Alright. We're almost there. Kick-off is just around the corner now.
So now I put on my "homer" hat. Let me preface this post by putting out this disclaimer: the idea of this post is for me to act like a bias Dolphins fan. Below are some reasons I would tell a Jets' fan as to why the Dolphins are going to win this game. Think of it as a debate in a local sports bar with an opposing fan. He'd be giving us reasons why the Jets will win. And I, of course, would be telling them the following:
The Dolphins will stop the run
One of the things that just amazes me is when I watch TV or read articles online about what fantasy football players to start and I see Thomas Jones listed as a "must play" guy. Why? They point out that the Dolphins' defense was dead last in the NFL against the rush in 2007. So my question to them is if they have even paid any attention to Miami during camp or the preseason. If they have, then they'd know things have begun to change.
First off, in two games against the Dolphins last year, Jones ran for 185 yards on 49 carries. That's a 3.78 yards-per-carry average. Considering the Dolphins were as bad against the run as they were last year, a 3.7 ypc average is as unimpressive as it gets.
Secondly, it's clear that the Dolphins' run defense is much improved in 2008. The acquisitions of Jason Ferguson and Akin Ayodele along with the drafting of Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford have clearly made this defense much better. Need proof? Consider that the Dolphins held Deuce McAllister, Larry Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Fred Taylor to a combined 85 yards rushing on 33 carries (2.58 ypc) during the preseason. Sure, it's preseason, but even still, that's damn impressive.
So if Thomas Jones could only pick up 3.7 yards per carry against the '07 defense, how will he find any room on the ground against the '08 version? He won't. And Brett Favre will be foreced to make plays through the air - hopefully leading to some turnovers.
Miami has a "game-planning" edge
Allow me to explain what I mean here by a "game-planning" edge. First of all, the Dolphins now have Chad Pennington and will be able to pick his brain about what the Jets are doing on both sides of the ball. Pennington obviously knows what the Jets want to do defensively and that should help him - especially in reading the defense at the line of scrimmage. He also surely can tell Paul Pasqualoni and company some of what the Jets plan on doing offensively, though I'm sure a little has changed since they acquired that drama queen at quarterback.
On the flip side, the Jets don't have much film to gameplan off of. This is a first time head coach running the show. And while the Jets coaching staff could look at what Dan Henning has run in the past at Carolina and what Pasqualoni and Todd Bowles did defensively in Dallas, that's only going to provide a basic look at their offensive and defensive philosophies respectively. But the Jets will not have any real idea on how this staff will use the personnel in Miami. And Tony Sparano and company know this and will surely look for ways to take advantage of this.
This next thing some people might disagree with, but I firmly believe that I've never spoken truer words: the Miami Dolphins are the most desperate week one team ever. Think about it. There isn't a team in the league that needs a win as badly as the Dolphins do to start the season.
Remember, this team is coming off of a historically bad season last year in which - without a little luck - they would have lost every single game. While half of the players who make up the team in 2008 weren't part of last year's disaster, this is still a franchise and a fan base that needs to win. They need to put last year behind them and a victory in week one is how you do that.
Otherwise, if the Dolphins lose this game, you can't help but begin to think back to last season. Then the Dolphins travel to Arizona in week 2. Sure, they don't look all that great on paper, but they have a terrific offense and anytime you fly across the country to play on the road, it's difficult. Following that game, the Dolphins have to face New England for the first time in '08. So a loss in week one could potentially spark an 0-3 start heading into that bye week. And should that happen, you can't help but begin to have thoughts of "1-15" creep back into your minds. And these players are human, too, and (despite the coaching change and the change in culture) it'll be hard for the players who were here last season to not begin to think about what a nightmare last season was and wonder if it could happen again.
Desperation is an amazing motivator. It will motivate the fans to be loud. It will motivate the players to find a way to win. And that they will. Some how, some way, the Dolphins will win this game.