With one week left in the season, the Jets have a chance to spoil the season of a division rival when they take on the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.
While this game has playoff implications for the Dolphins as they try to save their turbulent season, this game is of heavy importance for the Jets as well. If the Jets want to save the job of their popular head coach, finishing the season on a two-game winning streak to bring their record back to the .500 mark will go a long way in doing so.
The Dolphins may have just one more win than the Jets, but beating the Dolphins in their own stadium will be quite the task for Ryan's Jets. After all, the Dolphins moped the floor with the Jets at MetLife Stadium, beating them 23-3 on December 1.
The Jets have shown a lot of improvement over the past month, but they will need to have a near-perfect showing if they are to reverse the fortunes from their last meeting with Miami.
Attack the Tackles
The Dolphins have had trouble protecting Ryan Tannehill all season, who leads in the amount of sacks taken with 59 (the next closest is Joe Flacco with 46).
While they could use an upgrade at just about every position but center along their offensive line, their real weakness lies at the tackle position. Bryant McKinnie (left) and Tyson Clabo (right) have given Ryan Tannehill nightmares all season, combining for one of the worst tackle tandems in the league.
|Dolphins Tackle Stats|
|Player||Snaps||Hurries||Hits Allowed||Sacks Allowed|
|Tyson Clabo (RT)||897||30||10||11|
|Bryant McKinnie (LT)||599||21||8||7|
|Pro Football Focus|
To some extent, this works into the hands of the Jets, who have had good production from their defensive lineman rushing the passer. However, the issue for the Jets is that the majority of their pass rush has come from interior rushers, most notably Muhammad Wilkerson, who leads the team in sacks with 10.5.
The good news is, the Jets' young defensive linemen are versatile enough to line up just about anywhere along the defensive front. The Jets would be wise to move their young stud rushers to the outside and challenge the Dolphins' inferior tackles, just as they did in their last meeting.
Here, Wilkerson and Quinton Coples (who has had a strong December after a slow start due to injury) are lined up wide to take on the Dolphins' tackles.
If the Jets are able to use this strategy to get to Tannehill, it will go a long way in taking away a lot of the big plays they allowed in their last meeting.
Run the Rock
One of the few aspects of the Jets offense that has made steady improvements over the course of the season has been their ability to run the ball.
As the season wears on, the more effective Chris Ivory has been, especially when running between the tackles. Despite dealing with some mediocre run blocking, Ivory has averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the month of December.
Going against a defense that has very few holes in its secondary, the Jets have little choice other than to give the Dolphins a steady dose of the run game until they prove they can stop it.
The key for the Jets will be getting Ivory to the second level, where he can do damage against a set of linebackers that have been poor against the run. According to Pro Football Focus, linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe are the two worst run defenders on the team (by a significant margin).
While quality run blocking up front is always welcome, Ivory has been good at getting past the first level on his own by breaking tackles to get yards after contact.
As long as either Ivory has another stellar game or the Jets are able to get a good push up front, they should be able to run the ball for chunks of yardage against the Dolphins defense.
Prevent the Big Play
One of the reasons why the Jets were blown out so badly in their last meeting was that they allowed huge chunks of yardage through the air with regularity.
While Rex Ryan has slowly started to implement more Cover 2 principles in his defense (which features two deep safeties), there were a few times in which he gambled on the slow, aging Ed Reed to hold up in coverage on the back end by his lone self.
The result was that the Jets allowed 331 yards through the air, including plays of 31, 28 and 28 yards to Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace and Charles Clay, respectively.
Despite the fact that the Jets got their best cornerback play of the season last week against the Browns (Dee Milliner even nabbed his first interception), Ryan cannot be greedy and think that he can go back to the riskier Cover 1 and Cover 0 principles that he has been successful with in previous years. Rex will have to swallow his pride and bit and continue to play a more passive style of defense that may give up more completions and leave more room to run but will keep the game close.
In other words, Ryan needs to put his faith in his defensive line to get pressure on Tannehill rather than his secondary to hold up in a situation that leaves little room for error.
Rex can certainly roll the dice once in a while with just one or no deep safety on the field, but he must pick his spots carefully and make sure the situation demands a high-risk defensive call.
Break Out All the Stops
It's the last game of the season. It may even be Rex Ryan's last game as the head coach of the New York Jets.
What is there to lose?
The Jets should empty all of the extra toys out of the bag, looking at every chapter in the playbook to fool the Dolphins and generate a momentum-changing play. Flea-flickers, onside kicks and everything in between is in play.
The Jets already tried an unconventional play against the Browns last week, a fake punt attempt that would have worked to perfection had Josh Bush not thrown the ball five yards short of Isaiah Trufant's feet.
If Rex Ryan is going to go out soon after the conclusion of this week's game, he may as well go out with a bang and use a daring strategy only employed by teenagers playing a game of Madden.
The Jets may be riding high after a convincing win over the Browns last week, but defeating the Dolphins in a game that should mean much more to them than it does to the Jets will be quite the task, especially on the road where the Jets have lost all but one game this season.
As big as this challenge is, beating a division opponent to close out a surprising 8-8 season will go a long way in making it as difficult as possible to fire Rex Ryan.