanchez also has the same record against the Dolphins.
In addition, keep in mind that Miami is coming off of a bye week while the Jets are coming off of a hard-fought overtime loss to the Patriots. This will have an effect on the game for both teams, much like the impending Hurricane Sandy, which will limit both teams, leading to a defensive slugfest.
In a defensive slugfest in bad weather, your best bet is to take the team with the more efficient quarterback, better running game and the better run-stopping defense. The Dolphins fit each of those qualifications, which together will bring them a victory, thus tying up the season series and propelling both teams into the second half of the season.
Miami Dolphins 13, New York Jets 9