While it definitely feels good to finally get that first win of 2009 - and to do so by dominating a division rival - it's time to get back to business. On Monday night, the hated New York Jets come down to Miami to face the Dolphins in what should be a physical and emotionally charged football game. So let's talk about three critical matchups for this game.
(And do remember, if you're going to the game on Monday, to wear your orange - at the request of the Dolphins, who hope to have an "orangeout" at Land Shark Stadium.)
Dolphins offensive line vs Jets pass rush
Truth be told, this will probably be the most critical of all the matchups on Monday night. It's no secret that the Jets love to blitz and blitz and blitz - bringing seven or eight guys at one time every once in a while. And while the Jets only have four sacks on the season, their pass rush has been simply ridiculous through these four games. That's because even when they don't get to the quarterback in time, the pass rush still did it's job.
Through four games, the Jets have 21 "official" quarterback hits - which is a lot. And what happens is these opposing quarterbacks must get rid of the ball before they want to. So while the Jets only have four sacks, their 21 quarterback hits and the QB rating of their opposing quartebacks (56.4) is proof that the rush is doing what it's suppose to do - make the QB uncomfortable and ineffective. The Jets are allowing just 5 yards per pass attempt (2nd in the NFL) and allowing a league low 51% completion percentage.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, have had trouble protecting their quarterback this season. This unit has allowed 13 sacks through 4 games (3rd most in the league) - including surrendering 6 sacks to a Buffalo Bills' pass rush that is average at best. Sure - some of those sacks were due to the inexperienced Chad Henne holding the ball too long. But even still, that figure is way too high.
A big concern I have is that it seemed like the Dolphins had some communication issues in picking up the blitz last week. And the Jets, as I said, love to blitz and will blitz in some way on probably 70% of their defensive plays (and that's a conservative estimate). They also get their best pass-rusher, Calvin Pace, back after he served a four game suspension to start the year - making the Jets pass rush even more dangerous.
One thing to watch on Monday is how the Dolphins adjust to the Jets when they use their over-load blitz packages - where they blitz up to four or five players on one side of the offensive line. If Miami's communication up front doesn't get drastically better in a hurry, Chad Henne could be in for a long night.
Braylon Edwards/Jerricho Cotchery vs Will Allen/Sean Smith/
Yes I know - Braylon Edwards just got to New York. How fast can he get involved between now and Monday night? Realistically - very fast. The system he was playing in this year under Eric Mangini in Cleveland is very similar to the Jets' system. And it's crazy to think that Rex Ryan and company wouldn't find ways to simplify things for Braylon just to get him on the field as quickly as possible. Ryan already said that Edwards will start on Monday night. I'm not a believer that receivers need time to "learn the system." They are naturally gifted athletes who have to run and catch. That's not difficult, folks.
Edwards is also a Dolphins' killer. In two games with the Browns, Braylon has 11 catches for 157 yards and 3 touchdowns. And he will pose matchup problems for the Dolphins. So far in 2009, the Dolphins are keeping Sean Smith and Will Allen on their own sides. While Smith is actually taller than Edwards, Allen gives up 5 inches to the 6'3 Edwards. Look for the Jets to create the mismatch of Will Allen against Edwards.
On the other side of Edwards is Jerricho Cotchery, who has developed a good rapport with his young quarterback. Cotchery has 23 catches for 356 yards (5th in the NFL) in 2009. With Edwards now in town, Cotchery could be even more dangerous. Defenses will no longer be able to shade their defense towards Cotchery - who was, up until Wednesday, the only real dangerous receiver the Jets had. It'll be interesting to see how the Dolphins decide to use their three cornerbacks to defend the suddenly dangerous Jets receiving core.
Jets' return team vs Dolphins' coverage team
For years, the Jets have been one of the best in the league at returning kicks and punts. In fact, since 2001, the Jets are tops in the league in kick returns for touchdowns with 11.
This year, the Jets are as dangerous as ever on special teams. Their 24.4 yards per kick return average is 8th best in the league and is headed by the insanely talented Leon Washington - who is a threat to score whenever he touches the football. The Jets are also ranked 6th in the league in punt returning, averaging 13.8 yards per return.
Meanwhile, kick and punt coverage has been a problem for what seems like forever with the Dolphins. But the Dolphins have gotten better in 2009. They are only allowing 19.6 yards per kick return - thanks in large part to Lex Hilliard. But their punt coverage is still an issue. The Dolphins are allowing 10.5 yards per return, which is among the worst figures in the league.
Field position could certainly become a key factor in what promises to be a physical battle on Monday night. The Dolphins can't allow any special teams "hiccups" if they want to pick up their second win of 2009.